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Calloway, Cabell (“Cab”)

Posted in WB Cartoon Companion on January 30, 2004

    High-energy bandleader whose signature song was “Minnie the Moocher”, the origin of “hi-de-ho”. Calloway was no stranger to animation; he had sung in three Fleischer cartoons in the 30s: Snow White (1933) singing “The St. James Infirmary Blues”, The Old Man of the Mountain (1933) singing the title song, and Minnie The Moocher (1932) also signing the title song.

    For these cartoons, Calloway performed the songs on film and was rotoscoped: traced one frame at a time and animated. Leslie Cabarga, writing in The Fleischer Story, notes that Calloway believed showing these cartoons a week or two before he made a personal appearance enhanced his box office receipts.

    Calloway caricatures make a number of appearances in the Warner Brothers films, although he never provided the voices as he had for the Fleischer cartoons. He appears as an angel in Clean Pastures (Freleng, 1937) in footage that was re-used in Have You Got Any Castles? (Tashlin, 1938). Calloway is imitated by Porky in Porky at the Crocadero (Tashlin, 1938). A brilliant Calloway caricature is seen in The Swooner Crooner (Tashlin, 1944) as one of the singing roosters auditioning for a job at Porky’s egg farm singing “Blues in the Night”. Calloway also appears in Wholly Smoke (Tashlin, 1938) as a pipecleaner in blackface. Although the main part of his caricature is cut from prints shown today, it is still visible in the montage sequence toward the end.

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