Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Johny Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet

The following story was published within the past year and was inspired by my granddaughter. She is now five and whenever she comes to visit, which may be just a couple of times a year, we sit together in my recliner (snug as bugs in a rug) we watch "Make Mine Music". Twice a year isn't too much for this classic Disney..

Terry Stephan

Changing Lanes: Fedora
Left to my own devices I would never chose to watch an animated show of any kind. I have never thought of them as an art form. The last one I enjoyed was “Lady and the Tramp”, which I saw when I was six.
Whenever my four-year-old granddaughter Paige comes to visit, she climbs into the easy chair with me and asks if we can watch her favorite movie together.
What she wants to watch is an animated film Disney originally released in 1946. Walt Disney Studios were as labor starved as other industries in World War II. They had very little “product”, but were able to put together a collection of short, unrelated, “scraps” to make a feature presentation entitled “Make Mine Music”.
My granddaughter loves the film. Theaters played “Make Mine Music” at a time when America and the rest of the world was done with war and were starved for entertainment.
Paige and I enjoy all of the animated segments which include among other things, a great musical version of the poem “Casey at the Bat” and a translated, Russian adaptation of “Peter and the Wolf”.
Our favorite part though, follows a classic story line. A couple meets, fall in love, become separated, but are reunited in the end.
The name of the story is “Johnny Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet”. It sounds terribly silly; the romance is between two hats who meet while on sale in a hat shop. (The silliness is part of the reason I don’t watch animated movies until coerced by a four-year-old).
Johnny loses Alice when she is purchased for $23.
There is a happy conclusion to the story, but lots of pathos, a near drowning, and even a bar fight. Johnny Fedora comes very close to having part of his brim amputated on the way to the couples’ joyful reunion.
As my granddaughter and I enjoy the 1940’s soundtrack, sung by the Andrews Sisters, I wonder if my parents saw the movie when it first came out.
With the massive movement of people all over the world, lives lost, and families torn apart it must have been a ripe time for people to sympathize with the lovers in this cartoon.
In 1946, my parents were essentially newlyweds. They had been married a few years but spent just a few wedded days together before my dad was shipped off to Europe.
For a short time after the war, the US Army stationed my father ‘stateside’. My parents stayed in a cottage near the beach in Florida until he was discharged.
Later, growing up in rural Western NY, we kids knew that the small, clear glass jar of reddish beach sand, sitting on a shelf, was part of our parents’ early history. They had been reunited after the war, in far off mysterious Florida.
They went to the movies often in their early-married years and I like to imagine they saw the story of Alice Blue Bonnet and Johnny Fedora.
If my parents did see it, I wonder about the effect, however small, the story had on them. Did it remind them of their own separation? Did it instill romantic feelings for one another?
It is somewhat amusing that my four-year-old granddaughter showed me the artistic value of a 60-year-old Disney release.
I wonder if, when I am just a memory, she will sit with her grandchildren and watch a silly, hundred-and-something-year-old animated story about a couple of hats.
Maybe animated movies are more enduring an art form than I thought.
Comments? ChangingLanesTerry@gmail.com

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