This Talkartoon, published in 1931,
is Betty Boop's 11th cartoon appearance. The cartoon takes place at a masquerade
ball, with Betty dressed as a queen wearing a small black mask. She passes
by a stage on which Bimbo is leading a band, slips her gown off her shoulder
and writhes her bare shoulder at Bimbo, who definitely takes notice.
Then she sits on a throne next to the king. This king is a familiar Fleischer character who shows up in a number of Betty Boop cartoons, including Chess Nuts, Kitty from Kansas City, and Crazy Town. He has a long nose, a big chin, little round glasses, and a round, high forehead. In this cartoon, he has a prehensile, bird-infested beard which he uses to harass Betty Boop, chucking her under the chin, stroking her face and pinching her cheek while she tries to push him away. Finally, she whips out a pair of scissors and cuts off the end of the beard. Although she cuts off only the lower part, when the king is shown a few frames later, he has lost all his beard except for stubble.
Then Bimbo bounds up, and he and the king begin singing an odd song in Italian accents. The Fleischers did not list their guest performers in their credits for this cartoon, and we have not been able to discover who provided the voices for this interesting song. But we think it may be Harry Reser's Six Jumping Jacks, a novelty band from the 1920s and early thirties, with their drummer Tom Stacks doing some of the vocals. It sounds like them.
King: Where do you work-a, John?
Bimbo: On the Delaware Lackawan.
King: Oh, yeah, say, what do you do-a, John?
Bimbo: Oh, I push-a, push-a, push.
King: Oh, what do you push-a, John?
Bimbo: I push-a, push the truck.
King: Yes, but where do you push-a, John?
Bimbo: On the Delaware Lackawanna-
Chorus: Wanna-wanna-wan, the Delaware Lackawan!
Oh, Viva la Lackawan! Hey!
(The Delaware Lackawanna is a railroad. Lackawanna is a suburb of Buffalo, New York.) During this performance, Bimbo puts on a dark-skinned, big-nosed mask with a droopy black mustache; the mask takes over the job of singing while Bimbo admires Betty's legs.
There follows a skat version, in which Bimbo answers the king's questions with Italian patter or nonsense syllables. The king is baffled by the responses he gets:
King: Where do you work-a, Lige?
King: No, I say where do you work-a, Lige?
King: Say, I can't understand you, Lige!
King: Oh, the Delaware Lackawan!
This is followed by some intense skatting.
Finally, it becomes obvious that the King and Bimbo are competitors for Betty's affections. Each man seizes one of Betty's arms and a tug-of-war ensues, during which we get to see a great deal of Betty's legs and underwear. She finally pulls free (with very nicely animated motions), and urges them to battle it out for her, singing:
You're the one I care for,
And so are you, so therefore,
I know you care for me.
Listen to my pleading,
It it's me you're needing,
And love me so sincerely,
So there will be no doubt,
You'll have to fight it out,
And so the one that wins the fight... [sung by Bimbo]
He's the one I care for,
Let me see a real war,
Come on, big boys, fight for me!
Bimbo loses a coin toss, and gets the smaller sword. There ensues a fairly long and somewhat tedious free-for-all, and Bimbo loses his fight with the king. A knight comes along to drag Bimbo off to the dungeon. The knight raises its visor to reveal that it's actually Betty Boop. She smooches Bimbo, and says, "What would you say if I marry you?" This prospect so enthralls Bimbo that he bursts into rapid-fire skat and morphs into a hairy individual -- obviously intended to resemble a real person, but we don't know who! If you know, dear reader, please tell us!
This is a fun cartoon with its odd song and its dynamic, surreal ending!
This cartoon is available in the following collection:
If you are interested in the song "Where Do You Work-a John?," it appears on the CD Harry Reser's Six Jumping Jacks, vol. 1, Old Masters. This CD also has "Horses," the leit motif of the horse in Bimbo's Express, as well as a lot of other cartoon-style music. A fun CD!
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