Friday, October 09, 2009

On Strike

US 1920. PC: Bud Fisher Films Corporation, orig. dist: Fox Film Corporation. D, SC: Charles Bowers (?); 550 ft /18 fps/ 9 min. Preserved by The MoMA with funds provided by The Film Foundation and Film Connection: Australia-America. From: MoMA. Dialogue balloons in English. Introduced by Meg Labrum. E-subtitles in Italian, grand piano and violin: Günter Buchwald, the clarinets: Lee Mottram. Viewed at Teatro Verdi, Pordenone, 8 Oct 2009.

From the GCM Catalogue: "On Strike is one of more than 300 animated “half-reelers” produced between 1913 and 1926 starring the popular American comic-strip characters Mutt and Jeff – and is unusual in featuring live-action shots of its creator, Bud Fisher. Although not the first daily newspaper comic strip to use an ongoing narrative, Mutt and Jeff was by far the most successful, and made Fisher a small fortune from syndication and merchandizing. A shrewd entrepreneur, he kept the copyright and remained in the spotlight after he expanded his characters into film and farmed out the animation work to the studio of Raoul Barré and Charles Bowers.
Launched in San Francisco in 1907, the original Mutt and Jeff strip often commented on politics. This film episode continues the tradition by working into the storyline parallels to the 1919 Actors’ Equity Association strike, which spread to eight cities before the actors won a settlement. On Strike offers an alternative version from the producer’s point of view. When Mutt (the tall one, his diminutive name notwithstanding) and Jeff see how lavishly the celebrated Fisher lives off their labors, the duo demand a bigger cut. With the battle cry of “Arbitrate me eye!!!” they decide to strike and make cartoons on their own. What follows is a fascinating demonstration of the time-intensive animation process then in use. “About 3000” cels later, Mutt and Jeff’s production bombs with the movie audience and the actors return to their “boss” as grateful employees.
The cartoon comes to Pordenone via the Film Connection, a collaboration among the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia, which generously lent the nitrate source material, the American archival community, and the National Film Preservation Foundation, which funded the preservation work at Haghefilm Conservation B.V. Through this project, eight American shorts were preserved and copies made for archives in both countries.
Thanks to Nancy McVittie and Eric Hanna, graduate students of Richard Abel at the University of Michigan, for their invaluable research on this cartoon. – Annette Melville".

A fascinating animated meta-film combining some live action with the animation. Bud Fisher appears in the live footage. Mutt and Jeff go on strike, create their means of production themselves, and produce an animated cartoon of 3000 frames. The parodical matchstick style "animation within the animation" is delicious. Their film is a flop and they resign to return to Bud Fisher for nothing. - Quite an anti-trade-union parody and a glorification of the employer.

No comments: