The Pink Panther, Silent Films, and Me

Pink Panther Title Card

Like so very many people, I spent a good amount of my childhood watching cartoons.  I remember being fond of Bugs Bunny and Woody Woodpecker, but my favorite was definitely the Pink Panther.  Oh, did I ever love the Pink Panther!  In my book, he was the funniest of the cartoon characters I watched and I loved that aura of coolness he had.  And perhaps I’ve always had a soft spot for the stylish animation and Henry Mancini music.

But as I got a bit older and the cartoons were being shown on television less frequently, I ended up taking a break from my old friend the Pink Panther.  I didn’t re-discover the Pink Panther until just a few years ago when I bought a DVD collection of Pink Panther cartoons.  When I started watching them, my first reaction was, “Oh, it’s wonderful to be seeing these again!” My second reaction was, “Wow, no wonder I grew up to be a big silent film fan!”

Even though I’d been a silent film fan for years by that point, it had never occurred to me that all those Pink Panther cartoons I watched as a kid may have helped lay the foundation for me to appreciate silent film comedians like Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd.  But in hindsight, it makes perfect sense.  Although the Pink Panther speaks in a couple of cartoons and some cartoons feature narration, most Pink Panther cartoons are short silent films very similar to the short films Chaplin and Keaton made early in their careers.

Several Pink Panther cartoons like The Pink Phink and Pink Pajamas feature scenarios I can easily imagine Chaplin or Keaton having a lot of fun with.  We Give Pink Stamps in particular is Chaplin-esque to the extent that I would love to know what, if any, thoughts Chaplin had about it.  One setting Chaplin saw a lot of comedy potential in was department stores, which he put to great use in 1916’s The Floorwalker and 1936’s Modern Times.  Not only is We Give Pink Stamps done in the same spirit as those Chaplin films, it also has some jokes that I’m sure Chaplin would have loved to do himself if only they weren’t impossible for a human being to do, even with special effect trickery available at the time.

A popular topic amongst classic movie fans is which movies do you show to somebody to get them interested classic movies.  Silent movies are always tricky because so many people are married to the idea that silent movies are the most dull, creaky, strange, and antiquated movies you can possibly watch.  But if you’re looking to turn someone on to silent films, particularly children, why not start with some Pink Panther cartoons?  Their stylish mid-century look really disguises the fact that they are basically silent films and might be a good way to lead in to some Chaplin, Keaton, or Lloyd.

Congratulations to True Classics on four years of blogging!

Congratulations to True Classics on four years of blogging!

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6 comments

  1. How lovely! Although Looney Tunes cartoons were more frequent in my childhood, I love The Pink Panther. I nver ralized how the panther could help people get into silent films.
    Oh, right now I feel like changing my computer wallpaper to the Pink Panther!
    Kisses!

  2. Golden Age animators were quick to give credit to silent comedians like Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd, etc. for their influence on their own work. But you never really think about how that could then influence people to seek out the silent-film sources for some of the cartoony gags we all know and love. You make an excellent point here about how essentially silent cartoons like the Pink Panther can lay a foundation, as you so eloquently put it, for the love of silent film. Thank you for such a thoughtful and interesting entry in our contest!

  3. As soon as I started reading your piece, I immediately vowed to find some Pink Panther cartoons to show my daughter (now 10 months) and get her primed for silent comedy. I’m already planning plenty of Keaton/Lloyd/Chaplin for her formative years, but I never thought of Pink Panther as a lead-in to that! Great idea. Plus, it’ll be fun for me to watch as well, since I’ve only seen a few of the Pink Panther cartoons (I was always a Looney Tunes person growing up).

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