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Daffy Duck in Hollywood

Daffy Duck in Hollywood

1938. Warner Brothers. Directed by Tex Avery.


Daffy presents himself at Wonder Pictures ("If it's a good picture, it's a Wonder") inquiring if they need a good duck actor. They don't, but Daffy sticks around to wreak havoc anyway. Avery isn't content to just animate the standard amateur-on-the-loose-in-a-movie-studio jokes. Like Bob Hope, he address the audience right over the heads of the story he's telling. For instance, Daffy grabs a cigar and writes the Warner Brothers name in smoke, confiding to us, "Just giving my bosses a plug; got an option coming up." (How many members of the 1938 audience knew what an option was? Sometimes you think these guys were just amusing themselves.) A live-action M-G-M-esque lion appears to remind us (pretty well lip-synched, too) "Motion Pictures Are Your Best Entertainment." Silent movie-style intertitles ("Meanwhile...") link scenes, quite unnecessarily.

Then Daffy gets loose in the Film Library. He madly snips and splices and creates a newsreel called "Gold Is Where You Find It." Then he substitutes this mess for the reel that the famous director von Hamburger is about to screen for the studio brass, causing widespread consternation. "Gold Is Where You Find It" seems remakably prescient for 1938 in the way it uses "found" pieces of film for comic effect. A title card and a bombastic narrator announce something about "Happy Legionnaires March in Formation" and we see a film clip of bedraggled WWI soldiers slogging through a rainstorm. An item announced as a hot jitterbug contest turns out to be a minuet sequence from some long-forgotten silent (Carl Stalling's musical quotations add to the comic effect). Avery even manipulates the footage he chooses. He cuts in a shot of a biplane crashing into the side of a barn, then runs it backward, then forward and backward again, speeded up. He edits some old prize-fight film so that the fighters seem to jump around but never touch each other. Using old film out of context this way, giving it a secondary life by "quoting" it ironically, seems a very contemporary thing to do. TV's "Dream On" has gotten a lot of post-modernist mileage out of the identical trick. And Avery is mixing media here, asking us to accept animated characters as the creators of actual photographed footage.

(11/17/1995)

 

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copyright ©2005 Barbara Bernstein