The Art of Poetry Film with Cheryl Gross: Poetry Film in its Infancy

from Two Too Young
poem: “The Charge Of The Light Brigade” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, performed by Carl Switzer
directed by Gordon Douglas
1936

In my quest to find the perfect video poem I stumbled upon a wonderful piece that brought me back to my childhood: “The Charge Of The Light Brigade” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, as performed by Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer. Could this be the early days or even perhaps the first poetry film?

When I was a child the preferred baby sitter in our house was the TV. Back then morning television was limited to Farmer Grey cartoons, and reruns of The Little Rascals.

The Our Gang/Little Rascals version of “The Charge Of The Light Brigade” may not actually be the first poetry film, but it does have a place. Strictly humorous, watered down and marginalized, for many it was our first exposure to the art form better known as pop culture. I assume the intention was not to spark a new genre, however producer and creator Hal Roach did just that. If not the first at least he played a role in the development of video/film poetry. Unintentionally history or film poetry history was made.

This particular YouTube version includes some of my favorite actors: Spanky McFarland, June Marlowe (Miss Crabtree) and Eugene Gordon Lee (Porky.)

Not to stray too far off topic, Warner Brothers had a part in introducing young minds to this satiric (distorted) form of our art as well. What’s Opera Doc? from what I can remember is probably my first opera. I got hooked not only on the music but it assisted in deepening my appreciation for the art of animation, hence my love of video poetry.

Wagner’s Siegfried starring Elmer Fudd as the titular hero and Bugs Bunny as Brunhilde. Elmer is again hunting rabbits as they sing, dance and eat the scenery. For me it’s a walk down memory lane:

What’s Opera, Doc?
directed by Chuck Jones
screenplay by Michael Maltese
voice actors: Mel Blanc and Arthur Q. Bryan
1957

Cheryl Gross

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Cheryl Gross (website, blog) is an illustrator, painter, writer, and motion graphic artist living and working in the New York/Jersey City area. She is a professor at Pratt Institute (where she received her MFA) and Bloomfield College. Her work has appeared in numerous festivals and publications as well as gracing the walls of many galleries, corporate and museum collections. “I equate my work with creating and building an environment, transforming my inner thoughts into reality. Beginning with the physical process, I work in layers. I am involved in solving visual and verbal complexities such as design and narrative. My urban influence has indeed added an ‘edge’ to my work.” Cheryl has often been compared to “Dr. Seuss on crack.”

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