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Porky's Road Race is one of the Warner Brothers' Cartoons that profited from caricatures of popular actors. As cartoons go, it is not that interesting except for a brief passage beginning at 4:39.

There John Barrymore is fleeing and being vigorously pursued by his wife Elaine Barrie. Barrymore's car bears the inscription Caliban and Barrie's Ariel (it is also rigged with a small antenna by way of an Etruscan rebus). She is shouting at him, "Come Back Caliban! I want you! Come here Caliban!" while spinning a rope over her head preparing to lasso him. 

Ariel in love with Caliban (Titiania and Bottom style) is a very strange conceit. I thought at first it must have been in reference to some version of The Tempest they had done, but there is no such film and as far as the internet knows, Barrymore never starred in a stage production of the play. Also, the only film they made together was Midnight which does not seem to exploit themes from The Tempest and, in any case, was only released two years after the cartoon.

Now the cartoon was directed by Frank Tashlin, who went on to make one of the very best of the Hollywood animated shorts--Nasty Quacks--and then shifted to live action films, most notably Tony Randal's and Jerry Lewis' 1950s films, so I allowed myself to think of explanations of some subtly. Possibly the scene plays on some personal scandal in the actors' private lives that became a prominent feature of the gossip magazines of the day (though its hard to imagine Barrymore successfully likened to Caliban). Or, perhaps more interestingly, in his own private life, Tashlin liked to scuttle around the bedroom floor in a Caliban suit while his 'Ariel' lassoed and hog-tied him.

But I remain open to suggestions.

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