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The Bookworm (1939)

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Three witches need a worm to complete their potion; they dispatch a raven to catch one, and he goes after a bookworm. He chases the worm into the horror section, where the monsters attack ... See full summary »


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Title: The Bookworm (1939)

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Uncredited cast:
Raven / Racket-Buster (voice) (uncredited)
Martha Wentworth ...
Witch (voice) (uncredited)


Three witches need a worm to complete their potion; they dispatch a raven to catch one, and he goes after a bookworm. He chases the worm into the horror section, where the monsters attack but soon, Paul Revere rides Black Beauty to the rescue, along with the Police Gazette, and other assorted war heroes; eventually, the Boy Scouts build a match-stick bridge, leading the worm to safety. Written by Jon Reeves <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


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Release Date:

26 August 1939 (USA)  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)



Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


References Racket Busters (1938) See more »


Music by Daniel Decatur Emmett
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User Reviews

What your books get up to while you're asleep at night
20 September 2007 | by (Australia) – See all my reviews

'The Bookworm,' a 1939 MGM cartoon short directed by Friz Freleng and Hugh Harman, takes an interesting concept and has some good fun with it. On a dark and stormy night in somebody's library, characters from literature emerge from their books and interact with each other. The three witches from "Hamlet" are wickedly brewing a potion, only to find that a crucial ingredient – a worm – is missing. The evil witches bully the skulking raven from Edgar Allen Poe's eponymous novel into acquiring a worm for them. Across the room, an innocent young bookworm emerges from his bulky encyclopedia, proclaiming himself to be "full of science and philosophy" and yearning for some adventure.

After the raven catches sight of his quarry, he tries every means possible to capture the poor bookworm, and the evil characters of literature wait in the shadows with anticipation. However, the little worms resourcefulness proves greater than anybody could have imagined, and he constantly eludes the frustrated bird, finally satisfying his thirst for adventure. The bookworm doesn't do it all alone, either. After it is evident that he is in trouble, all the noble figures of history and literature – include Paul Revere, Black Beauty, Robin Hood and the aging heroes of Gettysburg – emerge from their pages to lend a hand. Eventually, it is an enthusiastic troop of boy scouts from a scouting handbook who arrive to rescue the bookworm from a fiery death.

The concept behind the short, of book characters coming alive when you're not looking, reminded me a bit of Pixar's 'Toy Story (1995)' (substituting books for toys, obviously) and perhaps this cartoon served as an inspiration. The devilish raven was voiced by "The Man of a Thousand Voices," Mel Blanc, in only his third year of voice-acting. The animation in the film is a bit rough at times – certainly not as meticulously-drawn as many of Disney's films of that era – but it gets the story across well enough, and this roughness sort of complements the rather dark tone of the film. 'The Bookworm' can currently be found as a special feature in the "Complete Thin Man Collection," on the DVD for the third film in the series, 'Another Thin Man.'

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