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Dumbo (Disney; RKO Radio) takes Walt Disney back to the animals. His fifth full-length cartoon movie, profiting from the shortcomings of its predecessors, is notable for its freedom from the puppeteering of Snow White, the savage satire of Pinocchio, the artiness of Fantasia, and the woolgathering of The Reluctant Dragon. Like Three Little Pigs, Dumbo is a catchy fable with a moral.
Dumbo is a taupe-colored, blue-eyed baby elephant whose outsize ears move the prima donna .elephants of his mother's circus troupe to call him a "butterfly with a trunk." When he trips on his ears during the elephant act, knocking down a pyramid of elephants and demolishing the Big Top, he is exiled to the circus Siberia: a small part (diving from a burning building into a net) in the clowns' act.
But Dumbo eventually has his day. Under the personal management of Timothy Q. Mouse, a rough rodent of the Jimmy Durante school and a vigorous new Disney character, Dumbo discovers what his ears are good forflying. This time he takes off from his window high in the burning building like an angry dive-bomber, turning, banking, looping the loop, and finally machine-gunning the other performers with peanuts sucked into his trunk from the vendor's cart.
Although Dumbo offers no startling innovations in animated cartooning, it is probably Disney's best all-round picture to date. Though it lacks the bomb-burst novelty of Snow White, its craftsmanship is far beyond that memorable fairy tale's. Seldom has Disney articulated his characters so aptly. Dumbo is a most human little fellow, not bright, but willing. His costar, Timothy, is an appealing caricature of a Hollywood agent with a heart. The elephant ladies' aid society ("Girls! Have I got a trunkful of dirt!") is artful satire.
Five black crows are to Dumbo what the Seven Dwarfs were to Snow White. Their burlesque song-&-dance routine, hilarious, eminently crowish, is typical of the good circus humor that bubbles through the picture. They have one of the best (When I See an Elephant Fly) of Dumbo's nine tuneful melodies, none of which compares with the singable Heigh-Ho. One (Look Out for Mr. Stork) has lyrics that are open to smart-alecky interpretation when removed from the picture's context.
Like story and characters, Dumbo's coloring is soft and subdued, free from picture-postcard colors and confusing detaila significant technical advance. But the charm of Dumbo is that it again brings to life that almost human animal kingdom where Walter Elias Disney is king of them all.
Texas (Columbia) is a wild and woolly Western with plenty of gunplay, hard riding, skulduggery, cattle-rustling along the old Chisholm Trail. Its story is the old one about the two unreconstructed buckaroos bang-banging their way through the post-Civil War Southwest looking for work and trouble. One (William Holden) turns bad and dies with his boots on; the other (Glenn Ford) goes straight and wins the heroine (Claire Trevor).
This old plot is given a kind of hearty life by the honest characterization, bright good humor and restrained action that Director George Marshall gives it. No melodramatic toughies, his cowpunchers are happy-go-lucky lads with a natural disrelish to being told they can't do that.