Popeye and Olive Oyl in A DATE TO SKATE (1938) – Squeals on wheels

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(WARNING: Major spoilers abound!)

Popeye and Olive Oyl are out on a date when they come across a skating rink with another of those silly Fleischer come-on signs: “Good Skates, 50 Cents – Cheap Skates, 25 Cents.” Much to Olive’s reluctance, Popeye offers to teach her how to skate.

The first obstacle at the rink is when the clerk asks for Olive’s shoe size. The camera does a priceless pan across Olive’s elongated tootsies as she mutters, “I’ll take a three-and-a-half, but an eight feels so good.” (Do they come in sixteens?) Popeye demonstrates his courtly charm by pounding the skates onto Olive’s feet in the same way he did his work in Shoein’ Hosses.

Once they get on the rink, the animators have a field day. Watching surprisingly smooth Popeye and gawky Olive go through their motions — is this the same couple who danced so fluidly in Morning, Noon and Night Club? — is a cinematic pleasure right up there with Charlie Chaplin’s The Rink. And after seeing three people pass for a crowd in Let’s Celebrake, it’s a treat to see the lavish, fully realized skating rink in which Popeye and Olive contort.

The rink’s fun doesn’t last for long, though, because Popeye accidentally knocks Olive out of the rink, and she goes skating for her life through city streets. Popeye can’t find his day-saving can of spinach (never leave home without it!), so he asks the movie audience if there’s any to spare, and a moviegoer helpfully throws him a can. (Is that what it cost to get into a movie theater in 1938?)

Popeye and Olive spend about ten miles skating within a breath of each other before they finally crash. Popeye asks if she’s hurt, and with a kid’s enthusiasm, she replies: “Let’s do it again!”

Utterly charming, and with nary a Bluto in sight.

On a rating scale of 1 to 4 spinach cans, I give this cartoon: CanCanCanCan

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