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  • Fleischer cartoon buffs who enjoy the surreal adventures of Betty Boop as well as those Bouncing Ball mini-musicals will find much to savor in Time on My Hands. This memorable "Song Car-Tune" features both a live action Ethel Merman crooning the title number and a Betty Boop-like mermaid in an underwater sequence that is positively hallucinatory. All the studio hallmarks are here: bouncy music, deeply weird gags, and strictly non-linear storytelling. Plus, you know it's Pre-Code because Betty the mermaid is topless. What's not to like?

    The short begins with a black cat sitting on the bank of a pond with his rod and reel, singing into a megaphone about how fishing is the gentlest of arts. (Naturally the fish feel otherwise about that, as we shall see.) Sensitive viewers may squirm a bit as the cat selects a worm to bait his hook, but you'll be relieved to find that he takes the humane approach: instead of spearing the worm, the cat lowers him into the pond on a small chair and even hands him a tiny ukulele he can use to attract music-loving sea creatures. Underwater we meet a diver and observe as he encounters the Betty Boop-like mermaid (voiced by Mae Questel, of course). He asks her out on a date and when she accepts, three turtles with clock faces on their tummies pop up to offer a celebratory dance. Unfortunately all this jubilation is disrupted when the worm discreetly manages to connect a hook to the mermaid's fin; the black cat reels her in, pulling her out of the water so violently that she flies across the sky and lands at the top of a tower on the face of a clock. And this is where the mermaid turns into La Merman, who proceeds to sing the title tune.

    After all that craziness Ethel's performance seems rather subdued, especially compared to the brassy show biz anthems we associate with her later career, but her rendition of this bluesy song is pleasant. After the number we're returned to the world of underwater animation for a finale packed with rapidly paced gags that are even wackier than the earlier stuff: an old fish loses his dentures, an alligator emerges from a small satchel, an octopus is mistaken for a set of bagpipes, etc., and it all happens so fast it's hard to absorb on the first viewing. (I've seen this one three times and look forward to watching it again.) The music is terrific, and buffs familiar with Paramount features from the era will recognize themes from concurrent releases starring Maurice Chevalier, the Marx Brothers, and others. Time on My Hands is pure Fleischer, which means it's the cinematic equivalent of a bowl of mint chocolate-chip ice cream.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Just watched this Max Fleischer Screen Song cartoon on YouTube. In this one, a cat is fishing, and singing about it, while many fish go out of the pond before walking back in and some worms get out of their "jail" can with one of them using the can opener. When the cat uses one of the worms on his hook, that worm manages to charm the female fish by playing the ukulele with one of them dancing a hula-like move. Another fish is a mermaid with her breasts showing (but not the nipples that go with it!). She resembles Betty Boop with voice to match. I'm guessing it is her! Anyway, when the cat uses his hook to throw her to the big clock behind him, she turns into a live action Ethel Merman (oh, now I see where they got the mermaid idea!), who tells us to follow the Bouncing Ball while she warbles the title song. After that part's over, there's a few more highly amusing gags to round out the cartoon. Having just revealed almost everything, I'll just say I liked this and I recommend Time on My Hands.
  • Fleischer were responsible for some brilliant cartoons, some of them still among my favourites. Their visual style was often stunning and some of the most imaginative and ahead of its time in animation.

    The character of Betty Boop, one of their most famous and prolific characters, may not be for all tastes and sadly not as popular now, but her sex appeal was quite daring for the time and to me there is an adorable sensual charm about her. That charm, sensuality and adorable factor is not lost anywhere here, nor her comic timing, and her role as a mermaid is handled beautifully without dulling down her personality.

    For me, 'Time on My Hands' is among the better Fleischer/Betty Boop animation-mixed-with-live-action efforts. Not one of Betty or Fleischer's overall best by any stretch, but it is more imaginative and interesting than most of their cartoons featuring live-action and real life performers. As far as those with Ethel Merman goes, 'Time on My Hands' is a better cartoon than the still pleasant but not great 'Let Me Call You Sweetheart'.

    Admittedly, the story is flimsy, barely existent even, and anybody looking for non-stop hilarity are best looking elsewhere. The title song is pleasant enough, but not an especially memorable one. Wouldn't have said no to more animation perhaps as well but that's probably just me.

    However, the animation is outstanding, everything is beautifully and meticulously drawn and the whole cartoon is rich in visual detail and imagination. Every bit as good is the music score, which delivers on the energy, lusciousness and infectiousness, great for putting anybody in a good mood.

    On top of these, 'Time on My Hands' is amusing and charming with a delightful Betty, a creatively rendered underwater world and a surrealism that's both wonderfully strange and transfixing. A big interest point too is Ethel Merman sounding a dream and with an incredibly vibrant presence in nicely shot live action.

    All in all, very nicely done and well worth the time. 8/10 Bethany Cox
  • Time On My Hands (1932)

    *** (out of 4)

    The Fleischer Studio produced a number of these animated short films where the "bouncing ball" would have audience members singing together. The animated portion of this starts off with some fish swimming around and then we get to a mermaid played by Betty Boop. From here Ethyl Merman takes over and sings the title track. Fans of the series will certainly find this to be one of the better ones. Of course, the series got a lot better as it went along. The animation is perfect as you'd expect and I thought Fleischer did a very good job on the world he created under the water. The song itself was decent but Merman gave an energetic performance and made it a lot better.