Sunday, May 6, 2012

Classic Cartoon Trivia Sleuth: Cyril's Inspiration???

Cyril at the Trial
In Disney's version of WIND IN THE WILLOWS ("ICHABOD & MR. TOAD", 1949) there is a comedic courtroom scene, the highlight of which is the testimony of Toad's equine sidekick "Cyril Proudbottom," voiced by J. "Pat" O'Malley, a regular onscreen & voiceover staple at Disney right on thru the 1960's.
J. "Pat" O'Malley

In defense of Toad, Cyril narrates a flashback using singsong Cockney verses in rhyme. The all-rhyming gimmick is a departure for the character at this point in the film, but it lends a comic flair to the telling of the tale. (Starts at 5:04 of this YoutTube clip)

Stanley Holloway
A few years back I came across a recording of Stanley Holloway, another wonderful English character actor best known for playing 'Liza Doolittle's father "Alfred" for the stage and movie versions of MY FAIR LADY (1956). My parents had the vinyl record of that show and Holloway's coarse and robust performance was always my favorite part. As I discovered in the more recently re-surfaced routines from over two decades earlier, Holloway made his initial fame narrating numerous comic rhyming verses in a more youthful singsong nasal voice on the UK vaudeville circuit. Most famous was his tale of a boy named "Albert Ramsbottom," who comes to an absurdly tragic end in an encounter with a lion at the zoo:

No one ever confirmed it for me, but after hearing a few of lines of this monologue I had no doubt that someone at Disney knew Holloway's work and decided to incorporate it into the trial scene as something of an homage, given that Cyril is characterized as a Cockney stereotype and Holloway was the epitome of the same. J. "Pat" O'Malley seems to be doing such a dead-on impersonation of Mr. Holloway that I have to doubt the similarity is co-incidental.  In any case, discovering this likely connection has ever since enhanced my enjoyment of this cartoon, and maybe it will yours too.


Pete Emslie said...

Wow, great find, Will! Yes, I'd have to agree that Cyril's Cockney rhymes had to have been based on that example by Stanley Holloway - the vocal style is too similar to be a coincidence. J. Pat O'Malley really was quite the talent, wasn't he? His range of voices is quite extraordinary. I remember being amazed as a kid when I first found out that the voices of both Buzzy the vulture and Colonel Hathi in "The Jungle Book" were by the same voice actor. Likewise The Colonel and Jasper in "101 Dalmatians".

Will Finn said...

O'Malley was one of the greatest, Pete. And what a face! ...too bad nobody ever caricatured him (cough cough)

Rich T. said...

Neat discovery!!! I've always wondered why they went with the rhyming in Cyril's testimony.

O'Malley was brilliant. I still love listening to his voice quickly transitioning between the Walrus, the Carpenter, Dum and Dee in Alice. And Hathi's one of the best supporting Disney characters ever.

Michael Swofford Paintings said...

Pat O'Malley was featured in a lot of 1960's television, and as a kid I used to think he was Alfred Hitchcock!

Will Finn said...

To paraphrase Bing Crosby first line from the same film:

"J. Pat was quite a cat!"

Stephen Worth said...

I grew up with the Stanley Holloway records. My dad lved them. We used to sing "With 'er 'ead Tooked Underneath 'er Arm" together.

Pokey said...

And Stanley Holloway's not to be confused with Sterling Holloway.Steve