Every major cartoon studio has rare and lost films to its name. Nitrate deteriorates; 16mm gets vinegar syndrome. "Duplicate" prints are cast away without careful inspection of the "master" element. Often the only source researchers know for a given title is an element that's inaccessible or unscreenable. Several Max Fleischer shorts fall into this category, preserved only in noncirculating master copies at various archives. Occasionally new prints are made from these masters. But not all the time.
Luckily, new sources for rare films occasionally turn up—and with help from a few friends, I've presented several here in their entirety. Today, though, we've got a Ramapith first—a surviving rare cartoon that I'm not going to show you all of! (Hey, hold off on the rocks and socks a minute...)
Ace of Spades (1931) is a Talkartoon with a difference. Other Fleischer shorts included some soundtrack elements derived from pre-existing recordings, but this one invokes Southern and African-American vaudeville discs almost all the way from start to finish. Earlier text sources claim we're hearing the actual records on the soundtrack; as I perceive it, it's more likely that the Fleischer studio carefully re-recorded the songs and lyrics, as each has been reworded slightly to match the cartoon's poker-playing theme. "Push Them Cards Away," for example, was originally the minstrel tune "Push Dem Clouds Away" (cover by Harry C. Browne, 1917):
So why can't I show you all of Ace today?
Ace was recently acquired, in the print excerpted below, by my longtime colleague Tom Stathes—and he'll be "re-premiering" it this Friday, August 27, at "Travelaffs," the latest installment of his Cartoon Carnival screening series. If I gave the whole cartoon away, I'd be scooping him. I can, on the other hand, help plug him!
"Travelaffs" will reveal the four corners of the world as they never were: with Looney Tunes, Van Beuren, Ub Iwerks, Dick Huemer and others taking you to Italy, China, bull-infested Spain, and the politically incorrect Congo. Ace of Spades, with card sharp Bimbo out to win a poker tournament and "buy [him]self a ticket to the sunny South," fits right in with the program.
Near New York? You can fit in, too. Check out "Travelaffs," Tom Stathes Cartoon Carnival #6—where the lost will be found.
Update, August 30: We got a nice, fat turnout. Thanks a lot, friends.