Vintage Cartoon Scares: ‘Felix The Ghostbreaker’ (1923)

Today’s spooky/silly cartoon features one of the most popular (and still recognisable) animated characters of the silent film era – Felix the Cat. First introduced to the big screen in the immediate aftermath of World War One, and possibly based on an earlier animated version of Charlie Chaplin, this cheeky and slightly surreal black and white cat was an immediate success with critics and the cinema-going public alike.

In this 1923 short, Felix encounters a ghost who is up to no good. Following the spook, he sees it scare an unsuspecting householder and the man’s livestock. The householder calls out the reserves to rescue his property from the ghost, but that doesn’t work – so Felix offers to try to lure the ghost away with a bottle of rum! Once the phantom is off the property, Felix pulls a gun on it and, in a reveal worthy of Scooby Doo, we discover it is really a human rival of the householder who is trying to scare him into selling his home…

Once his ghostbusting days were done, Felix the Cat went on to become a twentieth century pop culture icon. Unsurprisingly, his popularity meant he had many later imitators. He could be described as a fairly early example of the heavy modern marketing we are so familiar with today – all sorts of Felix merchandise was produced and he was often used as a mascot (especially by American servicemen and aviators during the inter-war years).

He also starred in his own comic strip, films, and TV show, and has had a number of songs written about him. His continued longevity is shown by his cameo performance alongside many other classic twentieth century cartoon characters (and Bob Hoskins, of course!) in the 1988 film Who Framed Roger Rabbit? And he’s still going into the internet age – a quick google will reveal his own wiki and official website. Long live Felix!

Skull and Crossbones

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