My, my… the Fleischer version of Gulliver’s Travels was a musical giant, resulting in popular hit parade tunes and several fascinating recordings that span over 50 years.
The Complete Musical Score
Victor Young and His Orchestra and Max Terr’s Choristers
Decca Records Album #100 (4 Discs / 10” 78 RPM / Mono / 1939 / 22 minutes)
Singing Voices: Clarence Badger (Gabby); Harry Stafford (King Little); Wynne Davis (Princess Glory); Bob Stevens (Prince David); The Modernettes.
Speaking Voice: Ernest Newton (Gabby).
Songs: “All’s Well,” “We’re All Together Now,” “Bluebirds in the Moonlight (Silly Idea),” “Faithful,” “Forever,” “Faithful Forever,” “I Hear a Dream” by Ralph Rainger and Leo Robin; “It’s a Hap-Hap-Happy Day” by Al J. Neiburg, Sammy Timberg and Winston Sharples.
Even after seeing the 1939 Fleischer version of Gulliver’s Travels many times in theaters, on TV, and on numerous iterations on VHS and DVD, until I watched the new Thunderbean Fleischer Classics Blu-ray. Now I’ve seen it—and heard it. Both my wife and I (we each grew up watching the film) could not believe how good it looked and sounded.
The Blu-ray is also a goldmine of bonus features, including eight shorts (two with Gabby), the Good News radio program in which the film is dramatized (and tied to WWII), and best of all, the Decca song album plus two singles Guy Lombardo—well worth the price of the disc in themselves (the DVD contains identical bonus features).
There never was a soundtrack album of Gulliver’s Travels. That’s kind of surprising since Disney and Victor had already introduced soundtrack records with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Gulliver had two big-name singers of the day: Lanny Ross and Jessica Dragonette (as in Stan Freberg’s “St. George and the…”). We can still hope that the archived soundtrack elements can be restored and digitized for a future album (along with Mr. Bug Goes to Town).
Until that golden day, the Decca album is the best of the bunch. Never reissued on LP, the 78 rpm set contains all the songs, conducted by Victor Young, who was nominated for an Oscar for Gulliver’s “atmospheric music.” The songs are re-orchestrated to stand on their own individually. All the songs had some degree of success, with “It’s a Hap-Hap-Happy Day” becoming a Famous Studios cartoon staple. But neither Paramount nor Fleischer had the infrastructure for marketing their movie songs that Disney did.
(Click album interiors below to enlarge)
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
Florida-born Ernie Newton, who does the speaking lines for Gabby, also sang for Boo-Boo in Hey There’s It’s Yogi Bear and voiced Pierre in Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room. Record collectors may also know his appearances on Decca’s weird Seven Dreams LP and as the “second cast” singer for Walter Brennan’s character on Disneyland’s One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band (DQ/STER-1316).
SONGS AND SCENES FROM GULLIVER’S TRAVELS
Narrated by Craig McDonnell
Arranged by Helen E. Meyers
RCA Bluebird Records BC-23 (4 Discs / 10” 78 RPM / Mono / 1940 / 19 minutes)
Songs: “All’s Well,” “Bluebirds in the Moonlight (Silly Idea),” “Faithful,” “Forever,” “Faithful Forever,” “I Hear a Dream” by Ralph Rainger and Leo Robin; “It’s a Hap-Hap-Happy Day” by Al J. Neiburg, Sammy Timberg and Winston Sharples.
It would have been nice if RCA had introduced the soundtrack dialogue record format with this album (they did it with Shirley Temple’s Bambi album). Instead, Craig McDonnell (star of radio’s Official Detective and David Harum) narrates and does the voices while a small group sings the songs with music provided mostly by piano.
It’s pleasant listening once the initial disappointment sets in. The script adaptation is faithful (Forever!) to the film and adds some clever touches. When Columbia released its live-action Three Worlds of Gulliver in 1960, their Colpix record label presented a narrated soundtrack dialogue version (which includes Sherry Alberoni of the Mickey Mouse Club and Josie and the Pussycats). If only RCA had given the same treatment to Gulliver 20 years earlier.
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Songs And Scenes From Gulliver’s Travels, Parts 1-4”
Sorry, I only have the first two discs, but this should give you an idea of what the whole thing sounds like.
THE CLASSIC FILM MUSIC OF VICTOR YOUNG
(Gulliver’s Travels Selections)
William T. Stromberg and The Moscow Symphony Orchestra
Marco Polo Records 8.225063 (Compact Disc / Stereo / 1997 / 17 minutes)
Currently available on iTunes.
(Album also includes music from The Greatest Show on Earth, The Uninvited, Bright Leaf.)
Produced by Betta International. Engineers: Edvard Shaknazarian, Vitaly Ivanov. Editor: Lyubov Volosyuk. Music Notes: Bill Whitaker. Liner Notes: John Morgan.
Selections: “Prelude / The Scroll and Storm,” “Pussyfoot March,” “Giant in Tow,” “Gabby and the King / The Tower / The Archers,” “Finale.”
Is it not awe-inspiring, after years of watching Gulliver’s Travels, to hear music from the film in glorious stereophonic digital sound with a full orchestra and chorus? Of course it is. With loving care, the original score was restored and re-performed to sound as it would have in 1939 had the technology allowed.
Of course, a full-length reproduction of the entire score would be the ideal. Gulliver boasts songs and score worthy of complete reproduction using today’s audio capabilities. Victor Young, who scored Gulliver early in his film career, went on to work on records for the biggest stars of the era and classic movies like The Quiet Man and For Whom the Bell Tolls. He was nominated for 22 Oscars, finally winning posthumously for Around the World in 80 Days.
Another Academy Award nominee was “Faithful Forever” (losing to The Wizard of Oz and “Over the Rainbow,” no less). Principal songwriters Robin and Rainger were also notable for numerous film and show songs, including “Thanks for the Memory” and “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.”
Until that time, we have this fine recording to enjoy, as well as the new Blu-ray/DVD set with its vastly improved sound quality to bring this fine music into our lives again.
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Prelude / The Scroll and Storm”
The beautifully reproduced opening interpolates “I Hear a Dream,” “Faithful,” “All’s Well,” “Bluebirds in the Moonlight,” “We’re All Together Now,” “Forever,” “It’s a Hap-Hap-Happy Day” and a few more notes of “I Hear a Dream” before heading into the “atmospheric” section.