Coming Up Shorts! With… Popeye The Sailor: The 1940s Volume 1

Disclaimer: On the disc case, it is noted that the set is intended for the adult collector, which is because these shorts were made at a time when a lot of racist and sexist stereotypes were prevalent. All I’m trying to say is, parents, be careful about just sticking these on for your kids.

Welcome back for another full post of Coming Up Shorts! Once again, I’m sticking with theatrical shorts featuring Popeye The Sailor, although this time I’m swinging back around to the shorts from 1943 through 1945 that have been released together on disc in Popeye The Sailor: The 1940s Volume 1.

Here’s a list and quick plot description for each of the cartoons included in this set (for my comments on the individual cartoons, click on the title to go to my previous reviews):

  1. Her Honor, The Mare (1943) (Length: 7 minutes, 15 seconds)
    • Popeye’s nephews bring home a horse rejected by the glue factory, but he doesn’t want the horse in the house.
  2. The Marry-Go-Round (1943) (Length: 7 minutes, 52 seconds)
    • Popeye’s pal Shorty tries to help him propose to Olive.
  3. We’re On Our Way To Rio (1943) (Length: 7 minutes, 50 seconds)
    • Popeye and Bluto come to Rio, where they run into Olive Oyl as a nightclub singer.
  4. The Anvil Chorus Girl (1944) (Length: 7 minutes, 5 seconds)
    • Popeye and Bluto come across Olive, who is working as a blacksmith and try to help her out.
  5. Spinach-Packin’ Popeye (1944) (Length: 7 minutes, 6 seconds)
    • After giving blood, Popeye loses a fight to Bluto and tries to convince Olive not to reject him.
  6. Puppet Love (1944) (Length: 7 minutes, 32 seconds)
    • Bluto creates a life-size puppet that looks like Popeye, and uses it to make Popeye look bad with Olive.
  7. Pitchin’ Woo At The Zoo (1944) (Length: 6 minutes, 51 seconds)
    • Popeye and Olive are walking through the zoo, and zookeeper Bluto tries to impress Olive.
  8. Moving Aweigh (1944) (Length: 6 minutes, 22 seconds)
    • Popeye and his pal Shorty try to help Olive move.
  9. She-Sick Sailors (1944) (Length: 6 minutes, 37 seconds)
    • Bluto disguises himself as Superman to win Olive’s affections, but Popeye tries to prove he is still just as good.
  10. Pop-Pie A La Mode (1945) (Length: 6 minutes, 53 seconds)
    • After being shipwrecked, Popeye makes it to an island that, as he later discovers, is inhabited by cannibals.
  11. Tops In The Big Top (1945) (Length: 6 minutes, 26 seconds)
    • Circus ringmaster Bluto tries to sabotage star attraction Popeye to get the attentions of Popeye’s assistant Olive.
  12. Shape Ahoy (1945) (Length: 6 minutes, 51 seconds)
    • Popeye and Bluto have come to a deserted island to get away from the ladies, but when a shipwrecked Olive comes ashore, their friendship and ideals go out the window!
  13. For Better Or Nurse (1945) (Length: 7 minutes, 6 seconds)
    • Popeye and Bluto try to injure themselves to get into the hospital, where Olive works as a nurse.
  14. Mess Production (1945) (Length: 7 minutes, 7 seconds)
    • Factory workers Popeye and Bluto have to rescue Olive when she gets knocked for a loop by a swinging grappling hook.

In the early 1940s, the Fleischer Studios, who had been creating the Popeye cartoons, were taken over by Paramount. Having fired the Fleischer brothers, Paramount renamed the studio as Famous Studios. After producing about 14 black-and-white Popeye shorts at Famous Studios, they made the switch to Technicolor starting with the 1943 cartoon Her Honor, The Mare. During the 1943-1945 “seasons,” several other changes occurred. Jack Mercer, the voice of Popeye, left to serve in the war, resulting in Popeye being voiced by some others during that time (mostly Harry Welch, although Olive Oyl voice actress Mae Questel did the part once for the cartoon Shape Ahoy). Speaking of Olive Oyl, Margie Hines started out voicing her for one of the Technicolor shorts, but, with production of the shorts moving from Miami back to New York City, Mae Questel resumed her voice duties as Olive for the first time since 1938. Also, starting with The Anvil Chorus Girl, Jackson Beck would voice the character of Bluto, and would continue to do so until 1962.

Ok, so I’m doing things the roundabout way by commenting on the 1940s Volume 1 set after having already done so for both the second and third volumes, but I still enjoy these cartoons! A lot more of the cartoons from this set are familiar to me, as I have stronger memories of some of them from my childhood. As a whole, these shorts are definitely better than the later ones, with greater variety and more characters involved, such as Popeye’s buddy Shorty. The only less-than-stellar short in this set is Pop-Pie A La Mode, which is so blatantly racist in some of its portrayals that its not even funny (but at least you can skip past that one if you are so inclined). I will admit that a couple of the later ones in this set aren’t *quite* as fun, since Jack Mercer didn’t voice Popeye (and your level of enjoyment for that reason may vary), but I personally don’t think they’re too bad. These cartoons all had their original nitrate Technicolor negatives scanned in 4K, and the colors are just so fantastic and vivid here, just as they are in the later sets. Personally, I have no trouble whatsoever in recommending this set (especially if we still want more)!

Popeye The Sailor: The 1940s Volume 1 is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection. The whole set has a runtime of one hour, thirty-nine minutes.

An Old-Fashioned Christmas Movie On The Farm (2020) with… Remember The Night (1940)

For today’s post, I’m pulling double-duty here, as I take part in the Queen Of Sass: Barbara Stanwyck blogathon hosted by Pale Writer, while also helping the Pure Entertainment Preservation Society celebrate Clean Movie Month 2020!  And with that let’s get into today’s movie, Remember The Night starring Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray.

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Marry-Go-Round (1943)

(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of Popeye The Sailor: The 1940s Volume 1 from Warner Archive Collection)

Disclaimer: On the disc case, it is noted that the set is intended for the adult collector, which is because these shorts were made at a time when a lot of racist and sexist stereotypes were prevalent. All I’m trying to say is, parents, be careful about just sticking these on for your kids.

(Length: 7 minutes, 52 seconds)

Popeye’s pal Shorty tries to help him propose to Olive. A bit of fun here, with Shorty being one of those characters I have very little recollection of, and so it’s fun to see somebody else for a change. Once again, no Bluto (oh, if only that could have lasted longer), which keeps this one fresh. And, of course, they get their Paramount references in, with pin-up pictures of actress Dorothy Lamour. All in all, a fun cartoon, while also staying clean enough for the Code!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Right before the Christmas holidays, Lee Leander (Barbara Stanwyck) steals some jewelry, but is quickly caught.  Assistant district attorney John “Jack” Sargent (Fred MacMurray) is chosen to prosecute.  However, in between the theatrics of Lee’s lawyer, Francis X. O’Leary (Willie Robertson), and the holiday spirit of the jury, which seems likely to get her acquitted, John decides to get the trial postponed.  However, when he hears Lee complaining about being in jail over the holidays, his conscience gets the better of him and he gets the bail bondsman to let her out.  However, the bondsman has the wrong idea, as he brings her over to John’s apartment, and then leaves.  John and Lee quickly sort things out, and he offers her a dinner out.  While at the nightclub, he learns that she is also from Indiana, from a town relatively close to where he is returning for the holidays, so he offers to give her a ride there.  However, once she arrives home, Lee finds her mother just as mean and unforgiving as she remembered, and Jack offers to bring her back to his home.  There, they are greeted by John’s mother (Beulah Bondi), his aunt Emma (Elizabeth Patterson) and their helper Willie (Sterling Holloway).  They are thrilled to have Lee with them, and offer her a place to stay.  Privately, John tells his mother about Lee, but she still does her best to help her feel like part of the family.  However, Emma smells a romance brewing, and does her best to encourage it, much to Mrs. Sargent’s dismay.  The night before John and Lee have to start their return trip, Mrs. Sargent takes Lee aside and tries to tell her how hard John worked to get where he was, work which may be undone if they continue their relationship.  Lee understands, and really sees John changing as he tries to encourage her not to return (although she firmly insists on coming back).  But, what will be the end result of her trial?

Remember The Night is remembered (ok, pun intended) for being the last movie that writer Preston Sturges wrote but didn’t direct.  The film’s director, Mitchell Liesen (who had previously directed the Sturges film Easy Living), famously pulled a number of scenes and dialogue that Sturges wrote, infuriating the writer. As a result, Preston Sturges made a big push to direct his next film himself, to great acclaim! Of course, in spite of all his troubles and complaints about the director, Preston Sturges still liked the end result with this movie. During filming, he also got to know Barbara Stanwyck, and promised to write a screwball comedy for her (which wasn’t in her usual wheelhouse at that time). Of course, a year later that promise was fulfilled when he wrote (and directed) one of her best-known comedies, The Lady Eve (personally, I haven’t seen it yet, but as a screwball comedy, and recently restored for Blu-ray, you can bet it’s one I hope to see soon)!

And, speaking of Barbara Stanwyck, since she is one of the reasons why we’re here for this post, let’s talk about her! Obviously, this is the first film that teamed up both her and Fred MacMurray (and so far, the only one of the four that I’ve seen, although I hope one of these days to see Double Indemnity). Offscreen, I have to admire all that I’ve read about her with regard to this movie. The movie was finished ahead of time and within the budget, and most of that was attributed to her and her professionalism on set. I have to admire her for that, especially reading about how she had a bad back, not helped by the corset she had to wear for the barn dance. Yet, she still hung around, ready for whenever they needed her. Never mind wearing winter clothing for the scene involving her and the cow when it was filmed in really warm weather! I just can’t begin to admire her enough for that!

And onscreen, she does such a great job! I know I love watching her as her lawyer gets carried away with her defense. At first, she seems fine with it, until Fred MacMurray’s assistant D.A. gets the trial postponed, and then she lets her lawyer have it, claiming is defense was such an old gag, she wasn’t surprised it didn’t work! And of course, she plays a woman who’s been around, as she doesn’t seem surprised when the bail bondsman brings her around to the apartment, fully expecting that she was there for an affair! But, at the same time, she makes you feel for her, especially when you meet her mother, and you have no problems then understanding why she struggled to stay on the straight and narrow! She may not have been the focus or the hero from what Preston Sturges originally wrote, but the film’s director wisely made her more important, as you do feel for her, and like seeing her in a more loving environment! Seriously, I just love her performance here!

Of course, the movie itself is also fun to watch every now and then (but especially at Christmastime)! For the most part, it’s definitely Code friendly. Admittedly, the hinted-at “affair”, whether it be the bail bondsman’s reason for bringing her to the apartment, or just the assumptions of others, like the one farmer who brought them in under citizen’s arrest, probably don’t quite fit the Code. Still, it’s only hinted at (and may go over the heads of the younger audience), so it’s not too bad. With the rest of the cast working well here, too, including Sterling Holloway, who’s rather fun as the over-worked hired hand for Mrs. Sargent (and who gets a brief moment to sing the song “A Perfect Day”). A very wonderful movie, easy to watch any time of the year (but, as I said, it’s best around Christmas), and one I very highly recommend!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Universal Studios.

Film Length: 1 hour, 34 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Internes Can’t Take Money (1937)Barbara StanwyckThe Lady Eve (1941)

The Bride Comes Home (1935) – Fred MacMurray – Murder, He Says (1945)

The Cat And The Fiddle (1934) – Sterling Holloway – Make Mine Music (1946)

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