Whoops, Mr Moto, I'm a coffee pot

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Whoops, Mr Moto, I'm a coffee pot

Post by Archived Topic » Mon Nov 01, 2004 3:10 am

This line occurs in the classic close-harmony workout "Java Jive" (The Ink-Spots, Manhattan Transfer). But what on earth does it mean? Who is Mr Moto, and why, whoops, am I a coffee pot? These questions deserve an answer, and I'm sure you culture vultures can help.
Submitted by Simon Beck (London - England)
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Whoops, Mr Moto, I'm a coffee pot

Post by Archived Reply » Mon Nov 01, 2004 3:25 am

Simon, Mr. Moto was the main character (played by Peter Lorre) in a series of detective movies made in the late 1930s. The series was probably produced to follow up on the success of the popular Charlie Chan films and took place in mostly exotic locations. However, with the onset of the strained relations with Japan building up to WW II, the series soon went kaput. My guess is that “Whoops, Mr. Moto, I’m a coffee pot” is a joking reference to someone in a disguise which would all be part of the intrigue that might be taking place in a coffee den (which by the way generally served as much booze as coffee in those days) in a detective story located in a far-off land.
___________________________

Ken G – March 24, 2004
Reply from Ken Greenwald (Fort Collins, CO - U.S.A.)
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Whoops, Mr Moto, I'm a coffee pot

Post by Archived Reply » Mon Nov 01, 2004 3:39 am

"I'm not a cabdriver, I'm a coffee pot!" - _Arsenic and Old Lace_

"Java Jive" was first released in 1940. AaOL opened on Broadway in Jan 1941 so was presumably written about the same time as JJ. Coincidence???
Reply from Russ Cable (Dallas, TX - U.S.A.)
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Post by Archived Reply » Mon Nov 01, 2004 3:53 am

Well, it looks to me as if "I'm a coffee pot" may have been a popular expression or catchphrase during the late 1930s. I wonder what it referred to, and where it originated. Can anyone find earlier examples of the phrase?
Reply from Simon Beck (London - England)
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Post by Archived Reply » Mon Nov 01, 2004 4:08 am

Anyone who says that he's a coffee-pot is just spouting nonsense.
Reply from Edwin Ashworth (Oldham - England)
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Post by Archived Reply » Mon Nov 01, 2004 4:22 am

Yes, he has no grounds to make such a claim.
Reply from Erik Kowal ( - England)
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Post by Archived Reply » Mon Nov 01, 2004 4:37 am

.. could it be the American translation of that classic English children's action rhyme >> "I'm a little teapot short and stout, Here's my handle, Here's my spout, Tip me over and pour me out." ..
Wizard of Oz, Australia. 30/03/04
Reply from Wizard of Oz (Newcastle - Australia)
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Post by Archived Reply » Mon Nov 01, 2004 4:51 am

...and presumably the limp-wristed result is the origin of "Camp Coffee"?
Reply from Simon Beck (London - England)
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Post by Archived Reply » Mon Nov 01, 2004 5:05 am

Wiz, U.N. Secretary-General Anan said the coffee version of that rhyme over and over when he was a kid – and thus his first name. Had he said the tea version he and the his male progeny might have been the namesake of a square (TIANANMEN!) in China. But as things turned out there, it was probably better that he preferred the Java rendition. (<:)

Ken – March 30, 2004
Reply from Ken Greenwald (Fort Collins, CO - U.S.A.)
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Post by Archived Reply » Mon Nov 01, 2004 5:20 am

Camp coffee is so named for its pole-stiffening properties.
Reply from Erik Kowal ( - England)
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Post by Archived Reply » Mon Nov 01, 2004 5:34 am

Peter Lorre, who starred in the role of Mr. Moto, also played an evil henchman in Arsenic & Old Lace (1944).

Cary Grant plays the main character, Mortimer, who pays a visit to the two sweet aunts who raised him. Uncle Ted, who also resides there, suffers under the delusion that he is Teddy Roosevelt, and has the habit of blowing a bugle and running up the stairs (San Juan Hill) crying "Charge!"

Mortimer discovers that his dear old aunts have taken up the charitable mission of taking in lonely old men as boarders, and then euthanizing them by offering them elderberry wine laced with poison so that their last moments on earth will be pleasant. 12 souls have thus been interred in the basement with the help of Uncle Ted, who assumes that they were Panama Canal workers who had died from malaria.

To make the situation worse, Mortimer's sadistic step-brother returns home with his sidekick Dr. Einstein (Peter Lorre) plus the corpse of his latest victim, to use the place as a temporary hideout and disposal venue. Mortimer arrives at the conclusion that he may have inherited his family's insanity. The cab driver arrives on the scene and witnesses the spectacle.

To his relief, Mortimer's aunts reveal to him that he is not related to them, and that his dying mother had asked them to raise him. They also tell him that his father was a sea cook. In the final scene, Mortimer triumphantly exclaims, "I am not a Brewster. I am the son of a sea cook! Charge!!" The taxi driver sarcastically quips, "I am not a taxi driver. I am a coffee pot."
Reply from Fred Siko (Florence - U.S.A.)
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Post by Archived Reply » Mon Nov 01, 2004 6:03 am

So is the line in the song a double reference to Peter Lorre? Was he somehow associated with coffee? Tea? Java? Jiving? I'm still mystified.
Reply from Simon Beck (London - England)
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Post by Archived Reply » Mon Nov 01, 2004 6:17 am

If Java Jive was released in 1940 before Arsenic and Old Lace opened In January 1941, it seems unlikely there is a relationship between Peter Lorre's Mr Moto, the taxi driver's reference to being a coffee pot, and the song Java Jive. But my, my, -- the references are so strong -- is it possible the dates are inaccurate. Everything points to Lorre and Arsenic and Old Lace. Meanwhile, remembering the song as well as I do (we sang it often), the words as sung were "Whoops Mr. Moto, I'm a coffee-ing pot," regardless of what was printed on paper. That is the way the Ink Spots sang it . . . and it is pretty exciting to sit here and sing it to myself after all these years!!

I love coffee, I love tea,
I love the java jive and it loves me.
Coffee and tea
And the jivin' and me,
A cupa cupa cupa cupa cup -- boys!

I love coffee sweet and hot,
Whoops, Mr. Moto, I'm a coffee-ing pot.
Slip me a shot
From that wonderful pot,
A cupa, cupa, cupa cupa, cup - boys!

Slip me a slug
From that wonderful mug,
And I'll cut a rug
Till I'm snug as a bug.
A slice of onion and a raw one-
Draw one!
Waiter, waiter, percolater!

I love coffee, I love tea . . . (and so on
Reply from Ruth Buekle (San Antonio - U.S.A.)
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Post by Archived Reply » Mon Nov 01, 2004 6:32 am

In the trivia section of IMDB (= Internet movie database) I found that Peter Lorre had also starred in the Broadway production of Arsenic and Old Lace (which premiered at the Fulton Theatre in 1941) as a sidekick of Mortimer's brother (played by Boris Karloff).
Reply from Fred Siko (Florence - U.S.A.)
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