Here’s something I came upon by checking my “incoming links.” You know how I’m always going on about that Betty Boop cartoon featuring Cab Calloway’s take on “SJI”? Well, echenblog had a post mentioning that (and this site) the other day — and noting that in one poll of animators it was voted the 19th best cartoon ever. Pretty cool. But the real payoff is that the echenblog post also mentions several other Max Fleischer cartoons featuring jazz numbers.
For instance: Two more Boop toons with Calloway. In one from 1932 (link here), Calloway does the famous “Minnie The Moocher” — a tune that, of course, owes a rather considerable debt to the tune of “SJI.” (Koko the clown has a very brief cameo). The other (here) is from 1933, and has Calloway doing a fairly asinine number called “The Old Man of the Mountain,” and then doing a “hi-de-ho” duet with Boop. Both cartoons are delightful little pieces of pop culture surrealism.
Then there’s one from 1932, featuring none other than Louis Armstrong, singing “I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead, You Rascal You.” Here is the link to see that. This one has Boop visiting the jungle, in the company of Koko and another character, only to be abducted by a bunch of racistly rendered “savages” guaranteed to make you cringe.
It gets worse when one of them is intercut with a singing Armstrong, so the image goes back and forth from Armstrong to this really offensive caricature. Similarly, drumming is juxtaposed with anther savage preparing the pot in which Boop will boiled, presumably for eating.
Shameful. Then again, there’s no point in pretending such things never happened. You can’t glorify the past one minute, and then bury its uglier realities the next.