EDITOR’S NOTE: This post is the first in a new series of weekly articles by Greg Ehrbar that will examine classic record albums and recordings based on animated series, specials, features and well-known characters. Greg’s expertise in this area is unmatched – and his archives are quite deep. I look forward to discovering many great tunes and reading Greg’s insights here in the weeks to come. - Jerry Beck
JACK AND THE BEANSTALK STARRING GENE KELLY
Original TV Sound Track from the Hanna-Barbera TV Special
Hanna-Barbera Records HLP-8511 (Mono/1967) / HST-9511 (Stereo/1967)
51 West (Columbia) Records Q-16101 (Mono Only/1980 Reissue)
HBR A&R Supervision: Tom Ayres. TV Special Producer/Director: Gene Kelly. Executive Producers: William Hanna, Joseph Barbera. Music: James Van Heusen. Lyrics: Sammy Cahn. Arranged and Conducted by Lennie Hayton. Teleplay: Larry Markes, Michael Morris. Editor: Tony Milch. Cover Art: Mo Gollub, Paul Julian. Typographic Design: Robert Schaefer.
Voices: Gene Kelly (Narrator, Jeremy Keen); Bobby Riha (Jack), Janet Waldo (Princess Serena speaking voice, Jack’s Mother); Marni Nixon (Princess Serena singing voice); Dick Beals (Jack singing voice); Ted Cassidy (The Giant); Chris Allen (Mouse); Leo DeLyon and Cliff Norton (Woggle Birds).
Songs: “Half Past April and A Quarter to May,” “A Tiny Bit of Faith,” “One Starry Moment,” “It’s Been Nice,” “The Woggle Bird Song,” “Stiffen Up Your Upper Lip,” “One Starry Moment (Reprise)”.
Airing Sunday night, February 26, 1967 on NBC, Jack and the Beanstalk was Hanna-Barbera’s first live-action/animated TV special. It was also one of the last in the catalog of the much sought after Hanna-Barbera Records (collector’s note: it is not part of the “Cartoon Series,” but instead, like HBR’s Swingin’ Summer sound track, it was not necessarily marketed as a children’s record. It’s historic importance – being the work of Gene Kelly, Lennie Hayton, Sammy Cahn and James Van Heusen – merits a CD reissue, but we can only keep hoping at this point.
The special itself won an Emmy Award but was a troubled production (some dodgy process work displeased Gene Kelly). However, no expense was spared to mount the outstanding score by Cahn and Van Heusen (“Swinging On a Star,” “All the Way” and other hits for Frank Sinatra and more). The musical direction by Kelly’s longtime MGM collaborator Hayton is just as lavish as any big screen Hollywood musical of the golden days.
Another positive note is that writers Larry Markes and Michael Morris (The Andy Griffith Show, Bewitched, The Flying Nun) nicely fleshed out the simple fairy tale with a romantic twist as well as an army of mice (which made for a high-kicking chorus line).
Dick Beals told me that Hanna and Barbera originally planned to use Bobby Riha’s voice for the songs. Dissatisfied with the results, Beals was asked to loop the singing after the film was shot. With H-B permission, Beals announced his performance in a Variety ad. Mrs. Riha was livid, as she wanted to market her son as an all-around talent. The following year, Bobby Riha’s actual voice was heard on some songs in Disney’s The One & Only, Genuine, Original Family Band, but he was essentially talking or singing in a group in that musical film.
The Jack and the Beanstalk sound track album has a beautifully designed gatefold that opens up to 12” x 24” cover art (the front cover also appeared on the VHS release). The cover notes incorrectly list a song called “I Sure Hate Love,” which apparently was to be sung by Jack instead of Jeremy and Serena’s reprise of “One Starry Moment.” The song does not appear in the special or on the record. It was likely deleted too late for the album cover to be revised.
Two selections from the Hanna-Barbera music library are also on the record, heard as the giant chases Jack and Jeremy down the beanstalk. My guess is that it is from Ted Nichols’ score for 1966’s The Man Called Flintstone. Interestingly, it’s in stereo, which means some of the library music we heard for years in Hanna-Barbera cartoons in mono was actually recorded, but not presented, in stereo.
The stereo LP sounds magnificent, even though it seems to have been recorded without positioning the orchestra to take advantage of two channels. Rather, it sounds spread out in the center, certainly superior to the mono version, which unfortunately was the master used for the lower-fidelity 51 West (Columbia) Records reissue.
NOTE TO WARNER ARCHIVE: Please please please please please release Jack and the Beanstalk on DVD. I’ll even send you a big tin of tasty cookies, made from scratch.
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“The Woggle Bird Song”
If you’re familiar with the finished special, the dance arrangement of this tango contains a flamenco section—but on the record album, the same section is instead a groovy ‘60s go-go beat. Perhaps the flamenco was considered less likely to become dated and of course, it is. Kelly sings with Cliff Norton (Bewitched, Where’s Huddles) and Leo DeLyon (Top Cat, The Jungle Book).