Fagin’s Freshman

“Boy! This is keen!”

Supervision by Ben Hardaway and Cal Dalton; Story by Jack Miller; Animation by Rod Scribner; Musical Direction by Carl W. Stalling. A Merrie Melody released on November 18, 1939.

You remember the rhyme about the three little kittens who lost their mittens? I was never a fan. Even when you don’t take my feelings towards felines into account, I always found the tune annoying, the lyrics inane, and the plot just depressing. So, this cartoon doesn’t get to a good start with me, since it starts with that precise rhyme.

A mother cat and her kittens are singing, and smiling, and just making the world that much more saccharine. I’m with the kitten sulking in the corner, Alphonse. (He says the kids call him “Blackie” but I come from a millennium where that sounds a bit derogatory. I’m not one to judge kids by the color of their coat.) Now, the radio programs that feature guns, and violence, and death? That’s more his style!

His mother is angry about this. So much so that he’s getting the ole “bed and no dinner” punishment. Pretty harsh. Sure, he interrupted her inoffensively offensive sing-along, and yes, it’s probably not great that he is so fascinated by shooting, but to deny him his meals because of that? That’s poor parenting. Hasn’t she ever tried simply turning the radio off, looking her kid in the eye, and just spanking him?

Well, as long as Alphonse is in his bed, he might as well sleep. And if he’s asleep, he might as well dream. And if he’s dreaming, he might as well dream about something related to this whole thing. So, in his dream, he spots a sign asking for boys. It doesn’t really go into any further detail, so I don’t fault the kid for knocking on the door. He’s greeted by an older cat named Fagin. He seems like a kind enough gentleman, he’s running a school, and everyone knows those are always on the up and level.

Alphonse is introduced to the other classmates, and even though they permanently scowl, they seem chipper enough. But Alphonse isn’t too keen on hearing he just agreed to go to school. But Fagin makes a good point about how education gets you farther in life. (You think I WANT to write a blog that nobody reads?) Why just look at the students that he’s tutored. (I’m a little disturbed that one sometimes goes by “Holocaust Harry.” Wh…Why would that be an alias of his?)

Alphonse is starting to get worried, but Fagin makes a good point about how he just teaches. It’s the pupils who decide what they will do with their education. And yet, the cops just don’t see things that way and knock at the door. The police (who in this dream are all dogs) are doing their best to get inside. And they’re willing to use their firearms too. Either they don’t know their are kits in there, or said kits knew what they were getting into when they signed up.

Now that Alphonse is witnessing all this firsthand, he breaks down. He’s scared, and wants out of this lifestyle. But since he’s still asleep, he’d better find something he can get tangled up in, so they can become covers upon his awakening. Falling out the window, and getting wrapped in the curtains counts. He wakes. And now that he knows that being shot at is no fun, he joins in his families singing.

Favorite part: During the shootout, Fagin asks for everyone to cease while he answers the phone. They comply, and after answering, Fagin relays the message to officer Hogan. His wife needs butter.

Personal Rating: 2. But it teeters on the edge of one.

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