Dr. Rich Edwards

Daily Dose of Doozy #12: Live-Action Cartoon as Slapstick: Blake Edwards

64 posts in this topic

It does feel like a cartoon and I loved it when I was a kid. As an adult, it's pretty and fun and clever, but it's too broadly played for me now. This one and Those Daring Young Men in Their Flying Machines and their Jaunty Jalopies--loved all three of them when I was a kid. 

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I only saw this DDoD last night, so here are my thoughts, most of which have already been expressed here...

 

This clip has many ways in which it feels like a "live-action" cartoon. The twinkle in Leslie's teeth was the first giveaway. But the one that really got me was seeing the wide shot of the "bush" moving. I think I've lost count of how many times I've seen Elmer, Daffy, or Wile E. Coyote doing that. Loved that. Also, the big harpoon thing was directly from a cartoon, and so was the last part where Professor Fate and his assistant try to move away from the falling balloon, only to have it fall on top of them. That was straight from a Roadrunner/Coyote cartoon.

 

Finally, the clear distinction of the good and evil. With Leslie it was the above-mentioned teeth-twinkle, the combed hair, the immaculate, white clothes, women falling and swooning for him, the crowd all worried about him. If we tie this with what we saw on the "Breakdown of a Gag" pie-fight, where he walks away unscathed, makes you feel like he's the Roadrunner. That makes me wonder if I'm gonna hate him as much as I hate the Roadrunner when I see the film :D

 

Anyway, on the side of Professor Fate, the fact that he's working "in the shadows", as if he was an outcast, the black clothes, the mustache, the voice... all of those were clear traits of a villain.

 

As for the "homage" to earlier slapstick comedies, not sure if this is what the question was about, but I would say the presence of all the basic slapstick elements we discussed in Module #1: it is all exaggerated and make-believe, there's a physicality and athleticism involved, there's violence, and a ritualism to how the events unfold.

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1. I think what captured me most was that it had the look of a newsreel but actors that were more like cartoon charactatures. Tony Curtis had the good guy look of Peter Perfect or Dudley Do-Right, Peter Falk and Jack Lemmon looked like Snidley Whiplash or Dick Dastardly. The action was so reminiscent of Wile E. Coyote and The Roadrunner ... the arrow and its launcher looked like something straight from the Acme catalogue.

2. I observed that the characters were costumed and dressed as the stereotyped portrayals of good versus evil. Moreover, it all fit the definition of slapstick that we defined as fitting the silent era, most notably the make-believe, the exaggeration, the violence, and the agility of The Great Leslie. The action was fast and furious, and the real ag was the attack on the balloon backfiring against Jack Lemmon and Peter Falk.

3. I apologize if I am repeating what other's wrote, but the answer is pretty obvious to the viewer,

The Great Leslie -- dressed in all white, gleam in his smile, adored by the ladies, brave, athletic, and is obviously the hero of the story.

Jack Lemmon -- dressed in all black, the evil-looking mustache, the sneer, the sneaky approach, and the attempt to destroy the hero. Also add the bad luck of Wile E. Coyote and Dick Dastardley.

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As we discuss the element of colour in this pie-fight, we need to be aware that, even in B&W films with pie-throwing, colour---or rather, contrast---did play a role.

 

In Buster Keaton's autobiography, he talks about arranging a pie-fight sequence in "Hollywood Cavalcade".  The film was made in Technicolor, but Buster used the criteria of the old B&W films, in choosing the missiles.  Since Alice Faye was blonde, he chose a blackberry pie, because it would contrast better.  For dark-haired people, he chose lemon meringue, because that would contrast better.

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1. Describe specifically how this scene looks and feels like a "live action" cartoon.

 

In special, because it is a very colorful scene, especially in the beginning, with the colorful balloon and the man making an announcement with colorful clothes. We also have the obvious contrast between hero and villain, black and white. And we have the gag of the villains camouflaging in a bush, and walking around with it.

 

2. In what ways does this scene function as an "homage" to earlier slapstick comedies?

 

The scene is more an homage of the imaginary around early slapstick. It plays with the stereotypes: the Victorian-era villain with the twisted moustache and the flawless hero.

 

3. How does Blake Edwards depict The Great Leslie (Curtis) as the "definitive hero" and Professor Fate (Lemmon) as the "definitive villain?"

 

They are completely contrasting: the Great Leslie wears white, has a bright smile, drive women crazy and can do any prowess. Professor Fate wears black, has a twisted moustache and a grin, works with his minion Max and never succeeds in his evil plans.

I’d like to call attention to the fact that these two characters are highly stereotyped, and in no way represent some kind of maniqueism that people imagine existed in silent film. More on that stereotyping and related myth-busting can be found here:

 

 http://criticaretro.blogspot.com.br/2016/05/puxe-alavanca-max-professor-fate-e.html

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Hello Start spreading,
Ummm, exaggerated, over-the-top...remember some of the early defining qualities of slapstick? Well, the exaggerated hero and villain personas kind of fall under that, right? I don't know if you have had an opportunity to participate in a staged melodrama, and believe me the audience is an active participant, but we cheer the very stereotypical hero and boo and throw peanut shells at the very stereotypical villain. The title sequence sets that very tone for this delightfully funny movie.

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1. Describe specifically how this scene looks and feels like a "live action" cartoon.

 

My response: Ah, this is an easy one. The whole scene has somewhat of a Bugs Bunny vibe to it, with Tony Curtis replacing Bugs, and Professor Fate replacing either Yosemite Sam, Elmer Fudd, or Daffy Duck. Considering that this is a Warner Brothers picture, that in itself is a given. The scene follows all of the cartoon tropes, fake bush and all, especially the end of the scene where the hot air balloon basket falls right on Fate and his henchman, who thought it would land on the spot they were previously at.

 

2. In what ways does this scene function as an "homage" to earlier slapstick comedies?

 

My response: A good majority of earlier slapstick films, especially the ones from the silent era, had a simple premise with a villain who takes the phrase "if at first you don't succeed, try, try again" a bit too literally. Even though this picture is a good two-and-a-half hours long, it's no different.

 

3. How does Blake Edwards depict The Great Leslie (Curtis) as the "definitive hero" and Professor Fate (Lemmon) as the "definitive villain?"

 

My response: The simple, stereotypical character tropes. The Great Leslie is the man everyone wants to be just doing what he does for a living, which is being a daredevil. Professor Fate is the evil man with a twirling mustache that happens to be in the same field, just not as successful (if at all).

 

_________________

 

I saw this movie rather recently, and aside from studying film, I also study animation academically, so this was rather easy for me to answer and right up my alley.

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1. This wasn't a cartoon? If this movie isn't the inspiration for "Whacky Racers," I don't know what is. The colors, the antics, the oversized arrow, all of it were lifted right out of the cartoon world "hammer space" to create a whackier than reality world. And the cool confidence of Tony Curtis has the same spirit of Bugs Bunny as he foils another dastardly Daffy Duck plot. If only he had a carrot and a snappy one-liner, I'd believe it was Bugs in the flesh.

2. The stunt feels very much like an updated Buster Keaton gag. The straight jacket, the peril of the balloon, it all seems like something Old Stoneface would have attempted if he were born a few decades later.

3. It's as simple as black and white -- Leslie clad in all white and then draped with a white straight jacket and tied to the balloon with a white rope, while the Snidely Whiplash-style Professor Fate in all black and a devious little black mustache to boot.

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All of the colors and music gives the cartoon feel. With the "good guys" "bad guys" we see the whole Dudley Doo-Right show. With the good guy wearing the white suit and the bad guy in black is how the cartoons were too so you knew who to root for. The scene made you feel like you were in the past with the costumes. The rocket and balloon are homages to the old slapstick and some of the over exaggeration.

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I really enjoyed this clip. I had not noticed the beauty of these opening slides. The Great Race had so many elements to get immersed in. I love Jack Lemon's laugh as Professor Fate was great. And Peter Falk was so funny as his sidekick. The Great Leslie was really the straight man for everyone.

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1. Describe specifically how this scene looks and feels like a "live action" cartoon.

The colors, the moving tree gag (with people behind it moving it), shooting down the balloon with an arrow, the flash of the white teeth. It felt like a WB Wild-e-Coyote/Road Runner cartoon.

 

2. In what ways does this scene function as an "homage" to earlier slapstick comedies?
I think it has to do with the stunts in this scene, almost like a magic act but this time in the sky.

 

3. How does Blake Edwards depict The Great Leslie (Curtis) as the "definitive hero" and Professor Fate (Lemmon) as the "definitive villain?"

The Hero is dressed in white and is all clean.

The Villain is dressed in a black coat and top hat and wants to do evil things to the hero.

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The scene is vibrant with colors. The hot air balloon is part of what this film clip makes and feels like a "live action" cartoon. Another gag is the moving tree. The film pays homage to the silent era slapstick movies and Laurel and Hardy. Professor Fate looks like a villain in an old silent comedy film. The Great Leslie has a big "L" on his top and makes him look grand.

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Describe specifically how this scene looks and feels like a "live action" cartoon.

I think the bursts of color, the camera angles, silly gags, and overall concept have a cartoon feel!

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In this scene from The Great Race, There is a dashing hero "Great Leslie" who is going to perform a stunt. Meanwhile the moustached villain "Professor Fate" is out there along with his minion Max to sabatoge Leslie's stunt. Unfortunately for the villain, the hero escaped with the help of parachute and the punctured hot air ballon landed on the evil duo.
I believe that it is dedicated to the cartoon slapstick as it resembles a lot with this cartoon "Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines" where one could picturize The Great Leslie as the carrier pigeon Yankee Doodle Pigeon, Dastardly as Professor Fate and his minion dog Muttley as Max.

Here is the link to the cartoon wiki: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dastardly_and_Muttley_in_Their_Flying_Machines

One can know that The Great Leslie is the good guy and Professor Fate is the bad guy based on their appearances. The hero who wears white is always shown as a handsome, daring and charming man. Whereas the villain is shown as a moustached man who have sinister plans and he may look ugly or hideous.

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