Popeye begins his movie career by singing his theme song, demonstrating his strength at a carnival, dancing the hula with Betty Boop, pummeling Bluto, eating his spinach and saving Olive Oyl from certain doom on the railroad tracks.
Popeye introduces himself to us (including a quick live-action shot of newspapers announcing that he's a movie star). The ship docks, and the sailors try to pick up Olive, but she only wants Popeye. They head for a carnival, but Bluto isn't giving up easily. The boys compete at the various games. Betty Boop does a hula dance, and Popeye joins her on stage. Meanwhile, Bluto runs off with Olive and ties her to the tracks. Popeye comes along and rescues her in the nick of time. Written by
Jon Reeves <email@example.com>
Popeye's appearance is based on that of a fighter named Francis "Rocky" Fiegel whom his creator, Elzie Segar, used to know. Because of this, a tombstone was put on his hitherto unmarked grave in 1996. Segar paid Fiegel a small fee for the use of his likeness, as he was still alive when Popeye first appeared. See more »
Great stuff...aside from the carnival's ball tossing scene
While I have never been a huge fan of Popeye because the cartoons are so darn repetitive, this very first Popeye is well worth seeing--for historical reasons, because it was significantly better than the efforts of most other studios (which tended towards cutesy singing cartoons) and because it was so original at that time. However, the Fleischer Studios was a bit hesitant to just toss Popeye out there and hope that people will like him. Instead, they billed this as a Betty Boop cartoon on the title screen. Additionally, Betty makes a short but risqué appearance mid-way through the film--sort of like she was giving her seal of approval to the series.
One big difference between this and most of the later Popeye cartoons is with Olive Oyl. Her voice was not provided by the usual Mae Questel (also the voice of Betty Boop). Olive's horribly annoying voice is not so annoying and Bonnie Poe's voice is noticeably deeper and less migraine-inducing! Aside from that, the cartoon is pretty much like any of the early Popeyes. The art work is the usual beautifully detailed black & white Fleischer animation that you can't help but respect. Bluto and Popeye do their usual routines, though Popeye does seem a bit more macho without his spinach than later films and so the difference that the spinach makes is less notable. Also, notice the final scene where our hero saves Olive--and possibly kills a train load of innocent people in the process!
One sad thing in the film many won't notice is the carnival bit where Popeye and the rest are throwing balls at a guy's head. Such ball throwing booths were common back then and involved throwing baseballs at a Black man's face! While the guy in the cartoon is pretty cartoony, he is Black skinned and this is a sick little aspect of the 1930s that has been forgotten--and that probably isn't a bad thing at all.
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