Sunday, September 26, 2010

Herr meets hare (1945)

What a peach of a day! Got my washing dried on the line in the sun for the first time in months and had lovely cups of tea with neighbors and friends. A swell weekend, even though the football was a draw. My sweetie is cooking dinner tonight so I've plenty of time to sit around blogging about Bugs Bunny!

This week's Sunday afternoon matinee is one of my faves. It's pretty hard to come by so all I've got for you now is a link. It's A Warner Bros short with Bugs and Goering. Lots of sources will tell you it was never shown but my bible of war cartoons says otherwise. In the late 30s the Hays Code wouldn't allow anyone to mock the fascists (being mindful of the studio's income from overseas markets). Yep, you could mock black folk but not Hitler. By 1945 this cartoon would have been entirely acceptable so I can't see that it wouldn't have been released. Needless to say, it certainly isn't shown these days!

This was directed by Friz Freleng and was one of WB's last major wartime cartoons. Apart from the hilarious impersonation of Hitler it's remarkable for being the first time Bugs Bunny realizes he 'shoulda made that left turn at Albequerque'. It also features a Wagnerian scene that would later be spun out by Chuck Jones in What's Opera, Doc?

View Herr meets hare

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Friday, September 24, 2010

C'arn the Saints!

It's the eve of the Aussie Rules Grand Final - Collingwood against St Kilda - and people are pretty excited down St Kilda way. St Kilda is the most losingest team in the AFL so I'm not really sure how that's going to work out. I was looking for a photo of the Saints during the 1940s but, given their losingness, it seems they're not keen on remembering the past. What I did find was lots of AFL among the armed forces and POWs.

Western Desert, Africa 1943. Squadrons would travel for miles to get a game.

Flight Lieutenant Bruce Andrew has a shot at goal in the first AFL match in England, in Hyde Park.

Bless the librarians at the Australian War Memorial. Their catalogue records are very whimsical: 'Romani, Sinai. An Australian Rules football match between the Australian 8th and 9th Light Horse Regiments. The camels were not interested.'

Former Fitzroy captain Frank Curcio and former Collingwood player Ron McCann listen to the Grand Final in New Guinea.

A game in the Dutch East Indies

Most important of all, the Changi Brownlow awarded to Peter Chitty in the Changi POW camp. The Japanese initially banned sport in the camp but soon a six team AFL competition sprang up. Among them was St Kilda player Peter Chitty. Officers soon put a stop to the games after a high rate of resulting injuries, not the least from sneaking into the jungle to kill pigs to make the balls. Before the last match Chitty was presented with this version of the Brownlow (the revered best and fairest award of the AFL) made from a modified soccer medal found in the camp. The match was played with a record attendance of prisoners and guards and the result was Victoria 14-9: 93 defeated The Rest 10-5: 65. Chitty was later awarded the British Empire Medal for helping save lives while working on the infamous Burma Railway.

Oh. Just realized. In those days it wouldn't have been the Australian Football League, it's the Victorian Football League.

Anyway, c'arn the Saints!

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Scrub me mama with a boogie beat (1941)

Ok. This is just wrong, wrong, wrong.

Walter Lantz headed Universal Studio's animation department and is best known as the creator of Woody Woodpecker but he's also the creator of a series of musical cartoons called Swing Symphonies. And the music here is fabulous, with naughty suggestive lyrics! Unfortunately, it's bad, bad, bad when it comes to stereotypes. Here the black folk look like minstrels and are all bone lazy. If you're a black woman you're a mammy or a sexpot (though most young cartoon women end up in this category, regardless of colour, and boy, did they sizzle!)

Can't tell you who the singer is (though the Andrews Sisters did a famous version) and can't tell you much about the animators. Cartoon credits are famously brief and generally allow for only one of the animators to be named, which they did on a rotating basis.

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Saturday afternoon matinee

I've been reading a lot about cinema during the war years and had a BRILLIANT idea of presenting a weekly series of films that I've been watching. Problem is my lap top has gone skewiffy and I can't insert YouTube clips from the iPad. So I'm going to have to do it at work during my lunch break, which may not actually be possible. Anyway, here's a sample of what's to come...

Now I'm simply crazy about old movies. And I love to read about the war years. So when it came to watching old movies it simply wasn't enough to just watch the darned things, I needed to research to find out about what it was I was seeing. As with the I'll fated History of the Thriller project (Abandoned. The Cold War did me in) my watching has outstripped my reading and each book I read just generates an even longer list of films to watch. We have hundreds of DVDs but there are always more on my list!

I started with Britain Can Take It: British Cinema in the Second World War (note - please feel free to buy me any of these titles!) It examined key films made in Britain during the war in pertinent genres and the relationship of studios and film makers with the Ministry of Information. Through this I discovered that I love George Formby, the peculiar approach to documentary film making (where non actors re enacted loosely scripted scenes) and that Gainsborough melodramas are an absolute hoot. It also made propaganda look like a pretty good thing, using cinema as a way of uniting a nation.

I then read We Can Take It: Britain and the Memory of the Second World War. Which, in part, looked at how cinema has shaped our understanding of the war. I realized things were starting to get out of hand when it started talking about depiction of WW2 in post war years. Needless to say, my list of films was getting pretty long! To get some perspective I read The World War Two Combat Film, an excellent little number that sadly stops pre Saving Private Ryan. It is a very readable survey of how the key features of the genre are adapted for each generation and each conflict.

For a look at things across the pond I tackled When Hollywood Went to War, which discusses many of the same films as the combat book, but from an appreciation of the film as propaganda, often with quite different conclusions. I may be naive but Britain seemed far more unified. Hollywood, in contrast, was simply interested in making a buck. Here the notion of propaganda becomes infinitely more troublesome and dubious. I'm not quite sure how I feel about it. These days we automatically view the term with some suspicion, with shades of Big Brother. But I think there's much to be said about its ability to unite a community and help them deal with a common situation. Anyway, still thinking about this one...

I love cartoons so I was always going to end up looking at them in wartime. Doing Their Bit: Wartime American Animated Short Films 1939-1945 is a rare gem. Almost as rare as the cartoons themselves. With their loaded political content these shorts are rarely screened these days - through both incidental and overt censorship (what's known as the Censored 11). It's these that I'm keen to show you. It's important these important pieces of history don't disappear. Yes, they're racist. Yes, they present views that are considered abhorrent today. But they are products of their time and need to be appreciated as such. You can't white wash the past. And some of them are just damned funny.

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Last week was the 70th anniversary of the start of the Blitz. But it was also MY BIRTHDAY!!!! I spent the day with my sister shopping for lingerie, seeing a movie at the old Windsor cinema and then out to a Chinese restaurant for dinner.

We went to see Me and Orson Welles, a fluffy bit of nonsense but gorgeous costumes and the fellow who played mighty Orson was astounding.

We used to go to the Myers cafeteria every school holidays for chips and jelly. Here I am making myself sick on egg sandwiches, chips and a spider!

Lots of tofu and prawns! Flying chopsticks!

I got lots of lovely gifts too. Including...

An enamel teapot from the Imperial War Museum in London.

A new satchel!

Ta da! A sewing machine! I got lots of vintage patterns too. I've been practicing stitches and button holes and have made Jack a cape that he is strangely reluctant to wear...

A sugar bowl in the shape of a pineapple. Clearly a must have!

A new toaster!
I also got a new bike from my sweetie. I was looking for a picture of a gift wrapped bike to post but clearly people are too clever to attempt it. I shall be instructing my young man to give it a go when it arrives. I shall NOT be posting pictures of the underwear! Thanks to all for the kind birthday wishes.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Happy birthday!!!

Happy birthday to little Gus who was born this morning! The Chairmans are aunt and uncle!! We're going to by him his first bike!

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Fish and chips and shipwrecks

Spent an afternoon in Fremantle eating fish and chips with my dad. I then trotted over to the maritime museum which I've always loved. It houses part of the wreck of the Batavia, a Dutch ship that went down off the Abrolhos Islands up the tippy top of WA. It's a pretty gruesome story of mutiny, shipwreck and massacres. See good ole wikipedia for all the nasty details.
(I don't know how to put a link in this app....) So I cheered myself up with a pistachio ice-cream. Then I had a lovely chat with a little old lady who said I looked like I came from The Sullivans!

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Monday, September 13, 2010

The Wedding pt 2

The day after the wedding there was yet another family do at my dad's place in Fremantle, where I met properly my new step brother, Mark, but not my new stepsister because apparently she had a migraine. Or perhaps it was a too vivid memory of going all Sicilian at the wedding and threatening to stab my brother in law (sadly, this was after I had gone home so I missed it all). I also met my new niece Jasmyn, who at 15 isn't exactly new but I've never really met her before. Got fed heaps of course, but I'm onto those Italians! They tell you something is 'tradition' so then you have to eat it. But when it's cannoli and baked ricotta cheesecake who can say no?

Me and Jassy and little puppy Shiloh

My sister and I then walked to Freo and I bought some flowers for my hair. We stopped outside a hot rod show to meet up again with Paul, my brother in law and Jassy. Every photo my sister takes is out of focus. But look at the car!!!

We then stopped at Culley's Tea Rooms. We used to go there when I was about six, for a spearmint milkshake and a sausage roll. Is it too young to be going on a pilgrimage to your home town when you're only 37?

Look at the size of the milkshake?! Surely I didn't drink all that when I was six??!

Note the crazy size of my sister's eclair!!

The church where my grandparents got married!

The Freo Town Hall, where my dad used to work and where I think the library used to be where I shelved my first book! Look at that blue sky Melbourne folk!!

Buying Margaret River olive oil for my young man.

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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Rice and old shoes

The first two days of my trip to Perth were completely consumed by The Wedding. My dad was marrying a sweet little Italian widow, largely to stop her being bullied by the nasty Italian community in Fremantle for living with a man WHO WAS NOT HER HUSBAND!!! Oh, and because they're in love...

My sister works for a hair product company so organized for her stylist to colour and set my hair. It took for freaking ages and the results were depressing. My hair has gone completely straight. No one knows why. I miss my crazy curls. For documentary evidence of this phenomena I include this picture.

Now forget you ever saw that.

My sister made cupcakes for the wedding. It was stress city. I helped by putting little sugar stars on autistic angles in the icing. And Moral Support. Oh. Artistic angles!! I was supposed to be looking elegant in my Vivien's tea dress. But they sent me the wrong size and we didn't have time to fix it. So I went to Anton's and bought a big cuffed shirt for a stupid amount of money and some snappy braces. Other people's weddings always end up costing so much! My sister wore a sweet little hat and a boofy cocktail dress with a - VEGAN ALERT - vintage fur bolero. She looked lovely!

The wedding was a potential minefield, but with my sister's support I braved the onslaught of family and old family friends - who last saw me as a shy 14 year old. Now this bit may be paranoia but I was pretty sure that all these people would remember of me was that I was a librarian and that I was crazy. So I was neurotically determined to make a good impression. In hindsight dressing like a chap probably wasn't the safest option, but hey, my sister has hair the colour of he Little Mermaid's so I'm in good company. I managed to chat politely with the old family friends so got through that ok, and my family were surprisingly well behaved so I quite enjoyed chatting with them. I drank a lot of beer.

The wedding ceremony was short and sweet and of course we got teary. Soon they'll be off to Sicily to visit even more relatives! Graziella's a nice lady who teaches English to refugees and new migrants and takes them for their first visit to the seaside.

My new family! Me, Graziella, my dad and my sister Sharon.

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Monday, September 6, 2010

On the sunny side of the street

The sun is shining! Bare legs! No cardi! Fish and chips for lunch!

Sneak peek of The Wedding. Yes, she fixed my tie.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Peer pressure

There's something about hanging out with my sister that makes me suspend all judgement. A suggestion is made and the other replies 'sure! Why not?!' Which is why I had a kebab for lunch. Which is why I ended up sitting on a toolbox in the spare bathroom having peroxide smeared on my eyelashes. Did I need them dyed? Probably not. Was it a pleasant experience? Ha! I managed to resist her fatal allure and said no to the offer of fake fingernails...

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Bon voyage!

Well this afternoon I'm off for a week in Western Australia for my dad's wedding. My bag is waaaay overpacked with shoes! I'm taking some films with me and a book on the politics of propaganda in Hollywood during the war. I'm hoping I'll get some sewing done but it looks like there will be an endless round of family functions to attend - Dad's marrying a little Italian lady so it seems like half of Sicily is coming to celebrate. I'm taking my camera but haven't got the little doodaddy that let's me upload them straight to the iPad so you'll have to wait till I get back (yeah, I know - promises, promises!)

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