Tuesday, January 21, 2020

"Show Biz"

Been reading some old Western stories, so you have no choice but to endure me writing about them. Sorry; that's JUST how it is! Today's story was originally untitled, but according to inducks, it was dubbed "Show Biz" for its reprint in a later digest. Pretty anemic title, I feel, but it's the best we've got!

This is drawn by Dick Moores, and as we'll see--if we haven't already seen it--it was written by the same person (Moores himself?) who drew that "Dirty Work at the Crossroads" story that I covered an alarming number of years ago: same outmoded idea of contemporary popular culture, same interest in show business, same dialogue that veers between kinda clever and kinda dopey. And, well, they were only published months apart. CASE CLOSED.

I mean, you see what I mean about outmoded popular culture? HDL dressed as barbershop quartet, notwithstanding the obvious issue with that (where's Phooey when you need him?). I'm sure that's what ALL the fifties kids were into. It's kind of bizarre and out-of-character, and yet I can't help finding it sort of interesting and charming just for its strangeness.

Alas, Donald proves extremely unhelpful. JEEZ, dude. Is this like the "tiger mom" thing where instead of putting your kid's drawings on the refrigerator, you brutally shred them for lacking proper control of color and principles of perspective? Regardless. This would be a bad family dynamic in real life, but in fairness, it's actually not that awful here, given how cheerful he seems about the whole thing. Compare it to this, and the difference really comes into focus.

That song they're singing...it's specific enough that I feel like it should be an actual thing, but I have not been successful in googling it. I mean, that first line certainly reminds one of "fare thee well for I must leave thee/do not let the parting grieve thee," and I had no idea until just this minute that the song that come from was called "There Is a Tavern in the Town." But is it something more specific? If it's made up, I really do have to give Moores (or whoever) props. It is, again, surely anachronistic even for the town, but it has a feeling of verisimilitude.

But how 'bout Scrooge's reaction? Somehow, the lack of punctuation in "that's what it is straight corn on the cob" gives this sick burn a sort of rushed, desultory feel. Also, note that Disney characters really don't, in general, have concrete aesthetic preferences. Scrooge thinking this song is corny seems to me to really come out of nowhere. So I suppose we're meant to infer that he prefers the modern-day, up-to-date music that The Kids are grooving to? I dunno.

Sigh, yeah. We're going to have to just get a job. Let's just casually walk past this irrelevant background poster while we look for work.

Yeah, so this. Typical kind of thing. It seems to me that "Pizza Potza" is almost certainly based on/inspired by Enrico Caruso, who had been dead for more than thirty years when this story came out. Another example of our writer living in the past.

That's really all the dialogue we get from Signor Potza. He doesn't really have any sort of characterization, which seems suboptimal. I do like "persistent little demons, aren't we?" another line that is fun yet feels somehow off-character a bit.

But my real point is: the song is called "O sole mio." Of course, there's nothing wrong or unusual with writers messing around with real-life lyrics in their comics stories, but given what a small thing this is, probably unnoticeable to most, doesn't it seem way more likely that the writer just didn't know the title? Hmm.

Okay, this is a kind of typical thing, but it actually works pretty well, whether intentionally or not. But: question! A big question! If Gladstone had no idea that Daisy wanted to go, what are the two tickets for? Does he have another girl on the side, or what? This is obviously something that the writer never thought about; it was just there so Donald couldn't get the tickets. But, I mean...you should think about the implications of what you write before you write it. Or so I believe.

But! I do get a huge kick out of Gladdy's cheerful amorality here. Sure, making Donald jealous and maybe scoring some points with Daisy is fine, but if it's a choice between that and cold hard cash? Not even gonna pretend to feel conflicted about it! She won't get to go! Somehow, in its low-key way, I feel like I've never seen a more scathing portrayal of the character.

How did they get this money? HOW?!?  Well, we'll know soon enough, but skipping forward like this feels very awkward to me. I always sort of trip over it when I'm reading this story ("You always do that? How often to you read this ancient, obscure story anyway?" More often than is good for me, I don't doubt).

Right. This is what happened. So we lose out on an opportunity to characterize ol' Pizza in some way. Bah! Though granted, in a ten-page story, I suppose you have to be economical about these things.

What will happen? I like the night coloring and I like two thirds of that bottom left panel--Donald's line strikes me as unnecessarily smug. The fact that they're able to get Daisy to go along with all this...seems more dubious. Just getting Potza to serenade her outside her window seems like it would be more feasible, albeit without quite the same ultimate romantic punch. What can you do?

"O solo mio" AGAIN? Also, somehow, "la la te dum dee" fails to capture the spirit of classical singing. You definitely can't ask too much from a story like this, but I would be SO HAPPY if there were some better lyrics there. "Dalla sua pace?" "Una furtiva lagrima?" The possibilities are endless.

So that's that. You have to wonder how late his theatre (note British spelling) appearance is suppose to be if it's happening AFTER this. The conclusion is fine; no problem. Perfectly cute line. Though I do think the story sort of promised to do something with HDL as performers and then never quite delivered.

Regardless, I have a fair bit of nostalgic affection for this story.  I even kind of dig Moores' childish art style.  I have good news if you like it and terrible news if you don't: we're going to see more along these lines here in the near future. Look forward to it with excitement or dread.



Blogger Debbie Anne said...

I’m sure that a lot of it comes from having old-timers from Disney and the other studios writing these stories. It’s hard to imagine writers getting away with dragging out the old situations and setups in today’s media landscape (except maybe on the Simpsons...Homer and his friends had a barbershop quartet, the B-Sharps, in a 90s episode set up as an 80s flashback).

January 21, 2020 at 11:09 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś said...

Here's a bit of trivia that may explain a little - When I was in film school I had to take copyright lessons and I recall "Oh sole mio" being mention as an example of a song that people get sued for using all the time as they don't realise it's still copyrighted and has estate guarding it.

I guess using just the first line is safe enough especialy since you don't hear the music. To be fair If I had to guess I would say it was just lazyness on Dick Moores part to not check up full lyrics but I don't think editor would alow it anyway, especialy since at the time it was made it maybe wasn't as widly asumed to be in public domain.

January 22, 2020 at 2:15 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

As concerns Scrooge's reaction, I don't think his personal musical tastes (if he has any) need to come into it. As a businessman, he knows what sells and what doesn't, is the idea, and "corny" doesn't sell.

January 22, 2020 at 7:11 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

As for the question of why Gladstone conveniently found himself owning two tickets before he knew Daisy might want to go… well, even if we overlook the very real possibility that when he's going to an expensive show Gladstone thinks to take Daisy by default, there is always the fact that he's. You know. Gladstone.

January 22, 2020 at 7:14 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

Also, as concerns Scrooge's lack of punctuation in the "corny" line, that's not the only thing missing from that panel: where have his glasses gone? I surmise the inker was a bit distraced when he got to that particular panel.

January 22, 2020 at 7:16 AM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

I actually kind of doubt that Scrooge "knows what sells and what doesn't" when it comes to music. We've never seen any indication that he's au fait with what The Kids are into nowadays. I suppose he could just own a music company, but if he's taking a hands-off role, the question would be irrelevant.

As for Gladstone, he DID specifically BUY two tickets. Maybe he assumed he'd get to go with Daisy, but the story certainly never gives any indication of such.

January 22, 2020 at 1:54 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

I don't think it beyond the realm of possibility that Gladstone's luck would give him some sort of hint that he ought to buy two tickets, without his consciously knowing why. Maybe there was some sort of promotion.

January 22, 2020 at 3:47 PM  
Blogger Jeffyo said...

Could be that Moores based the opera singer on Ezio Pinza or Mario Lanza, who were both pretty popular in the 50s. Each one played the French planter in various versions of "South Pacific." A lotta Zz's there -- and only one letter's difference changes Pinza to Pizza.

January 26, 2020 at 8:25 AM  
Blogger Natteravn said...

"Corny" doesn't mean old fashioned, but "trite, banal, or mawkishly sentimental." which would seem to fit the lyrics as well.

"O solo mio" is apparently a common misspelling of the title, it gives 123 000 hits on Google.

" It seems to me that "Pizza Potza" is almost certainly based on/inspired by Enrico Caruso, who had been dead for more than thirty years when this story came out."

I was bit shocked when I read this, as I thought Caruso was still alive! I had to check this, and it turns out he died almost a hundred years ago?! How odd, I was so certain that I had seen him on a live concert on TV ten years ago, and seen new CDs of him with modern photos on the cover....

January 26, 2020 at 11:22 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon said...

The Collective of the Retconning Crocodiles striketh again.

January 26, 2020 at 1:04 PM  
Blogger Thomas said...

"It seems to me that "Pizza Potza" is almost certainly based on/inspired by Enrico Caruso, who had been dead for more than thirty years when this story came out."

Yes, but a biopic "The Great Caruso" (1951) was a massive box-office success around that time. It star was singer Mario Lanza, who could very well be the intended target here.

February 8, 2020 at 4:06 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. said...

Wow! That's an awesome fact that explains a lot! Thanks!

February 13, 2020 at 12:47 AM  
Blogger Ayrton Mugnaini Jr. said...

"It seems to me that "Pizza Potza" is almost certainly based on/inspired by Enrico Caruso, who had been dead for more than thirty years when this story came out. Another example of our writer living in the past."

Nooooo, caro mio, Italian music and bel canto have always been successful all over the world, including the USA! Enrico Caruso was (and still is) very popular, and his torch has been passed on through the years to tenors such as Mario Lanza, Luciano Pavarotti, Andrea Bocelli... At the time of this story, the 1950s, Mario Lanza was all the rage, and he was a major influence on Elvis Presley - no wonder the Hillbilly Cat recorded pastafazoola versions of Italian songs such as "O Sole Mio" and "Torna A Surriento".

And did anyone mention Giovanni Jones from a punkish Looney Toons cartoon?

February 28, 2020 at 12:37 PM  

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