Tweed Lion

In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion reads the paper

The Legendary Sleepy Hollow

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“If we could but journey back to that remote period in American history when the city of Manhattan was but a market town, we would discover in the bosom of one of those spacious coves which indent the shores of the Hudson, the little village of Tarrytown. And just beyond, nestled deep in the low rolling hill, a sequestered glen. It’s a quiet peaceful place, and yet, somehow, foreboding.”

And with that mellifluous* introduction, Bing Crosby takes us into Disney’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

I first encountered this movie at elementary school. We were killing time on Halloween, so someone fired up the 16 mm projector and told us all to sit “Indian style” on the floor. The movie was okay. Better than school. I was mildly amused and festively scared.

“He was tall, but exceedingly lank, with narrow shoulders, long arms and legs, hands that dangled a mile out of his sleeves, feet that might have served for shovels, and his whole frame most loosely hung together.”

“His head was small, and flat at top, with huge ears, large green glassy eyes, and a long snipe nose, so that it looked like a weather-cock, perched upon his spindle neck, to tell which way the wind blew. He is tall, skinny, with a huge nose like a beak, and huge feet like a webbed duck’s. ”

And that was it for the next twenty years. Out of sight. Out of mind.

But when I read the story (highly recommended) as an adult, I kept having images from the cartoon pop vividly into my head. Apparently the film had stuck with me far more than I would’ve supposed. And, what was even more impressive, the images tattooed in my mind were brilliant adaptations of Irving’s written word.

I knew I had to see that movie again. I spent the rest of the night driving to video stores and Barnes & Nobles locations (because the internet was still in the AOL and Juno days). After three hours of driving and calling, at 10:00 PM, I had a copy in my hands.

It was pure gold.

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The animation is picturesque. The music is equal parts dulcet and catchy. The prose is refined and flowing. Bing’s narration and voice work belong in the Smithsonian. And the sexism is nearly forgivable.

But I’m not here to convert you. I’m here to share five knowledge nuggets to enhance your viewing pleasure. Next October sit down with your friends or family, and bust these out. People (but probably not women, children, or men) will be really impressed.

A Bing is Born. Bing Crosby’s real name was Harry Lillis Crosby, Jr. The name “Bing” came when he was six years old and a friend, inspired by a recurring piece in the local paper called “The Bingville Bugle,” started calling little Harry “Bingo from Bingville.” Eventually that mouthful was shortened to the most useful syllable.

Thanks Hitler. In the early 1940s the U.S. government asked Disney to start creating propaganda films to help drum up support for our involvement in WWII. Disney obliged and the studio no longer had the resources to create full-length features. So they started creating “package films,” which were usually a few shorts bundled and sold together. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, originally released as The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, was the last of the package films. (Two years later, Cinderella was released.) So without the Fuher, we might not have had Ichabod.

The Legend of the Legend. Some people will try to tell you that Disney banned The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Usually they will fault some conspiracy theory or count this as a casualty of “political correctness” (said with a sneer). Don’t believe them. The film was never banned; it was merely unavailable for distribution for a while. (Or is that just a cover story? I’m talking to you, internet conspiracy guy.)

Accept Substitutes. You may think it’s the Andrew Sisters accompanying Bing, but it’s actually the less-well-known Rhythmaires. (Or maybe you have no idea who the Andrews Sisters are, because you were born after 1940.)

Disney in the Details. Several studio animators left Disney after The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. They thought that Walt, known as persnickety, was too demanding and unrealistic, particularly in the final chase scene of the movie. (Sorry you had to stay late, fellas, but that chase scene is legit.)

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* I know, it’s obnoxious to use a $20 when a $5 one will do, but “mellifluous” was made for Bing Crosby. Seriously, I’m not even sure the word existed before Bing. If it did exist before, no one knew what it meant because no one had yet heard him.

For those of you not studying for the GRE, mellifluous means sweat, musical, or pleasant sounding. Its Latin translation would be “honey flow.” If you already knew what it mean, then, seriously, good on you, but don’t let it go to your head.

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Published on November 19, 2013 by .

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