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Brotherly Love

Original release date: March 6, 1936

The cartoon begins with a meeting of the Women's Brotherly Love Society at Patterson Square Garden (obviously Madison Square Garden in New York). The Society's president, Olive Oyl, sings the title song (and a lovely song it is, by Sammy Timberg) on a radio broadcast. When she asks on-air, "Are you listening, Popeye?", we find that he is indeed listening while eating at a café.

Let us briefly pause to consider this milieu. Olive Oyl, the most fickle female that at least two sailors have had the displeasure to court, is now telling everyone to love thy neighbor. Popeye, whose massive forearms didn't get that way from lifting tea cups at Sunday socials, now accepts Olive's concept with nary a shrug. And viewers think the Fleischers' visuals are otherworldly.

But for a time, all is right with the world. Popeye walks down the street seeing people in (relatively minor) need -- two workers who can't lift a heavy safe, two boys who can't afford admission to a ball game and have to view it through a peephole. Popeye helps them out and then happily jaunts down the street singing Olive's song. (He's probably most happy about having something other than his theme song to sing for a change.)

Of course, this idyll is too good to last. Popeye happens upon a scene straight out of Charlie Chaplin's Easy Street: two rival gangs duking it out in the middle of the street. In a pan shot, we even find that the gangs live just across the street from each other and have helpfully labeled their shanties with their gang names, "Gas House Boys" and "Boiler Makers Social Club." They might be tough, but at least they're organized. (But how did they overlook signing up Bluto for a membership?)

Popeye first tries the pacifist approach, singing Olive's song to the fighters. But with this group, The Beatles doing a live concert of "All You Need Is Love" wouldn’t be enough to get their attention. Popeye soon gets knocked out, as does Olive when she happens upon the melee.

Cue the spinach! Popeye rallies and determines to teach love to the group "my way." When Popeye knocks out the brutes, most of them end up unusually arm-in-arm, depicting a particular brand of brotherly love that probably even Olive never intended.

Popeye accidentally conks Olive and belts out a final bar of "Brotherly Love" as Olive stares black-eyed into the camera. Luckily, before we have time to consider what this means Olive is looking for in a relationship, the film fades out.

My rating: (the theme song earns the movie an extra half-can)

© 2007, Steve Bailey.

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