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  • I love Fleischer cartoons, whether it's Betty Boop, Popeye, Superman, or the series known as Screen Songs, i.e. those weird mini-musicals featuring live action performers, off the wall animation, and that ever popular Bouncing Ball. There's more surrealism in the average seven-minute Fleischer short than you'll find in half a dozen canvases by Salvador Dali. This particular Screen Song features 24 year-old Ethel Merman, crooning a bluesy number about a couple who attempt a trial separation. The premise of the song is a little surprising: the singer urges her ex-partner to Try Somebody Else while she also Tries Somebody Else, neither one of them really enjoying it, you understand, with the eventual result that they'll find their new partners so unsatisfying they will reunite in the end. Come to think of it, this sounds like the plot line of quite a few '30s screwball comedies.

    The odd thing about the song is that while the singer catalogs all the "fun" she and her ex-lover are having, the melody sounds like a funeral dirge. Miss Merman sings it in a straightforward and uncharacteristically low-key fashion, but what makes the short interesting is the animation seen at the opening, before we hear the lyrics, and again at the finale. In typical Flesicher style these segments have almost nothing to do with the song we're hearing, except in an oblique and ironic way.

    While Ethel sings about relationships, the animation depicts prison life. (Hmmm, could they be implying something?) A guard releases a lowlife cat from jail, and the ex-con immediately sets about to burglarize a house. He opens a combination lock on a safe that turns out to be a fridge, and finds leftovers such as a fish and a chicken shivering in the cold air within. (A few eggs are cheerfully ice-skating, however.) Things turn macabre when the cat attempts to eat the fish, and members of the fish's family, also in the fridge, piteously plead for his life. Unfortunately for the cat, at this point the homeowner -- Betty Boop herself, in a brief but effective cameo -- appears wielding a shotgun, and he is marched right back to prison.

    At the finale, after Ethel and the Bouncing Ball have taught us the song lyrics, we return to prison for a fast-paced series of gags. At times the juxtaposition of image and word form funny subliminal combinations, as when we see a convict at hard labor, breaking enormous rocks, while Merman sings "Let's take our fun where we find it." The visuals culminate in a daring jailbreak, and a surprise wrap-up gag that is so bizarre and twisted it left me gasping. There's no mistaking the Fleischer Touch!
  • I notice when I start drifting off while I watch a film that it's often not because I am tired but because what I am watching is so gosh-darn boring--and that's exactly what I think of "You Try Somebody Else". It's a very dull little Fleischer Brothers cartoon and you could certainly do better.

    The first portion of the cartoon involves a cat that is let out of prison. Soon, he breaks into Betty Boop's home and is sent right back to the slammer. Then, Ethel Merman in live action begins singing a rather slow tune "You Try Somebody Else" and this seems to go on and on forever. But, in Fleischer Brothers style, soon the bouncing ball appears and the audience is encouraged to sing along with her. Again, this seems to go on forever. The bottom line is that the cartoon portion isn't very good, the song is very forgettable and it's about as entertaining as watching your parents make out! If you are a glutton for punishment, the Fleischers also made another similar cartoon with Merman as she croons "Let Me Call You Sweetheart"--a tune already ancient by the time this one came out in 1932. Avoid unless you are having insomnia and really are looking for sleep!
  • 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, her personality not dulled down at all despite her appearance being far too brief.

    For me, 'You Try Somebody Else' 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 and not one of the most imaginative of their cartoons featuring live-action and real life performers but still very interesting. As far as those with Ethel Merman goes, it's not the best or worst.

    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 and doesn't gel as much as it should. Wouldn't have said no to more animation as well but that's probably just me, mainly because the highlights are with the animation.

    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, 'You Try Somebody Else' is amusing and charming with a delightful Betty and some great gags. The highlights being the ballsy jail break and the very last gag that was wonderfully strange. 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 worth trying. 7/10 Bethany Cox
  • You Try Somebody Else (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 story has a cat opening up the fridge and finding a fish that he plans to eat but then Betty Boop shows up with a gun. The film then turns to Ethel Merman who sings the title song. If you go through all of these Flesicher shorts from this series you'll notice that they got a lot better as they went along and that included getting special guests to sing the songs. The track here is quite good as Merman does a nice job with it and makes for a good bouncing ball track. The animation is extremely good as you'd expect and that includes a very funny and somewhat cruel moment at the start between the cat and the fish.
  • As far as Screen Songs go, this one is fairly interesting and reasonably good. But I can't help feeling as though the cartoon was an afterthought. It's a decent job, but I suspect it would have been much better if it got the full treatment, instead of being an addition for time requirements. The animation and the song don't fit well together at all. Worth watching nonetheless. Ethel Merman is in fine form here and the cartoon portion is fun. In print and available. Recommended.