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HISTORY

The working title of the film was Archy and Mehitabel. Joe Darion's opening onscreen credit reads: "screenplay and lyrics by Joe Darion." David Detiege's opening onscreen credit reads: "associate producer and supervising director: david detierge." Actors Hal Smith, Joan Gerber, Ken Sansom, Sal Delano and The Jackie Ward Singers are credited onscreen "as the alley cats." Although a copyright statement appears onscreen, Fine Arts Films, Inc. did not register the film until 9 Oct 1985 under the number PA-268-259. After the closing credits, a written statement reads: "--30--," a journalism symbol sometimes referred to as a "30 dash," that denotes the end of the story.
       The film's onscreen literary source credit reads: "from the 'archy and mehitabel' stories by don marquis." The character “Archy” was created by Don Marquis (1878—1937) in 1916 for his column “The Sun Dial” in the New York Evening Sun (later renamed The Sun). Marquis also published his writings featuring Archy, who referred to Marquis as "boss," in the New York Herald-Tribune and Collier’s until 1930. As explained in the film, Marquis wrote that Archy reported to him by typing, but because he was a cockroach, he could not operate the shift key to capitalize letters. As an homage to the column, all of the film's credits were presented in lowercase. Using Archy as an alter ego, Marquis wrote humorous news commentary, poetry and short sketches, while parodying free-verse poetry and making light of spiritualism, both of which were in vogue at the time. Mehitabel, the amoral alley cat, also appeared in the first column featuring Archy, but in ...

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The working title of the film was Archy and Mehitabel. Joe Darion's opening onscreen credit reads: "screenplay and lyrics by Joe Darion." David Detiege's opening onscreen credit reads: "associate producer and supervising director: david detierge." Actors Hal Smith, Joan Gerber, Ken Sansom, Sal Delano and The Jackie Ward Singers are credited onscreen "as the alley cats." Although a copyright statement appears onscreen, Fine Arts Films, Inc. did not register the film until 9 Oct 1985 under the number PA-268-259. After the closing credits, a written statement reads: "--30--," a journalism symbol sometimes referred to as a "30 dash," that denotes the end of the story.
       The film's onscreen literary source credit reads: "from the 'archy and mehitabel' stories by don marquis." The character “Archy” was created by Don Marquis (1878—1937) in 1916 for his column “The Sun Dial” in the New York Evening Sun (later renamed The Sun). Marquis also published his writings featuring Archy, who referred to Marquis as "boss," in the New York Herald-Tribune and Collier’s until 1930. As explained in the film, Marquis wrote that Archy reported to him by typing, but because he was a cockroach, he could not operate the shift key to capitalize letters. As an homage to the column, all of the film's credits were presented in lowercase. Using Archy as an alter ego, Marquis wrote humorous news commentary, poetry and short sketches, while parodying free-verse poetry and making light of spiritualism, both of which were in vogue at the time. Mehitabel, the amoral alley cat, also appeared in the first column featuring Archy, but in Marquis' original works, Archy was critical of the cat and not suffering from an unrequited love. Several collections of Marquis’ writings were published in book form beginning with archy and mehitabel in 1927. Later books featuring the characters were illustrated by cartoonist George Herriman, who also created the Krazy Kat comic strip.
       In 1954, Joe Darion and George Kleinsinger wrote dialogue sketches and songs based on Marquis’ columns and in that year singers Jonathan Anderson and Mignon Dunn performed them in New York in a musical titled Archy and Mehitabel. In the mid-1950s, Carol Channing and Eddie Bracken produced an album, archy and mehitabel: a back-alley opera, which included actor David Wayne in a spoken-word performance, echos of archy. In 1956, Darion and Kleinsinger reworked their musical with the help of comedian Mel Brooks, adding Archy’s infatuation with Mehitabel and renaming the show Shinbone Alley. Presented as a full-scale Broadway musical in Apr 1957, the production featured Bracken in a reprisal of his role as Archy and actress Eartha Kitt as Mehitabel. Although the show ran for only forty-nine performances, the songs from the musicals became part of Channing's and Kitt’s standard repertoires. In 1960, Shinbone Alley was produced for live television, starring Bracken and Tammy Grimes.
       As early as 1956, according to notes for the film in the 1978 catalog for The Los Angeles International Film Festival (Filmex), British producer-director-production designer John David Wilson was interested in bringing Marquis’ characters to a feature film. Wilson began his career working for J. Arthur Rank in 1946 and, in 1950, came to the United States, where he was soon working for Walt Disney. He created his own company, Fine Arts Films, in 1954. A Jan 1969 DV article announced that Fine Arts would be making an animated version of archy and mehitabel that would contain a live-action sequence before the opening credits. Most of the actors who performed voice-over for the final film were already cast, among them, Channing and Bracken [misspelled in the article as Bradan]. The article also stated that Ed Sullivan, who was reported to have co-written the script with Wilson, would be the voice of the “narrator.” However, neither Sullivan nor Wilson is credited onscreen for the script and the contribution of Sullivan, who did not perform in the film, has not been determined. A Jan 1969 Film-TV Daily news item reported that Howard Morris was cast, but it is unlikely that he performed in the film. Alan Reed, Sr., who portrayed “Bill” in the movie, was well known for giving voice to “Fred Flintstone” in the animated television series The Flintstones.
       According to a May 1969 LAT article, Wilson first dubbed and pre-scored the soundtrack before the animators created the characters, and then transferred the eight-track to 35mm film, which was contrary to the usual method of adding the soundtrack after the animation was completed. In an Apr 1969 DV news item, Wilson explained that he attached a 60-cycle synch pulse at the edge of the eight-track to avoid slippage during the transfer. According to the May 1969 LAT article, the animation crew admitted they were partially influenced by Yellow Submarine (see below), the 1968 animated film featuring psychedelic animation and Beatles music. As noted in the Evening Tribune (San Diego, CA), the backgrounds in different segments of Shinbone Alley were drawn in varied artistic styles to create different moods. For example, the ladybugs sequence was drawn in a 1960s pop art style and the sequence depicting Mehitabel's attempts at a domestic life as a housecat was drawn in a surreal style. The drawings of the characters remained constant throughout regardless of the style of the background, except in Archy’s dream sequence, which was created with a technique used by Herriman in the Archy books. As noted in press releases, one of the goals of the film was to restore animated films to “an adult level of artistic achievement.”
       Shinbone Alley had its premiere at the Atlanta International Film Festival, where it won the grand prize, the Golden Phoenix award. A Jun 1985 Var article stated that Video Gems obtained a temporary injunction against Fine Arts Films and the video company Scimitar, charging them with distributing videocassette copies in violation of Video Gems's exclusive contract. The federal court judge issued a writ of seizure allowing Video Gems to take possession of all the Shinbone Alley tapes held by the two companies.

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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
20 Jul 1970
---
Christian Science Monitor
2 May 1969
p. 6
Daily Variety
28 Jan 1969
p. 24
Daily Variety
3 Apr 1969
p. 8
Daily Variety
10 Apr 1969
---
Daily Variety
24 Apr 1969
---
Daily Variety
9 May 1969
p. 4
Daily Variety
10 Oct 1969
---
Daily Variety
23 Jun 1970
---
Daily Variety
22 Jul 1970
---
Daily Variety
26 Mar 1971
---
Evening Tribune (San Diego, CA)
18 Oct 1969
Section A, p. 11
Filmfacts
1971
pp. 466-68
Film-TV Daily
23 Jan 1969
---
Hollywood Reporter
10 Jan 1969
---
Hollywood Reporter
14 Feb 1969
p. 14
Hollywood Reporter
9 May 1969
---
Hollywood Reporter
12 Sep 1969
p. 11
Hollywood Reporter
8 Apr 1971
---
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
18 Jun 1971
Section B, p. 5
Los Angeles Times
9 May 1969
p. 1, 12
Los Angeles Times
17 Jun 1971
---
Motion Picture Exhibitor
7 Apr 1971
p. 7, 10
Motion Picture Herald
19 May 1971
---
New York
12 Apr 1971
---
New York Times
8 Apr 1971
p. 32
New Yorker
17 Apr 1971
---
Star-News Panorama (Pasadena, CA)
6 Jul 1969
Section C, p. 1
Time
12 Apr 1971
p. 93
Variety
1 Oct 1969
---
Variety
5 Jan 1970
p. 17
Variety
31 Mar 1971
p. 6
Variety
12 Jun 1985
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Supv dir
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Prod des
Prod des
Prod des
Prod des
Prod des
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
SOUND
Re-rec supv
Rec eng
Transfer eng
PRODUCTION MISC
Anim story cont
Anim story cont
Anim story cont
Anim story cont
Prod coord
Checking
Final checking
Anim checking
ANIMATION
Layouts and backgrounds
Layouts and backgrounds
Layouts and backgrounds
Layouts and backgrounds
Margaret Nichols
Layouts and backgrounds
Layouts and backgrounds
Layouts and backgrounds
Layouts and backgrounds
Layouts and backgrounds
layout
Constance Crawley
Ink and paint
Anim
Anim
Anim
Asst anim
Asst anim
Asst anim
Asst anim
Asst anim
Asst anim
Asst anim
Asst anim
Asst anim
Asst anim
Asst anim
Asst anim
Asst anim
Asst anim
Asst anim
Asst anim
Asst anim
Asst anim
Asst anim
Addl backgrounds
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the musical play Shinbone Alley by Joe Darion and Mel Brooks (New York, 13 Apr 1957), which was based on characters created by Don Marquis for his column "The Sun Dial" in the New York Evening Sun (New York, 1916--1930).
LITERARY SOURCE AUTHORS
SONGS
"I Am Only a Poor Humble Cockroach," "Blow Wind Out of the North," "Cheerio My Deario ( Toujours Gai )," "Ah, the Theatre, the Theatre," "What Do We Care if We're Down and Out?" "The Moth Song," "Lullaby for Mehitabel's Kittens," "The Shinbone Alley Song," "The Lightning Bug Song," "Here Pretty Pretty Pussy," "Ladybugs of the Evening," "Archy's Philosophies," "They Don't Have It Here," "Romeo and Juliet" and "Come to Meeoww," music by George Kleinsinger, lyrics by Joe Darion.
SONGWRITER/COMPOSER
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Archy and Mehitabel
Release Date:
April 1971
Premiere Information:
Premiere at Atlanta Film Festival: 26 Jun 1970; New York opening: 7 Apr 1971
Production Date:
mid Feb--mid Sep 1969
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Eastman Color
Animation
Duration(in mins):
83-84
MPAA Rating:
G
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

In New York City, a poet commits suicide by jumping off a bridge, and to his dismay, is reincarnated as a cockroach named Archy. Realizing that as a cockroach, he is acquainted with all the little insects and animals that he never knew before, Archy feel comfortable with his life in Shinbone Alley, his new neighborhood. A philosophical fellow, Archy concludes that he has been “transmigrated” into a cockroach and that he used to be a poet who felt like a cockroach, and now is a cockroach who feels like a poet. After entering a newspaper office one night, Archy begins to type a message on the typewriter by jumping from key to key, which amuses his insect friends. Because he is unable to work the shift key, his missive is entirely in lowercase letters, but his words reflect the observations of a deep thinker. He asks the reporter who uses the typewriter by day to put paper in the typewriter every night and leave apple peelings for him to eat, offering in exchange to type exclusive stories about his back alley world. For his efforts, Archy says, he needs neither credit nor salary, but only the right to create his “immortal poetry.” An important alliance is thus formed, the first in newspaper history, between the cockroach and the reporter, as Archy writes about the city from its underside. One of the stories he writes about is that of a sexy cat, Mehitabel, whose heart has been broken a thousand times, and who insists she is the reincarnation of Cleopatra. Archy writes that, despite her hard life, she continues to sing and ...

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In New York City, a poet commits suicide by jumping off a bridge, and to his dismay, is reincarnated as a cockroach named Archy. Realizing that as a cockroach, he is acquainted with all the little insects and animals that he never knew before, Archy feel comfortable with his life in Shinbone Alley, his new neighborhood. A philosophical fellow, Archy concludes that he has been “transmigrated” into a cockroach and that he used to be a poet who felt like a cockroach, and now is a cockroach who feels like a poet. After entering a newspaper office one night, Archy begins to type a message on the typewriter by jumping from key to key, which amuses his insect friends. Because he is unable to work the shift key, his missive is entirely in lowercase letters, but his words reflect the observations of a deep thinker. He asks the reporter who uses the typewriter by day to put paper in the typewriter every night and leave apple peelings for him to eat, offering in exchange to type exclusive stories about his back alley world. For his efforts, Archy says, he needs neither credit nor salary, but only the right to create his “immortal poetry.” An important alliance is thus formed, the first in newspaper history, between the cockroach and the reporter, as Archy writes about the city from its underside. One of the stories he writes about is that of a sexy cat, Mehitabel, whose heart has been broken a thousand times, and who insists she is the reincarnation of Cleopatra. Archy writes that, despite her hard life, she continues to sing and dance “ toujours gai .” Sometimes Archy worries that she is too exuberant and should find a job as a well-bred house cat, but Mehitabel finds his morality annoying. When two tomcats, led by a feline named Big Bill, return to Shinbone Alley after being away on the prowl, Bill and Mehitabel resume their once-broken affair. Mehitabel claims she is in love, but Archy thinks she has a predilection for tomcats. For his interfering, Archy is flicked away by the randy couple. While worrying about Mehitabel, Archy pours out his heart in his writings and reports on his brief acquaintance with a moth who fried himself on a lightbulb in order to see the secret heart of a flame. When the abusive Bill breaks up with Mehitabel, she returns to Shinbone Alley the worse for wear, engendering the gossip of the neighborhood felines. Archy tries to reason with Mehitabel, saying that her morals are the "lowest, loosest and limpest," but she counters that she has never claimed to have any. Although Mehitabel reports that she left Bill, Archy doubts that she has ever left a tomcat. When she argues that she left her lover Ralph, Archy reminds her that the cat was dead at the time. Despite her anger, Mehitabel eventually admits that she treats Archy badly, but, in the end, he is always right. She says that although he is an ugly bug and she a glamorous and irresistible cat, they are both “flotsam and jetsam on the sea of life.” Archy almost has her convinced to get a job as a house cat, when Tyrone T. Tattersall, an old and frayed-looking impresario cat, comes to the alley and offers to make Mehitabel a star. Although Archy warns that Tattersall is a phony, Mehitabel goes with him, leaving Archy behind. Feeling rejected and suicidal, Archy is almost run over by a car. He writes a letter to his “boss,” the reporter, and says goodbye to his friends, Freddy the rat and Harry the tarantula. He then jumps off the window ledge, but flutters safely to the ground. His friends try to help by knocking an ink bottle over on him as he again jumps over the ledge, but, again, the wind gently drops Archy to safety. When he tries to spray himself with pesticide, he accidentally kills George the fly. At a billiards parlor, Archy chases balls in the hope of being crushed, until the players see him and sweep him into a trash can. There he encounters Bill, who starts to bully him, but when Archy begs to be killed, the cat refuses to cooperate. When Bill wonders aloud what has Archy so depressed, the cockroach explains that Mehitabel went off with Tattersall. Meanwhile, Tattersall has taken Mehitabel to a theater to train her in Method acting. Tattersall begins to mistreat Mehitabel, and as Archy and Bill secretly watch, the impresario reminisces about better actors while coaching Mehitabel in Romeo and Juliet . When she performs her lines as a burlesque routine, he is troubled by her amateurish performance and longs to get away from her. He orders her out, but she sends him away instead and then allows Bill to seduce her. Kicked away when he tries to remind Mehitabel about Bill's previous rejections, Archy tries to deny his feelings for her. In a dream, he fantasizes that he starts an insect revolution by declaring war on the human race, delivering rousing speeches to recruit the bugs by reminding them how they have been persecuted. Later, when Mehitabel inevitably returns to Shinbone Alley, she has a litter of kittens. She tries to drown them during a thunderstorm, but, with Archy’s unwanted help, saves them. As the north wind blows, Mehitabel reluctantly agrees that it is winter, and following Archy’s advice, takes a job as a respectable house cat in a high-rent district. Archy is at first pleased with himself for making Mehitabel respectable and continues to write stories, one of which concerns a lightning bug he meets. However, Mehitabel’s life of ease is not to her taste, and although she submits to being fawned over and petted, she longs to claw the furniture. Annoyed that everyone goes to bed at nine o’clock, she struggles to keep her kittens out of trouble. On the pretext of writing a story about life in high society, Archy slips in through the keyhole, but Mehitabel tells him that cockroaches are not allowed in the house, as they are “too middle-class.” Before leaving tearfully, he reminds her that he is a cockroach cum laude and has relatives in Buckingham Palace, prompting Mehitabel, for the first time, to feel remorse for hurting another's feelings. Outside in the cold, Archy gets drunk on the dregs of a whisky bottle and considers picking a fight with Bill, but becomes frightened by his own shadow. Stumbling along, he enters a bordello of ladybugs, who try to rob him, but who are disappointed to find that all he has in his pockets are poems about Mehitabel. When he awakens, Bill is there, complaining that Archy has turned Mehitabel into a “pussycat.” Admitting that he ruined Mehitabel by taking away her pride, Archy decides that cockroaches should not play with destiny. Archy is longing for the way it used to be, when, to his surprise, Mehitabel, preferring her old life, returns and is welcomed by all the stray cats of Shinbone Alley. Philosophically, Archy says that he cannot blame her for being what she has to be and, glad that she is his friend, admits that she is “just plain wonderful.”

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Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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