Clean Pastures is a Merrie Melodies animated cartoon directed by I. Freleng, produced by Leon Schlesinger, and released to theatres on May 22, 1937 by Warner Bros. and Vitaphone. The cartoon is a parody of Warner Bros.’ 1936 film, The Green Pastures. It tells of an ersatz Heaven called “Pair-O-Dice” and its angels’ efforts to win souls from “Hades Inc.” A Stepin Fetchit caricature fails to recruit any souls in Harlem, New York City. However, jazz-singing angels incorporate “rhythm” into the pitch, and Harlem’s African Americans follow them as they dance their way to Heaven.
Schlesinger and Warner Bros. had problems with Clean Pastures from the start. Hollywood censors alleged that the film ran afoul of the Hays Production Code because it burlesqued religion. Later commentators surmise that the censors also objected to the portrayal of a Heaven run by African Americans. In 1968, the short’s stereotypical portrayal of black characters prompted United Artists to withhold it from distribution as one of the infamous Censored Eleven.
Modern critics have been no kinder to the film and cite its portrayal of black characters as offensive and reliant on negative stereotypes. Musicologist Daniel Goldmark interprets the film as a send-up of black religion and culture and the increasing identification of 1930s white audiences of jazz music with black culture. Religion scholar Judith Weisenfeld sees Clean Pastures as a metaphor for the replacement of rural, minstrel show stereotypes of blacks for modern, urban ones. —wikipedia
Friz Freleng began animating cartoons with Hugh Harman and Ub Iwerks at United Film Ad Service in the mid-1920s, then moved with his associates to the Disney studios. Freleng left Disney in 1929 and after directing his first cartoon for Walter Lantz at Universal (Wicked West), joined the Warner Brothers animation department. There his black-and-white cartoons of the mid-‘30s showed a special flair for integrating music and action, especially in his “Bosko” series. Freleng began directing Warners’ color series of Merrie Melodies cartoons in 1934 and over the next three decades made many of Warners’ funniest cartoons, creating such memorable characters as Yosemite Sam (said to be a self-caricature) and Speedy Gonzalez, as well as developing the identities of such iconic figures as Porky Pig (Porky’s Hired Hand), Bugs Bunny (Racketeer Rabbit, Rhapsody Rabbit), Daffy Duck (Ain’t That Ducky), and Sylvester and Tweety (Tweetie Pie, Birds Anonymous). After Warners’ cartoon unit folded, Freleng… read more