December 31, 1955 ["One Froggy Evening"]
[Editor's Note: The above imbedded video is presented for editorial purposes. No copyright infringement is intended--besides, a nice Italian man reads the signs for us!]
Watching the intermittently talented frog in "One Froggy Evening," I thought of the cartoons one could see twenty years or so ago set in toy shops, libraries, and department stores where the dolls and wind-up ducks, fictional characters and home appliances would come to life and play out their little dramas. There was something about them that made me uneasy--the shadows, maybe, or simply the old fear of the doppelganger, the lurking automaton, like that ventriloquist's dummy in Dead of Night taking charge, his smile stretched like a noose--I'm reminded of Edgar Bergen on the radio, his Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd whining and honking in the parlor--funny, but something about them ...
Where was I? Yes, that frog. It sings and dances--remarkably well, Warner Bros.' best shot at the musical always in their cartoons, devil-may-care amalgamations of toe-tappers and sentimental ballads--but then, just as the world could see and be amazed, and the man who found the frog could prosper, be vindicated in his efforts, the frog ends his song, and resumes his lethargic stare, croaking in unconscious scorn.
The frustration of the thing! It is somehow at the heart of the cartoon itself, a blank unconcern for everything except the gag--the poor guy who found the frog simply wants to cash in, who wouldn't--so why punish him? OK, I laughed: That frog was pretty good, and the timing of his song--ending just as his audience arrives--damnably exact, a riot in the theater. But am I the only one who wants the frog to keep singing?--or that other Warner Bros. demon, the Road Runner, to finally become dinner? One Charles M. Jones seems behind most of this--and he's good, orchestrating action Keaton or Chaplin would be proud of, the postures and gestures both precise and subtle--but man, the price we pay! The "The Michigan Rag" goes 'round and 'round in my head--and that frog's just kidding around when he sings, "Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone"; the little jerk knows he'll be with me for a long time.