Of course, sometimes an unpredictable Oswald discovery is made. Then what? When it's unpredictable and Oswald-related—but David Gerstein is blogging about it—do the unpredictability and predictability cancel each other out? (And if something's not predictable or unpredictable, what is it?)
Predictable or unpredictable, you've just seen a very rare cartoon. In fact, a lot about Oswald is rare—or worse. Of the 26 Disney-made Oswald cartoons of 1927-28, Disney could locate only 13 in time for their 2007 DVD release (a fourteenth, Poor Papa, apparently exists but was inaccessible). Of the 26 Winkler Oswalds of 1928-29, only ten seem to have surfaced in modern times; and none in sound prints, though some were originally released with sound.
It's easy to guess that the all-sound Lantz Oswald package must survive in full, but you'd be wrong; Universal has master elements on most, but not all. On the other hand, collectors often assume that what's not in the general rotation must be lost; and that's wrong, too. For example, my fellow Oswald scholar, Pietro Shakarian, recently learned that our colleague Tom Klein possessed a few titles that others did not. With Tom's kind permission, we're now able to share Broadway Folly, the cartoon shown above—and Cold Feet (1930), another classic Bill Nolan-era straggler:
Thanks, Tom! (Tom, by the way, is the author of "Walt-to-Walt Oswald" [Griffithiana 71, 2001], a seminal paper on the character's early days—crucial reading.)
So which Lantz Oswald cartoons are still MIA? Here's what Pietro and I believe to be a definitive list—with summaries based on the original copyright synopses. Anyone want to help us find these?
Cold Turkey (released 10/15/29; production number 5043, © MP 728)
Synopsis: Taking time off the job to dance with his "best girl," waiter Oswald is interrupted by an irate customer who wants an order of duck for dinner. Oswald obliges, but the duck resists death by decapitation and hanging. Oswald finally solves the situation by shooting the duck with a cannon, leaving it "done to a turn—and well roasted." Oswald: "Want some?" Girl: "I bite!"
Note: If the synopsis is accurate regarding dialogue, this would seem to be the first Lantz cartoon with spoken words (during this period, Lantz and his crew otherwise largely relied on a slide whistle to perform Oswald's voice).
Pussy Willie (released 10/28/29; production number 5063, © MP 758)
Synopsis: Oswald heads to his girlfriend's house and is faced with the problem of her "kid brother," who gives Oswald no end of trouble. Willie's misdeeds include putting pepper in the flowers that Oswald gives his girl. Fed up, Oswald throws "the imp off a dock." The kid returns and finds Oswald and his girl—desperate for privacy—locked in a safe. Willie uses TNT to blast them to Heaven—and comes along with them to slam the pearly gates in their faces.
Note: We're presuming "Pussy Willie" is the same bratty little cat who debuts in Disney's All Wet (1927)—then reappears as Homeless Homer in the eponymous Winkler title (1928), and once again as the girlfriend's kid brother in Lantz's The Fireman (1931). Hugh Harman and Rudy Ising reused him at Warner as Bosko's foil, renaming him "Wilbur"; you have to wonder if Oswald paid Bosko to take him.
Nutty Notes (released 12/9/29; production number 5062, © MP 855)
Synopsis: When Oswald gets a new job at a music store, his "bruin" boss tasks him with hoisting a piano to "Ozzie's girl's" apartment—on the top floor of a skyscraper! After several efforts fail, Oswald tricks a goat into kicking the piano upward, but the kick is delivered with "too much English," and the hurtling piano rips the roof off the building. Upon Oswald's descent, he is united with his girl and the two kiss happily.
Note: The poster survives, as illustrated at right. While the copyright description calls Oswald's boss a bear, the poster pictures a cat.
Ozzie of the Circus (released 12/23/29; production number 5024, © MP 938)
Synopsis: Oswald spends a day at the circus where he runs into a smart-aleck pup. The dog trips the barker, causes problems for the "two-headed sax player," and ties Oswald's tail to a strength-test indicator. After getting loose, Oswald chases the pup but soon finds himself pursued by an angry gorilla. The chase goes on and on; carrying over to the closing title, where "we leave them hotfooting it around the Universal universe—a dangerous triangle going around in circles!"
Note: Erroneously thought to be the first-released Lantz Oswald short until research in 2005 proved otherwise.
Kisses and Kurses (released 2/17/30; production number 5127, © MP 1147)
Synopsis: Oswald is part of a showboat troupe, with his girlfriend Fanny as leading lady in a melodrama. "Little Blue Eyes, the heroine, live[s] with her aged father in a wee cabin down on the Swanee. Simon Hardheart [played by Pete] demand[s] her hand in marriage, but Blue Eyes spurn[s] him. In fury, Simon tie[s] her to a railroad track and vows to run over her with an old locomotive called The General." She is rescued by Oswald, who splits the track—and by extension, the train and villain—in half! The show is a success and Oswald and Fanny embrace for the closer.
Note: The General got its name compliments, no doubt, of Buster Keaton!
Bowery Bimboes (released 3/18/30; production number 5154, © LP 1162)
Synopsis: Oswald is a cop on the beat in the Bowery. A girl catches his eye and the two engage in a rough Apache dance. But the girl is kidnapped by a tough-guy rat who spirits her to a skyscraper and hoists her to the top. Oswald comes to the rescue with an extension ladder; he saves her, but the ladder breaks. The two end up falling to the ground—but revive in time for a closing kiss.
Note: It seems likely to us that the tough-guy rat is the one who's also in The Prison Panic (1930). While the picture element for Bowery Bimboes is presently lost, an original soundtrack disc survives in my personal collection. Thanks to Ron Hutchinson's tech support, I'm honored to present it to you here:
Hey, that's not the end of the Ramapith audio selection for today. I'd be remiss if I didn't share Billy Murray's and Aileen Stanley's priceless performance of "Down By the Winegar Woiks" (1925), the song that you (appropriately) heard over Bowery Bimboes' opening titles:
And how about "Hi-Lee, Hi-Lo," as heard in Cold Feet? This one is all over 1930s cartoons—Donald Duck sings it in On Ice (1935), and it even survives as his theme in a couple of period comics (example at right from 1936 Sunday page: story by Ted Osborne, art by Al Taliaferro). Here's George P. Watson covering it in 1909:
Pietro, meanwhile, has caught studio musician David Broekman enlivening Broadway Folly with "Hittin' the Ceiling," a tune from Universal's rare part-Technicolor musical Broadway (1929). Carrying on in the same spirit, Broekman colleague Bert Fiske used the Broadway number "Sing a Little Love Song" for the marriage-proposal scene of Oswald's Oil's Well (1929; see sequence starting at 1:53).
I'd be remiss not to mention Pietro's contributions to Golden Age Cartoons' Walter Lantz Cartune Encyclopedia, where he informs me he's just now adding our new Oswald discoveries to the 1929 and 1930 pages. Hop on over, rabbit-style, to read more about them.
Update, September 3: I'd be remiss, too, not to link us to the first new Disney animation of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit in 82 years. Nope, it's not what some of you would have expected...