Cinema: The New Pictures, Feb. 23, 1942

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Mr. Bug Goes to Town (Fleischer-Paramount) is Max Fleischer's second venture (first: Gulliver's Travels) into the full-length cartoon, a realm in which Walt Disney is king. No menace to King Disney, Mr. Bug is a workmanlike effort designed for youngsters.

Mr. Bug sensibly eschews the fantasy which has given Disney's animal characters their extraordinary appeal. It is a straight-out Hollywood drama of the decline & fall of a community of insects living in an abandoned weed patch just 45 inches from Broadway. It is also the story of one Hoppity, likeable, doltish grasshopper, who thwarts the villainous plot of rich C. Bagley Beetle to entice Honey, an ingenue bee, into marrying the old codger for his money.

Conceived on the diminutive scale of Gulliver's Travels, Mr. Bug gives an entertaining insect's-eye-view of Manhattan and its "human ones." Its color and atmosphere are first-rate; it is in good taste, and not overdone.

But the best of Mr. Bug's attributes is its music. The background music (by Leigh Harline, who composed most of Snow White's good music, Pinocchio's music and melodies) is notable. One tune by Sammy Timberg (Boy, Oh Boy), five by Hoagie Carmichael (lyrics: Frank Loesser) are hummable. We're the Couple in the Castle has already become a nationwide hit.

Johnny Eager (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) is another attempt to hirsutize handsome Robert Taylor. This hair-raising campaign began several years ago, when the studio got the disturbing idea that its dark, curly-locked matinee idol (and big box-office asset) might be laughed off the screen if he didn't get tough. Since then he has played, successively, a prize fighter, mule skinner, outlaw.

This time Mr. Taylor is a gangster—and a heel to boot. On parole from a manslaughter rap, he manages to run a city, a dog-race track, various forms of gambling. He beats people up—one of them luscious Lana Turner, stepdaughter of the district attorney (Edward Arnold). For love of her, he eventually does himself in.

It's no use. Mr. Taylor won't toughen up. He's too nice to be a melodramatic mobster, and he shows it. Lana Turner is similarly handicapped: Metro has swathed her best assets in a toga, swears that she shall become an actress, or else. Under these adverse circumstances, Stars Taylor and Turner are working under wraps.

Ride 'Em Cowboy (Universal) is not the funniest of the five Abbott & Costello comedies whelped by Universal last year. But it is a reasonably comic kickoff for the ex-burlesque comedians' second year in big-time cinema. Their first year moved them from almost zero to third in national box-office popularity.

A Western dude ranch is new ground for Clown Costello. He never discovers the difference between the Cleveland Indians (baseball) and the American Indians (scalps), but he finds out that a cow does not give milk—"You got to take it away from her." Decked out in chaps, checked cowboy shirt and sombrero, Greaseball Lou Costello is a dead ringer for New York City's Fiorello H. LaGuardia.

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