I Love to Singa

Film Review by Dean Duncan Jul 13, 2015

This is a good one! Supervised by Fred Avery, with animation by Charles Jones. Here’s that familiar Henry James, Sinclair Lewis situation, without any of their ambivalence. It’s Europe and America, trying to figure each other out. This New World post is attractively optimistic and generous, reflecting the kind of healthy self-esteem you like to see in a young person. How’s that? Here:

Professor Fritz Owl is a teacher of music voice and violin—but no jazz! This surface conflict has deep roots, not just in parent/kid relationships, but with regard to Europe and the US, to tradition and immigration, to any number of vast continental things. Prof. Owl and his similarly musical wife produce a litter of children. The births are funny: a Car-oo-zo, a Fritz Kreisler (playing from Massenet’s Thais), a Mendelssohn. Finally, predictably (HCA’s duckling, not to mention Al Jolson, 1927), a jazz singer! “If he must sing, we will get him to sing like we want him to…” Poor parents, poor kids. “Drink to me only with thine eyes…”

The music lesson is funny. “Enough is too much!” Getting it wrong is the basis of ethnic dialogue comedy. What difficulty beneath that surface! The dad’s cursing is funny. There’s a great tracking shot of this kid walking. There is an amusing variety of numbers at the radio audition, and an amusing variety of ways in which these hapless aspirants get the boot. That really fat chicken, for instance. Well of course: he’s calling himself Owl Jolson. The child’s cultural acceptance, which leads to his familial repatriation, is a lot like Gerald McBoing-Boing’s. Or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’s. It’s problematical, even if the texts ignore the fact. Not as bad here, though. In fact, it might even be funny that the dad’s okay now that his boy’s getting the press. “Support them in whatever they do,” they say, maybe just a bit suspiciously. $, after all. At the end we’ve got some German jazz lyrics, and everyone dancing in the background. This is the end and aim of all comedy, after all: families and cultures, attaining accords and resolutions that might as well be figured as musical.