A funny thing happened on TCM last night. A scheduled broadcast of Popeye The Sailor Meets Ali Baba and his Forty Theieves (1937) didn’t air. An introduction discussing the racist aspects of the Arab caricatures in the cartoon preceded the scheduled showing with TCM host Robert Osborne and “Media Critic and Author” Dr. Jack Shaheen. “This cartoon probably did more to denigrate Arabs than any cartoon ever”, claimed Shaheen who, to be fair, went on to praise the Fleischer animation. “This one was particularly offensive in the manner in which Arabs are portrayed.”
Following this introduction (embed above) the channel ran 15 minutes of promotional filler, then a two-reel MGM Dogville comedy, Love Tails Of Morocco – which, despite its Middle Eastern title, had nothing to do with the Arab-based theme of the evening.
So what happend? Did TCM get cold feet and have second thoughts about the Popeye short? Did the Hearst Corporation request TCM pull the film? We don’t know – but here is the film, courtesy of You Tube, that didn’t run last night:
UPDATE: This just in from TCM Content Manager (and regular Brew reader) John Miller:
“No, it wasn’t Cold Feet that caused a lack of POPEYE (and Looney Tunes, and 3 Stooges) on TCM last night, but a plain ol’ SNAFU. In the words of “tcmprogrammer” on the TCM Message Board today:
“You are correct, once again we made a mistake. There was a miscommunication about how the cartoons were to be scheduled (who, specifically, was supposed to enter them into the scheduling database) and so they were left off the schedule completely. Once again, this is emabarrassing for us, especially because we were excited to play these cartoons in this specific context. Mistakes like this happen, although I acknowledge it seems like they’ve happened too much lately. It is not unreasonable to want an explanation. I’m sorry.”