Hollywood Canine Canteen (1946)

Director: Robert McKimson
Story: Warren Foster
Animation: Cal Dalton, Don Williams, Richard Bickenback
Backgrounds: Richard H Thomas
Musical Director: Carl W Stalling
Date of release: 20th April 1946

The second Warner Bros. short feature directed by Robert McKimson is less impressive than the first. This weakly plotted cartoon, seems little more than an attempt to cash in on the success of the Warner Bros, film Hollywood Canteen made in 1944. While there are one or two interesting gags the lack of a central protagonist is a real problem. Even the original movie had a leading man and lady. The cartoon opens when a meeting of a group of dogs owned by famous movie stars decide to organise a nightclub to entertain the members of the Army K-9 Corps. The dogs all bear a resemblance to their celebrity owners, who include Edward G. Robinson, Jimmy Durante, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Jerry Colonna (featured yesterday in Daffy Doodles), Carmen Miranda, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, Abbott & Costello and Laurel & Hardy. The music is provided by Kings of Swing “Hairy” James, “Boney” Goodman, Tommy “Dorgy”, Lionel “Hambone” and “Kaynine” Kyser (answers.com).

The cartoon has dated badly because so few of the “stars” depicted here are remembered today. Even those names I did recognise were often difficult to recognise because they are depicted here as period caricatures. The barely recognisable Frank Sinatra depicted in a sing off with Bing Crosby is an example.

I noticed in a sequence featuring Abbot & Costello’s pooches. The Lou Costello dog calls his partner “Babbit” Interesting because Warner Bros were at this time developing the cartoon double act Babbit and Catstello. A spoof version of the Hollywood double act. They starred in three Warner Bros. cartoons from 1942 to 1946. See “A Tale of Two Kitties“.

We see pooch versions of Laurel and Hardy repeatedly cleaning the same plate, over and over again. Ollie washes it, Stan, dries it and put is on the wrong end of the sink so that it slides back into the suds, where Ollie cleans it again. Very faithful to the original characters. For me, a favourite moment.

There is an extended orchestra scene where the conductor “Bowowski” is seen conducting with both a bone and a baton in the same sequence. There are a number of weak gags involving various pooches playing either instruments that look like themselves or appear to be in complete contrast.

We see an example of the classic cartoon cliche of a character hiding or appearing from behind an object much smaller or thinner than themselves. The skinny “Sinatra” appears from behind the skinniest palm tree ever singing “Down Where the Trade Winds Play”. Not very funny.

There are more moments of rather dull inanity, often involving, physical appearance jokes, such as fat dogs, dogs with lots of hair or stupid dogs. The cartoon is interesting as a study of 1940s American celebrity but not a feature I can say I’m glad I’ve seen. Even the “Jimmy Durante” hound who closes the feature with his catchphrase “That’s my boy who said that” seems to be laying the blame on somebody else.

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