Little Beau Porky
Produced in the sixth year of the long and fabled run of Warner Bros' Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons, Little Beau Porky (1936) was designed around the studio's breakout star of the period, Porky Pig. The stuttering porcine had not yet evolved into the cute, roly-poly sidekick status that he would enjoy by the late 1940s; the Porky in evidence here was still the mischievous little-boy type first established in Friz Freleng's I Haven't Got a Hat (1935) the year before. Sure of himself, Porky would get himself into trouble but emerge as a hero by the end of the reel, and the animators were busily putting him in a variety of situations and occupations to milk the standard scenario for gags.
Little Beau Porky finds our hero in the well-worn French Foreign Legion scenario, as seen in such Hollywood films as Beau Geste (1926) and The Last Outpost (1935). The setting had already been parodied in Laurel and Hardy's short comedy Beau Hunks (1931), and many other lampoons would follow. In this cartoon, Porky shows his miscevious side as soon as "Le Commandant" -- having strutted in with a chest full of jangling medals -- berates a line-up of Legionnaires and pulls Porky out of line to wash his camel. Porky imitates Le Commandant's puffed-up march and winks at the audience. A "Camelgram" is delivered to the base announcing that "Ali Mode's Riff Raffs have attacked us, come at once... Time's a wastin!!" Le Commandant marshals his forces but makes Porky stay behind, saying "we need men, not camel scrubbers!" Of course, Porky redeems himself when he takes on Ali Mode and his men, who attack the near-empty outpost. The Arab stereotypes on view are extreme; Ali Mode appears as a very fat, long-bearded barbarian, with a dark, sand-blown face in an intentionally chilling close-up. (He gains entrance to the outpost by telling Porky in a deceitful tone, "I'm a poor little sheik, with no place to sleep"). Amusingly, Ali Mode and his troops communicate with each other via Pig-Latin!
Little Beau Porky was directed by Frank Tashlin (here credited as "Frank Tash"), one of the best and most innovative of the Warner Bros. directors of the 1930s. Tashlin had a varied and active career following his initial exit from Warners in 1938 - after a brief stint as a gag-man at Disney Studios, he took over Columbia's cartoon unit, where he created The Fox and the Crow series. Tashlin returned to Warner Brothers in 1942 and directed some of the most highly regarded Looney Tunes of the 1940s. Also in the 1940s, Tashlin wrote several books on cartooning, as well as a pen-and-ink illustrated children's book, The Bear That Wasn't. For all his success in the 1940s, Tashlin's real desire was to become a live-action director; he left cartoons for good and became a gag-man for Harpo Marx and Eddie Bracken, which led to a screenwriting stint. Following work on The Lemon Drop Kid (1951), Bob Hope gave Tashlin his first chance to direct with Son of Paleface (1952), and he went on to helm such comedies as The Girl Can't Help It (1956), Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957), The Glass Bottom Boat (1966), and no less than seven features with Jerry Lewis.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger
Director: Frank Tashlin
Music: Carl W. Stalling (uncredited)
Film Editing: Treg Brown (uncredited)
Cast: Billy Bletcher (Ali-Mode - Commandant (voice, uncredited); Joe Dougherty (Porky Pig (voice, uncredited).
by John M. Miller