Quantcast
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Dig a hole: the Merrie side of Lauren Bacall

Lauren Bacall ignites the screen (and carpet) in Bacall to Arms and Slick Hare.
Lauren Bacall ignites the screen (and carpet) in Bacall to Arms and Slick Hare.

Lauren Bacall, who died this week at the age of 89, was one of the few movie stars to be twice immortalized in Warner Bros. “Merrie Melodies” cartoons, one of which bore her name in the title. Bob Clampett’s roiled rollick Bacall to Arms is a plotless series of some of the wildest, albeit most disjointed blackout gags ever created by the boys at Termite Terrace.

The title is a goof on Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms by way of the same author’s To Have and Have Not, Bacall’s debut feature. As if that layering wasn’t enough, it also functions as a burlesque on the common military term, “a call to arms.” Bonus points: the self-reflexive silliness is confined to a movie theatre with various Technicolor barnyard patrons enjoying a black-and-white rotoscoped “Bogey Gocart and Laurie Becool” splashed across the 60-foot screen. (Even the termites knew Lauren Bacall photographed better in black-and-white.)

Video:

Bacall to Arms (Edited Extract)

This would be Clampett’s second-to-last cartoon for the studio. He departed before the short was finished, leaving the clean-up duties to Arthur Davis, a talented cartoonist assigned the unenviable task of replacing the veteran animator and assuming control of the Clampett unit. It’s best described as a Frankenstein short, cobbled together with reused footage from She Was an Acrobat’s Daughter and relying on the clashing styles of various animators to keep things moving.

Lauren Bacall’s acting career began at age 17 with a walk-on part in a Broadway play. The seed began to blossom two years later when Nancy “Slim” Keith, wife of Howard Hawks — he would go on to direct both To Have and Have Not and The Big Sleep — took notice of Bacall while thumbing through the pages of Vogue. Hawks’s secretary misconstrued her boss’s desire to have Bacall tested as a “green light” and wired the budding actress a ticket to Hollywood. Hawks placed her under a seven-year personal contract at $100 a week, changing her name from Betty Joan Perske to the more marquee-friendly Lauren Bacall.

From her fashion sense to that famously husky voice, Keith cultivated Bacall’s smoldering presence, instilling in her a sophisticated sensuality second only to Ava Gardner, both of whom had torrid affairs with Frank Sinatra. (The main difference between the two was that Bacall could act.) Bacall was the embodiment of what came to be known as the “Hawksian woman”: fast-thinking, tough-talking, and when she kissed you, you stayed kissed. In her autobiography, Keith notes, “Howard had been working on this formula woman for years in his films. Rather, it was that, until he met me, the woman of his dreams was only in his head. And until Howard got to Betty Bacall, there hadn’t been an actress to make that dream come alive on screen.”

The cartoon was released after To Have and Have Not and before The Big Sleep. With one feature, the Hawkses had instilled in Bacall such instantly identifiable charisma and strength of character that parody was inevitable. Only one other example of a Warner Bros. cartoon in which a celebrity is caricatured on the basis of a single performance comes to mind and that’s the dice-teethed whisper of “Rosebud,” a nod to Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane, that closes Clampett’s Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs.

For years I operated under the false assumption that Bacall gave voice to her animated facsimile. For an answer, I turned to animation historian Jerry Beck, a man who has probably settled more cartoon bar bets than all other animation fiends combined. (Jerry heads up the squash-and-stretch utopia, Cartoon Research.) “I used to think they just used the actual soundtrack,” responds Jerry by e-mail, “but I believe that’s Sara Berner (a radio actress who did many female voices for Warner cartoons) as Bacall. Actor Dave Barry is doing Bogart (except for the blackface ‘Rochester’ end line — that’s Mel Blanc).”

Video:

Slick Hare

Bacall would make another anthropomorphic appearance, again opposite cartoon Bogey, in Friz Freleng’s Slick Hare (1947). Set inside the celebrity-studded Mocrumbo nightclub, Bogart’s puts in an urgent request to Chef Fudd for a dish of fried wabbit for his “baby.” After a heated exchange involving coconut custard pies, his baby, a peroxided Bacall, is presented with a plate of fresh Bugs.

I was shocked when talking with friends to find that aside from her three collaborations with Bogart, none of them could name another Lauren Bacall picture. Surely they must have seen Vincente Minnelli’s madly stylized The Cobweb, or the one film I’ll beg to take to hell with me, Douglas Sirk’s Technicolor fever dream Written on the Wind.

Choosing Broadway over Hollywood, in the 20 year period between Sex and the Single Girl (1964) and Murder on the Orient Express (1974), Bacall appeared in as many features as she did Warner Bros. cartoons. Even in Written on the Wind — a film she never much cared for — Bacall played fourth-fiddle to Rock Hudson and scenery chompers Robert Stack and Dorothy Malone. Her towering presence and booming voice were frequently larger than the films that showcased them. That’s star quality, something one couldn’t help but notice in Lauren Bacall.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Pepper covers Sublime for The House That Bradley Built comp

Hirie, G. Love, the Expanders, Common Kings, the Skints, Long Beach Dub Allstars, and Trevor Young also contribute
Lauren Bacall ignites the screen (and carpet) in Bacall to Arms and Slick Hare.
Lauren Bacall ignites the screen (and carpet) in Bacall to Arms and Slick Hare.

Lauren Bacall, who died this week at the age of 89, was one of the few movie stars to be twice immortalized in Warner Bros. “Merrie Melodies” cartoons, one of which bore her name in the title. Bob Clampett’s roiled rollick Bacall to Arms is a plotless series of some of the wildest, albeit most disjointed blackout gags ever created by the boys at Termite Terrace.

The title is a goof on Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms by way of the same author’s To Have and Have Not, Bacall’s debut feature. As if that layering wasn’t enough, it also functions as a burlesque on the common military term, “a call to arms.” Bonus points: the self-reflexive silliness is confined to a movie theatre with various Technicolor barnyard patrons enjoying a black-and-white rotoscoped “Bogey Gocart and Laurie Becool” splashed across the 60-foot screen. (Even the termites knew Lauren Bacall photographed better in black-and-white.)

Video:

Bacall to Arms (Edited Extract)

This would be Clampett’s second-to-last cartoon for the studio. He departed before the short was finished, leaving the clean-up duties to Arthur Davis, a talented cartoonist assigned the unenviable task of replacing the veteran animator and assuming control of the Clampett unit. It’s best described as a Frankenstein short, cobbled together with reused footage from She Was an Acrobat’s Daughter and relying on the clashing styles of various animators to keep things moving.

Lauren Bacall’s acting career began at age 17 with a walk-on part in a Broadway play. The seed began to blossom two years later when Nancy “Slim” Keith, wife of Howard Hawks — he would go on to direct both To Have and Have Not and The Big Sleep — took notice of Bacall while thumbing through the pages of Vogue. Hawks’s secretary misconstrued her boss’s desire to have Bacall tested as a “green light” and wired the budding actress a ticket to Hollywood. Hawks placed her under a seven-year personal contract at $100 a week, changing her name from Betty Joan Perske to the more marquee-friendly Lauren Bacall.

From her fashion sense to that famously husky voice, Keith cultivated Bacall’s smoldering presence, instilling in her a sophisticated sensuality second only to Ava Gardner, both of whom had torrid affairs with Frank Sinatra. (The main difference between the two was that Bacall could act.) Bacall was the embodiment of what came to be known as the “Hawksian woman”: fast-thinking, tough-talking, and when she kissed you, you stayed kissed. In her autobiography, Keith notes, “Howard had been working on this formula woman for years in his films. Rather, it was that, until he met me, the woman of his dreams was only in his head. And until Howard got to Betty Bacall, there hadn’t been an actress to make that dream come alive on screen.”

The cartoon was released after To Have and Have Not and before The Big Sleep. With one feature, the Hawkses had instilled in Bacall such instantly identifiable charisma and strength of character that parody was inevitable. Only one other example of a Warner Bros. cartoon in which a celebrity is caricatured on the basis of a single performance comes to mind and that’s the dice-teethed whisper of “Rosebud,” a nod to Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane, that closes Clampett’s Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs.

For years I operated under the false assumption that Bacall gave voice to her animated facsimile. For an answer, I turned to animation historian Jerry Beck, a man who has probably settled more cartoon bar bets than all other animation fiends combined. (Jerry heads up the squash-and-stretch utopia, Cartoon Research.) “I used to think they just used the actual soundtrack,” responds Jerry by e-mail, “but I believe that’s Sara Berner (a radio actress who did many female voices for Warner cartoons) as Bacall. Actor Dave Barry is doing Bogart (except for the blackface ‘Rochester’ end line — that’s Mel Blanc).”

Video:

Slick Hare

Bacall would make another anthropomorphic appearance, again opposite cartoon Bogey, in Friz Freleng’s Slick Hare (1947). Set inside the celebrity-studded Mocrumbo nightclub, Bogart’s puts in an urgent request to Chef Fudd for a dish of fried wabbit for his “baby.” After a heated exchange involving coconut custard pies, his baby, a peroxided Bacall, is presented with a plate of fresh Bugs.

I was shocked when talking with friends to find that aside from her three collaborations with Bogart, none of them could name another Lauren Bacall picture. Surely they must have seen Vincente Minnelli’s madly stylized The Cobweb, or the one film I’ll beg to take to hell with me, Douglas Sirk’s Technicolor fever dream Written on the Wind.

Choosing Broadway over Hollywood, in the 20 year period between Sex and the Single Girl (1964) and Murder on the Orient Express (1974), Bacall appeared in as many features as she did Warner Bros. cartoons. Even in Written on the Wind — a film she never much cared for — Bacall played fourth-fiddle to Rock Hudson and scenery chompers Robert Stack and Dorothy Malone. Her towering presence and booming voice were frequently larger than the films that showcased them. That’s star quality, something one couldn’t help but notice in Lauren Bacall.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Terra Lawson-Remer out-raises Kristin Gaspar

San Diego State not ready for emergency
Next Article

Ocean Beach trash altruist

Cameron Reid covers Niagara and Narragansett, Sunset Cliffs to Abbott.
Comments
2

When I think of Bacall, I think of her near zombie performance next to Edward G. in "Key Largo". Wildcat!

Rest in peace Betty Joan Perske.

Aug. 14, 2014

"Bacall to Arms" was hilarious. Thanks for posting.

Aug. 16, 2014

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer News — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close