Occasionally, Disney gives me nothing to go on. There’s only so many times I can write ‘Mickey plays some songs. Again.’ And so, I pick apart the details. Sometimes it’s the history of recycled gags (as seen in The Karnival Kid) or the lineage of solider songs turned into hymns (detailed in The Barnyard Battle). Which is why I narrowed in on the book below:
Hmmm, I thought. Three Weeks. Such a bland title. What a wasted opportunity for quick comedy. Why not, say, The Great Catsby or The Scarlet Litter? Or maybe it IS comedic -just a footnote forgotten with time. And so, I started digging.
* * *
Three Weeks, it turns out, is a thing. Penned in 1907 by British author Elinor Glyn, the novel tells of young, wealthy Englishman Paul Verdayne -sent away to Switzerland for “embracing” the pastor’s daughter. There, he beds an older, nameless ‘Lady’ who turns out to be the abused wife of a Balkan king. For three weeks, they bone. Then ‘The Lady’ bails before Verdayne can discover she’s now carrying his kid. But before Verdayne can find her, she’s killed by the king. Critics called the work “dull and stupid”, “boring, vulgar and extremely silly”. Still, it sold 50,000 U.S. copies for its first three weeks and an additional 2,000 copies/day for the three months following. Essentially, it was the Twilight of its time -if only Canada and Boston had had the good sense to ban Twilight, too.
So, why the Hell is it here? Well, The Shindig ALSO marks Clarabelle Cow’s spike from common cow to actual character (cemented by her new name now supplied above the door). And unfortunately, being a cow, Clarabelle had udders. So? Didn’t Disney’s cows ALWAYS have their udders out? Of course. Mammary glands are 100% natural. Or “100% filth”, if you were the swell of shouting, sex-sensitive movie goers. The prudish, party-pooping Hays Code was on the rise.
By February ’31, Hollywood’s “unclothed cow” chapter was forcibly closed. As announced by Time:
Motion Picture Producers & Distributors of America last week announced that, because of complaints of many censor boards, the famed udder of the cow in the Mickey Mouse cartoons was now banned. Cows in Mickey Mouse or other cartoon pictures in the future will have small or invisible udders quite unlike the gargantuan organ whose antics of late have shocked some and convulsed other of Mickey Mouse’s patrons.
Which I guess I get. I mean, udders on an up-right bovine ARE essentially boobs that resemble a nut sack. (So, double-whammy.) I guess sex-starved cinephiles just couldn’t handle supple, sloshing milk bags on screen for fear of wanting to run out and fuck some animals. And so, just as Pope Clement XIII covered every statue’s junk with some after-the-fact fig leaf, censors would now be sketching bovines in bloomers.
Sensing the on-coming ordinance, Disney opted to bow out early on his own terms. But not without flashing the finger. The Three Weeks allusion, alone, was defiant enough. (Especially so, considering Disneyland initially banned all men with long hair for fear of hippies.) But Disney did one better.
Upon arriving at Clarabelle’s shack, Horace rings the bell, ready for his date. This is when we see Clarabelle curled up, pouring over 1930’s equivalent to Fifty Shades of Hay. (*rimshot*) Clarabelle then bashfully buries her book in her bed, calling out to Horsecollar that she’ll be right out. And then this happens:
Which means that, by movie logic, if Clarabelle has to don a dress so that she’s seen as ‘decent’, then we just watched a naked ‘girl’ straddle, on all-fours, over a smutty book. Suddenly, what we FIRST perceived as:
has now ACTUALLY become:
And now WE’RE indicted for being filthy Peeping Tom’s! (Or Peeping …Tammy’s? Seriously, YOU try coming up with a better equivalent.) What’s more: Intentional or not, now Horace’s earlier, innocent bell-yanking reeks of raunch. A cute gag before, it now begs the question Is Clarabelle just a kinky cow out to get her
hair tail pulled? (I won’t even discuss the glory hole angle.)
I can’t guess at what sick sex shit might’ve actually been whipered about in 1930. If kinks or glory holes had names. But I know that, here, I’M the pervert for even posing such suggestions as it divulges how deep my OWN exposure goes. Which must’ve rattled 1930’s folk. And all Disney did was draw a dress-less cow.
Despite America’s cow-fueled cacophony, somehow Shindig was only banned in Ohio (for its Three Weeks reference). Still, within months, all other animators would be clothing cows.
Clarabelle’s stayed clothed ever since.
*Come Back Next Saturday for Daisy Duke’s 30th Installment: The Chain Gang!!!*