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August 21, 2006

The Friz Freleng Blog-a-thon: Hi Diddle Diddle

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Andrew L. Stone - 1943
Animated sequences by Friz Freleng
Alpha Video Region 1 DVD

Credited to "Leon Schlesinger Productions", Friz Freleng's work on Hi Diddle Diddle has something of the spirit, if not the look of his work with Warner Brothers. The film it is a part of is a cute, if dated, farce by Andrew Stone that in recent years has been championed by Quentin Tarantino. There are a few chuckles to be had. This is one of those comedies that must have seemed funnier in conception than in actual execution. Freleng's work is first seen in the title sequence involving a lovebird with a roving eye. The stills featured here are from the last two minutes of this 72 minute film.

One of the film's several running gags involves Pola Negri as a less than talented opera singer who specializes in Wagner. In the final scene, Negri, Billie Burke, June Havoc and others have joined in a chorus from "Tannhauser". Negri's husband, Adolph Menjou (seen above) looks at the cacophony with resignation, while the characters painted on the wall take on life, and flee in horror.

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While the howling pups look similar to those in a Warner Brothers' cartoon of the same era, the humans, such as the character below could have been refugees from something out of the Van Beuren Studios of the Thirties. While the animated sequence is essentially a work for hire, it is appropriate that the animator responsible was the person who had the longest tenure at Termite Terrace. If Freleng's work never was a distinctive as the work of Tex Avery with its play on words, Frank Tashlin's spoofs of Hollywood or Chuck Jones' reducing the cartoon to simplicity and nearly abstract backgrounds, one could almost always count on some manner of silliness for its own sake such as Bugs and Yosemite Sam taking a moment to demonstrate their dancing ability.

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That the animated sequences were considered the high point of Hi Diddle Diddle at the time of release is suggested by this excerpt from the New York Times' review from September 24, 1943: "Mr. Stone has demonstrated his craftsmanship heretofore, so there's no doubting that he started out with an idea this time, one which was to result in a new type of screwball comedy. But there is no telling what he had in mind from "Hi Diddle Diddle." The film has a novel introduction, beginning with a cartoon sequence and ending on an even more unusual cartoon note."

For more celebrations of Friz Freleng's 100th birthday, check out the links at Hell on Frisco Bay.

Posted by peter at August 21, 2006 07:30 AM

Comments

I need to check out more of Alpha Video's releases; I had no idea this was out there. Thanks for writing about it today, Peter!

Posted by: Brian at August 22, 2006 12:54 AM

Good write-up, Peter. Where did you see this? Was it on dvd?

Posted by: Maya at August 22, 2006 03:29 AM

While Alpha Video has several classics on DVD, the transfers I've seen so far have not been very good.

Posted by: Peter Nellhaus at August 22, 2006 08:05 AM