Lost and Found: A New Taste Sensation

The Bob Wickersham-directed 1947 Color Rhapsody Cockatoos for Two was one of the last cartoons produced by the Screen Gems studio. Bob Clampett claimed to have written this one (along with Swiss Tease and Boston Beanie) while he was the studio’s “story editor/creative consultant”.

Clampett’s involvement is pretty self-evident. Mr. Sidney of 531 Greenstreet (a Peter Lorre caricature voiced by Stan Freberg) is tired of rich food and craves a “new taste sensation”. He receives word that his friend Hermosa Redondo is sending him a rare $57,000 pet cockatoo (only insured for $56,000). While Sidney eagerly awaits the new arrival, a homeless homing pigeon (voiced by storyman Cal Howard) sees this as an opportunity to get himself room and board by posing as an imposter. Naturally, the bird is ignorant of the devious intentions behind a six-course meal and Turkish bath.

The creepy Columbia WTF vibe™ is not absent, but there’s a sense of coherency in Cockatoos, and the others Clampett claimed to have written, that is lacking in all of the studio’s other cartoons of the period. This film at least tries to have a story and gags that make logical sense. Cartoons like Mother Hubba-Hubba Hubbard or Wacky Quacky (with its jaw-dropping rip-off of Daffy Duck) are as close to pure stream of consciousness as you can get for a 1940s cartoon.

Cockatoos is one of several Columbia/Screen Gems cartoons Sony claims to have either incomplete or zero elements on. The only version available for years was a B/W 16mm print, a transfer of which is embedded below.

I am convinced that this and most of the others Sony claims to be missing are still in their vaults unlabeled and unidentified. Columbia had the worst track record for preserving their material. Several cartoons, live-action shorts, serials, and movies from the immediate post-war era are still at large. (It’s even rumored that particular elements of the wonderful fairy-tale film noir Gilda, one of their most popular titles, were missing for years.)

Fortunately, such is no longer the case for Cockatoos for Two. I was able to recently acquire a very rare original 35mm IB Technicolor nitrate print, which is on its way to a storage facility for safe keeping. I couldn’t send it off without making a fresh transfer for myself, so here are some tantalizing screen grabs from this extremely rare cartoon. I also hope that this helps end the ‘debates’ over what raw transfers of 1940s Technicolor cartoons are ‘supposed’ to look like. But that’s hoping for too much.


Saludasth-and-meatballsth ’till next time, pals…

Special thanks to Steve Stanchfield, Jerry Beck, and Fredrik Sandström for their help.

27 Comments

Filed under classic animation, wtf

27 Responses to Lost and Found: A New Taste Sensation

  1. Dhave Gerstein

    Another great find, Thad—I take off my hat! (Big chef’s hat, too… now I gotta go tend to that cockatoo in the oven…)

  2. The Crazy HR

    What will you discover next? Spree for All maybe???
    This looks great!

  3. Kevin Martinez

    That’s almost like a complete paradigm shift, going from a murky B/W print to gorgeous Tech.

    Keith Scott suggested on FB that a lot of underrated or “bad” films have their reputations more due to bad prints than the quality of the shorts themselves. He may be right.

  4. Nice work, Thad! Dennis Doph tried to get the ball rolling on a restoration of the Mintz studio Barney Googles made by Sid Marcus and Artie Davis many years ago. Nobody could locate them. I agree that the original 35mm Tech materials on the “lost” Columbias very likely exist, buried in unmarked reel cans in the vaults.

  5. wundermild

    Beautiful screenshots.
    I humbly request to see “Wacky Quacky”—then I’ve seen everything.

  6. Bart

    Very cool to see screen shots of this short in color – now let’s see some shots from “Wacky Quacky”!

  7. Ron Wallace

    Sweet find, Thad – when I saw the cap on Facebook, I did an Avery take. The images are beautiful, the cockatoo’s colors are so vivid!

  8. Wow-those screen grabs are gorgeous! I agree that many quote-unquote lost films are just misplaced, mislabeled, in the wrong can, etc.
    By the way, what does nitrate film smell like? Weird question, I know, but if you’ve handled old films, not an unreasonable curiosity. Never held nitrate film (yet)…

  9. Duck Dodgers

    So if I’m correct, from what you wrote about the main character,I presume you also got your hands on “Wacky Quacky”. That is one I’d love to see at least screenshots from.

    • Frank– This nitrate did not have a particularly unique aroma. I guess that adds to its danger – it’s not immediately discernible!

      Andrea and Wundermild – Unfortunately, I don’t have a presentable copy of Wacky Quacky. I’ve seen a truncated nitrate print of it and took some crappy low-rez screenshots though.

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      • wundermild

        Thank you, Thad. I can clearly see from the images alone why you call it “rip-off”. I wonder if this is related to with the rareness of that particular film, besides the aspect that Columbia cartoons are scarce.

  10. Duck Dodgers

    Thanks, Thad. That is Daffy! I wonder how the character speaks, does he “woo-hoo” too? (That would be too much!).

  11. Roberto Severino

    Hi, Thad! This print looks gorgeous. Did you ever get to roll it onto the projector and somehow sync the audio from the B+W version onto it? It would be very interesting to see the cartoon posted that way in its entirety.

    • Hi Roberto,
      This was a 35mm positive nitrate print, so it had a soundtrack. There’s nothing to fix. I have no intention of posting the new transfer I had made, though.

  12. Mark Colangelo

    Someone needs to make a DVD-R of public domain Columbia cartoons using such nice elements as this IB tech print. (Hint, hint!)

  13. Valentin Moretto

    Is there any precautions to storing nitrates other than maintaining a constant temperature and humidity rate?

  14. Kirk

    Amazing looking stuff! It’s like the great lost Clampett, visually at least. Yer blue-ballin’ us with stills but keeping the treasure to yerself, eh Thaddeus? Is this in an attempt to preserve the rarefaction of the cartoon, or for fear of copyright infringement, or just pure malice?

  15. Kirk

    Hey, shoot! I just recognized this to be that which Maltin writes about in Mice & Magic, noting the Warner influence. Does he note the work Clampett did on this one as you put forth? -( don’t have my copy handy, but my copy of that hallowed tome is the same one I bought in its first printing as a lad, shows lotsa wear from all that love!)

  16. Thad, thanks very much for the screen grabs.
    I don’t begrudge you after spending your limited personal resources on the print and wishing to keep it in your collection, having shared part of it. Today, the world seems to be filled with gimme, gimme types on forums who demand every single cartoon on earth to be shown to them, pristine, immediately, and for nothing, then complain when their demand isn’t fulfilled.
    It’s a shame a complete version of Wacky Quacky isn’t around but it’s an interesting cartoon and is Warner-esque in more than just the character designs.

  17. John

    Can you post a copy on Youtube and email me the link?

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