NOTES FROM WILL FRIEDWALD
August 14, 2013 posted by Will Friedwald

“I Haven’t Got A Hat”

haventgotahat550


EDITOR’S NOTE: Last week on Stu’s Show, I was asked by Stu Shostack and Jeanine Kasun about the song “I Haven’t Got A Hat” – the song used in the 1935 Merrie Melodies cartoon that introduced Porky Pig to the world. Don Yowp immediately responded via Facebook with some good information about the tune he found in the old trade magazines. I went to my old colleague Will Friedwald – now an renown writer/historian of jazz music – for a little more background. The result: Here is what I hope will be the first of many posts about the songs and music in classic Hollywood cartoons. - Jerry Beck


I HAVEN’T GOT A HAT. (alternate title: “I’ll Tip My Hat”)
copyrighted: 1934
authors: Buddy Bernier & Bob (Robert D.) Emmerich
introduced in a musical short titled Georgie Price in “Tickets, Please” (released in March, 1935)

Most of the songs that were used as the titles of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies were hand-me-downs from Warner Bros. Features (“I’ve Got To Sing a Torch Song,” “Along Flirtation Walk” etc.) but there were a few that originated with the studio’s live action musical short subjects division: both “Bingo Crosbyana” (by Sanford Green) and “I Haven’t Got A Hat” began life this way, the latter being performed by singing trio The Three Sizzlers in a Vitaphone “Broadway Brevity” musical short titled Tickets, Please (released in March, 1935). Here is a rare excerpt from the film, courtesy of Vitaphone historian Ron Hutchinson:

You might say that this is what is known as a “lateral move,” but at the time, the cartoon department was at the absolute bottom of the studio’s food chain. For Warners in 1935, cartoons were still mere filler on theater programs. It wasn’t until a few years later that Warner Bros. would boast a regular cast of the best-loved animated characters in the world: Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig. And, not coincidentally, the latter cartoon star first saw the light of day – albeit in barely recognizable, embryonic form (both hatless and pants-less) – in this 1935 Merrie Melodies cartoon, I Haven’t Got A Hat.

I_Haven't_Got_a_Hat200The song itself had no life beyond these two short subjects appearances: it was published in 1934 by Remick Music Corp., NY, one of the publishing houses owned by Warner Bros. The sheet music cover (at right, click to enlarge) makes no mention of Tickets, Please, but it seems to have been used in that short at least a few months after the song came out. “I Haven’t Got A Hat” was never recorded commercially, although it’s gained a kind of after-the-fact immortality as being the title of the cartoon to introduce Porky Pig. Co-composer Buddy Bernier would have long careers in the music business, being responsible for two all-time jazz standards: “The Night Has a Thousand Eyes” (widely recorded by all the major modernists, including John Coltrane, Stan Getz, and Sonny Rollins), and “Poinciana” – Bernier would contribute the highly-successful English lyric to one of the most famous Brazilian songs ever.

The song takes up exactly 40 seconds in the cartoon: it’s sung by two little dogs in a school room talent show setting. They share the voice of Berneice Hansell (aka Bernice Hanson), who supplied all the voice tracks for the studio’s little cutie characters of the 1930s, although here she’s joined by a basso who, actually, gives the performance its humor – the contrast of his deep, profundo wordless notes against her trilly soprano, and the incongruous of that deep voice coming out of a tiny little dog. Likely, director Friz Freleng was compelled to build a cartoon around the song by the studio; the classroom concept probably derives from the song’s lyrics, which revolve around the rather arcane college tradition of prohibiting underclassmen from wearing hats. The sheet music cover, supplied to us by Vince Giordano, shows a hatless college boy (as indicated by his bushy raccoon coat) offering his hand to a well-dressed girl, hands in muff. Overall, you might think that it’s more of a song for 1924 than 1934 – who could afford to send their kid to university in the economic depths of 1934? Yet college songs and movies proliferated in the mid and late 1930s. (I guess no one could afford to go “Over the Rainbow” either.)

(Thanks to Ron Hutchinson, Vince Giordano, Jerry Beck and Don Yowp for contributing to this post)

Click thumbnails below to read the sheet music for I Haven’t Got A Hat:

I_Haven't_Got_a_Hat2I_Haven't_Got_a_Hat3I_Haven't_Got_a_Hat4I_Haven't_Got_a_Hat5

14 Comments

  • Will: Great story about the song! I’ll be looking forward to more like it in the near future!

  • Thanks, Will. I never knew where the song came from before. Honestly, I think the Freleng version is superior to the live action version.

    I’m looking forward to future articles by you here.

  • Awesome! I love this cartoon and song!

  • Avery did memorably use the song again a couple of years later, combined with Irv Spence’s animation of the Ratz Brothers, in “A Sunbonnet Blue”.

  • Boy, who doesn’t remember that clip? And thanks for the back story1

  • This could be fun.

  • Great article! Looking forward to more like this…

  • Hey Jerry, and Hiya Will. Greetings from Culver City, and a question…

    Maybe two or three hundred feet to my west as I type this is the former location of the Hal Roach recording studio
    where Paul Howard and His Quality Serenaders made their first recordings in 1929. On any given day I count these
    as either my first or second favorite set of records, the other being Andy Kirk’s Brunswicks, made at almost the same time
    in Kansas City…but that’s neither here nor there…

    The question is this: do you know if there’s any truth to the rumor that Paul Howard and the guys also made some soundtrack music for the Hal Roach shorts? And if so, whaddyaknow? And especially, if you know that it’s so and you know where it is, can we hear it too?

    Keep up the good work, gents!

  • I love the intersection of cartoons and vintage pop music. More like this would indeed be welcome. Thanks, guys!

  • By the way, the two pups singing were know as Ham and Ex (whatever happened to them ) and the cat is Beans…Porky was just a bit player.

  • I am very glad to see, Mr. Friedwald, that you’re going to be writing here. One of the first things I always looked for in the New York Sun was your column; my copy of Beck-and-Friedwald has been loved to death — a not uncommon fate for that book!

    Vince Giordano is a treasure, indeed, and kudos to him for producing that sheet music.

    If I may? There’s a song used a few times in WB cartoons, most notably “Don’t Look Now” (Avery, ’37), called “Hot Coffee.” It shows up, for example, when the Devil is getting out of his waffle-iron bed in that cartoon, and also shows up in “Tortoise Wins by a Hare” (Clampett, ca. 43). I would be very interested in your breakdown of that song like the one above. Which, needless to say, I enjoyed immensely.

    Welcome! And the inevitable cry of “more, please!”

  • BRAVO!

    There are a number of songs that are better known for their use in WB cartoons than in their original use (or, in at least one case, non-use). These include “Rhythm In The Bow” (another song originated in a short), “Beauty And The Beast”, and “Easy as Rolling Off A Log” (which was written for a Ross Alexander comedy feature, “Over The Goal”, but apparently wound up on the cutting-room floor, which seems to have been regularly swept by the cartoon staff!

    Others that come to mind: “I’m Singing Because I’m Gay” (try singing that with a straight face today!), “Let’s Rub Noses (Like The Eskimoses)”, and–going back near to the beginning of the “Merrie Melodies” series–”Hittin’ The Trail To Hallelujah Land” and “The Shanty Where Santy Claus Lives”.

    Keep up the good work!

  • Nice to find out the back stories on these obscure toon tunes… Lets have more!

  • While listening to this version I kept expecting the guy in the far right window to go “Bom-bom-bom-BOM!”

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