Monday, March 02, 2009

DUCK AMUCK Goes Over Big In Rural America has a complete or near-complete run of Boxoffice magazine, a publication aimed at movie exhibitors. The site is extremely difficult to search -- the only effective way is through Google, and even that only turns up partial results, and sometimes creates dead links that have to be revived through guesswork -- but at least it's an online resource for information about the movie business through the years. (Registration is free for the site.)

Boxoffice had monthly reviews of short films, including cartoons, though they weren't really "reviews" so much as summaries: the reviewer would recount the whole plot from beginning to end (for the benefit of people who wanted to know whether the films were worth showing in their theatres) and give a rating of "Good" or "Fair" or "Very Good" or "Excellent."

But I did find one item about a short cartoon that went beyond a mere plot synopsis. One of the features in the magazine was "The Exhibitor Has His Say," where owners and operators of movie theatres around the country (often in rural areas) would write in about how a particular movie was doing in their theatres. (I recall that an article on Citizen Kane quoted from this or some similar magazine to show just how badly Kane bombed in rural theatres; anybody outside the urban centres was saying that this was a good picture and their audiences hated it.) And in the issue of May 8, 1954, among all the feature films, I found this blurb:

Duck Amuck (WB) -- Cartoon Short. One of the best comedies we have shown in a long time. A little out of the ordinary in story and very entertaining. The audience liked it. Played Fri., Sat. Weather: Good. -- Paul Ricketts, Charm Theatre, Holyrood, Kas. Small-town and rural patronage.

Chuck Jones made an unusual, experimental film that was a big hit with all audiences, everywhere. That's why Duck Amuck is so great; it's a film that's very self-consciously about the very nature of filmmaking and storytelling, but it doesn't come off as too good or smart to be a regular entertaining cartoon.

Here are two examples of "reviews" from the Shorts-in-Review section:

Bad Luck Blackie
MGM (Cartoon) 7 Mins.
Very good.
Blackie, a jet black cat, befriends a white kitten being tormented by a bulldog. Every time the dog crosses Blackie's path, practically everything falls on him out of the sky, from bricks to pianos. When the dog finally removes the spell on him by painting Blackie white, the kitten goes in for black paint, and assorted articles as large as airplanes rain down on the dog. Well drawn and really funny.


Bugs and Thugs
Warner Bros. (Looney Tune) 7 Mins.
Fast-moving, funny film about Bugs Bunny and bank robbers. He gets in the car in which they are making a getaway and is taken for a ride, but as they are about to rub him out, he mimics the voices of approaching cops and they take refuge in a kitchen oven. Then he turns on the gas and ignites it. Real cops then arrive.


Linda said...

"Duck Amuck" is my absolute favorite WB cartoon, even edging out the hysterical "Duck Dodgers."

Anonymous said...

Though it appears abstract, "Duck Amuck" harks back to Buster Keaton's formalist film experiments in "The Projectionist", which, I'll bet, played very well in rural America, too. Jones sometimes put on fancy airs but always remained a grass roots American filmmaker. He just didn't know when to get off the stage.

Jim B. said...

You've done better than I have with issuu. I stumbled across some wonderful lists of 1930s releases by studios I've never heard of. But trying to find stuff was virtually impossible. I couldn't find a list at all of which editions of Boxoffice they had; it doesn't appear they have many pre-WW2. I finally deleted the site from my list of favourites in frustration.

Anonymous said...

"I recall that an article on Citizen Kane quoted from this or some similar magazine to show just how badly Kane bombed in rural theatres"

Which speaks volumes about those rural audiences.

Funny how Kane is considered one of the all-time cinematic greats and not whatever the 40's equivalent of "Larry the Cable Guy" was.

juan said...

Is duck amuck character is the same creator with donald duck? btw, really love this Warner Bros duck amuck

Linda said...
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Linda said...
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Linda said...

Just checked the TCM schedule and they are having a Chuck Jones night on March 24, starting at eight p.m. Eastern time with a half-hour documentary. (I don't believe this is a new documentary.) "Duck Amuck" is included in the cartoons that will be shown following the documentary, as will a favorite of mine, "The Dot and the Line." Following will be Jones' version of The Phantom Tollbooth.