“A Lad and His Lamp” (c. 1947 reissue of silent Aesop’s Fable)

First, in Thunderbean news:
I’ve had my head wrapped around the Little King set perhaps a little too much. It’s nearly done and, as with Flip, is waiting for one more thing as I make the final edit togethers of each film. I may resort to gift baskets sent daily for these two projects. There’s a world famous place here in Ann Arbor called Zingerman’s that makes an amazing variety of food products, so a basket from them would probably make anyone happy. If that doesn’t work we’ll just have to move both projects forward into replication without these key things. Here’s a picture of their “Weekender” gift box. Wish me luck!

Each week as I’m working on something to show or talk about I end up looking through various hard drives- and always stumble upon this or that to show. Since I’ve been in Van Beuren land a lot lately I thought I’d stray far away from showing something not related to that studio, but as I was looking for something fun to show, the soundtrack here made me laugh out loud again- and it feels like a good week to laugh at something silly. The HD scan looks much better than the one we showed many, many years back.

A Lad and His Lamp appears to be one of two silent Aesop’s Fables cartoons dubbed by ‘Film Highlights’ to distribute in 16mm. I wish they had done 100. Unlike the other film in this soundtracked series, The Black Duck, they credit Paul Terry — and they’ve given Winston Sharples the credit for the track. I’ve always assumed the track was stock music, but upon listening I don’t recognize it from anything else. It could be stock music by Sharples or written just for this short. It certainly sounds much more like it’s from the 30s than the 40s and thematically follows certain scenes as if it was written for this short. What do you think?

Happily, it’s just as saucy in its animation and humor as I remember. The silent fables are at times some of the most fun cartoons from the 20s and seem to thrive on their slightly subversive humor. As Chris Buchman would say, they are full of “worldly animals”. The “Pick up your head!” line is still my favorite thing in the whole film. It seems pretty clear that whoever did the voices were not professional voice artists. There’s another section where a hippo is yelling help to get out of a steam bath contraption, and the resulting track reminds me a lot of John Hubley’s soundtrack direction. Every line is delivered pretty strange. It’s great in its bizarreness.

When I wrote about this and The Black Duck here 9 years back, Don Yowp, always great with research, found an article with the announcement of the ‘Fabletoons’ series ion 1946:

“Here’s a bit about the releasing company, from ‘The Film Daily,’ Jan. 10, 1946:
Martin Ross, for the past 10 years associated with Films, Inc. as a sales executive, has formed his own company for the production and distribution of 16 mm. and 8 mm. sound and silent short subjects. The company will operate under the name of Film Highlights, Inc. at 330 W. 42nd St., New York City. Maj. Manny Jacobs, recently discharged from the Army Signal Corps, motion picture division, will be in charge of production.

Television was still fairly nascent so it could be they were for home viewing.”

Here’s that article from back then.

I’ve only seen this one and The Black Duck prints of these two have shown up multiple times thought the years. I have no idea if they did more in the series.

Have a good week everyone!