King Kelly of the U.S.A. (1934)

I will be off the internet for most of the next four days, enjoying my holiday weekend at Cinecon (the classic movie festival at the Egyptian Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard). Cinecon specializes in screening rare films and recent studio restorations not available on DVD, TCM or anywhere else.

King Kelly of the USA (Monogram, 1934) is the kind of offbeat B-movie Cinecon would show – except that this film can be found easily on DVD, as it is one of hundreds of Hollywood orphan films that have fallen into the public domain. It’s not a particularly good picture (though co-stars Edgar Kennedy and Franklin Pangborn have some funny scenes, and they’re always worth watching), however it has this curious animation sequence about 18 minutes in.

Here, Broadway singer Guy Robertson (starring in his only film) tries wooing co-star Irene Ware in song, with a little help from his table cloth drawings. The animation looks familiar, but I can’t quite place who did it. Bizarre in a fun way – check out the mouth action – very much like something a New York studio would do. It certainly isn’t from Terrytoons or Van Bueren. Anyone want to take a guess who’s behind this… Ted Eshbaugh? Les Elton?


  • Doofus

    Uh. Wow. Hehe.
    It’s interesting to see how the studio took cues from fleischer cartoons.

  • http://rwentworth.blogspot.com Richard Wentworth

    Man, and here I thought that Better Off Dead was the first movie to use the “artist woos gal with drawings that become animation” schtick! Or something like that…

  • Mike Kazaleh

    Wowee, that’s a find! It doesn’t look like Ted Eshbaugh, but it could very well be from Les Elton. Wonderfully wonked animation!

  • Jonathan

    I would guess Les Elton, John McCrory, or Boyd La Vero.

  • http://robcatview.blogspot.com robcat2075

    It’s like they anticipated some of the worst tendencies of CG animation by 60 years.

  • MadRat

    Yeah it looks like Max Fleischer but the animation is way to primitive. I’d guess that this is the first job for that animator.

  • Mark Newgarden

    I smell Elton.

  • James Cimarusti

    I agree with MadRat. My first thought at seeing the animation was that it could be Fleisheresque, combined with the fact that it was a New York studio that produced the animation.

  • http://silentcartoons.weebly.com Tom Stathes

    Elton.

  • Charlie Judkins

    I am currently in the process of writing and publishing an article on Elton’s life and work, and while I’ve able to recover some photos, family history, and quite a few print cartoons, I have been unable to view any of his animation beyond monkey doodle and the hobo hero up until now. What a great discovery! It’s also worth to note that quite a few of his animated films from his 1918-1921 tenure at universal may actually survive in the British Film Archive.

  • uncle wayne

    At first the animated (still) hand had me thinking “Uncle Max”….but then the animation was wayyyy too eerie….even for Fleischers! (And those pumping chest[s]!??] Thank you, Jerry! Once again….more animated treats in live-action films. I luv it!!

  • Terry

    Richard, the movie you’re thinking of is One Crazy Summer (1986), Savage Steve Holland’s second feature with John Cusack (Better Off Dead was the first). They actually have a scene where most of the main cast is shown animating a short film.

  • Chris Sobieniak

    One Crazy Summer, a childhood fav of mine!

    Interesting the stuff that got animated back then.

  • zimbach

    And here I thought this was going to be about marmalade.

  • http://brigetteb.blogspot.com brigette b

    Ha ha ha…so bizarre!

  • Raoul Barre

    Today Les Elton would be supervising creative director on SUPERJAIL and have several New York streets named for him. He would also be Grand Marshal of every Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and design all of its helium balloons. It would be a far, far better world.

  • http://2dwannabe.blogspot.com robcat2075

    wild, crazy theory…

    someone in an Ink&Paint department, who knew the production process, who could draw a bit, but didn’t really know the principles of animation, did this as an after-hours, under-the-table project.

    Is it possible any of the backgrounds have been swiped from a known cartoon?

    I can’t imagine this was ever pencil tested, it just went straight to camera and they got what they got.

  • Mike Fontanelli

    Funniest goddamn animation – I’m still laughing! Gotta watch it again… (BTW, I’m with you re: Kennedy and Pangborn. If there’s ever a Hall of Fame of great comic foils, they’ll be in it.)

  • http://segaltoons.com Steve Segal

    Hey Jerry,
    Thanks for posting all these scenes I would never find on my own. You know your stuff, so you must have a good reason for eliminating Van Bueren, but it looks like some of their work. They were often copying Fleischer but in a much cruder way. Couldn’t this have been made by George Stallings or John Foster, moonlighting perhaps. Maybe Jim Tyer had a hand, he could never stay on model.

  • Gerard de Souza

    IMO this is bad animation no matter the era. I don’t care who did it. Looks like it made by soem producer’s nephew on the cheap.

  • Cole Johnson

    This certainly could have come from the same magic kingdom that gave us MONKEY DOODLE.

  • Steve Stanchfield-Thunderbean

    There are some things about it that look like Elton’s work, especially the strange smile and the growing and shrinking stuff- but it’s often not as well drawn or animated as his work- some of it is much cruder. My guess is that it’s someone who worked for Elton possibly….

  • http://silentcartoons.weebly.com Tom Stathes

    Not every cartoon from the same studio/producer/animator is consistently well made…my money is still on Elton.