When I was growing up in New York City, between the morning sitcom reruns and the afternoon cartoon shows (I didn’t get out much), was The Joe Franklin Show (aka Joe Franklin’s Memory Lane). Joe Franklin was quite addictive – a daily show mixing current show business and nostalgia – he was a portal to the past for many baby boomers in those pre-internet days.
One thing I loved about Joe is that he’d occasionally run cartoons. Actually he seemed to only run two cartoons, over and over again. They were Fleischer Screen Songs. One of them was Romantic Melodies (with Arthur Tracy, The Street Singer), the other one was School Days with Gus Edwards.
Gus Edwards was, as Joe would tell us, a veteran vaudevillian and master song writer who rarely appeared on screen (click the sheet music at right to enlarge). Joe Franklin made me appreciate the live performances in the Screen Songs (which were rarely being shown by the mid-1960s) as much as the Fleischer cartooning – and that led to my appreciation of classic film. Thank you Joe… here’s a rare copy of School Days – unfortunately missing most of the live action sing-along footage (I’ll bet Joe still has a complete copy of this, somewhere):
Though its missing in the print above, Fleischer’s Screen Song was not “School Days” only bouncing ball appearance in a Paramount film.
“School Days”, the song, was written in 1907 by Gus Edwards and Will Cobb – and it became a standard. Edwards himself, in addition to being a performer, was known to have “discovered” Eddie Cantor, The Marx Bros. and Ray Bolger (among many others). In Paramount’s 1939 feature The Star Maker, Bing Crosby plays a character loosely based on Gus Edwards who, at one point in the film, leads the audience to follow the bouncing ball and sing School Days! I assume that Paramount considered the “bouncing ball” its property and since the Fleischer’s were no longer using it, included it here. Did the Fleischer Studio in Miami provide the bouncing ball and lyrics – perhaps lifted from the 1932 Screen Song?
Paramount began making new bouncing ball cartoons almost as soon as the Fleischer’s left their Miami studio. In 1948 Famous Studios produced one – Readin’ Ritin’ and Rhythmatic – which was a quasi re-do of the Fleischer’s School Days short. It’s also one of the rarer shorts from this period – anyone have a 16mm copy? (Don’t worry, the 35mm master materials exist in a well-known archive).
Courtesy of our friend Mark Newgarden, we have below a rare audio track from Readin’ Ritin’ and Rhythmatic. This is the scratch track of the original recording session – listen carefully at and you can hear the conductor lead the chorus (at the 1:31 and 2:10 marks). This is the actual recording the animators received (on an acetate disc) to animate to. Enjoy!
(Special thanks again to Mark Newgarden, William Carroll – and Mr. Peter Mintun for the sheet music cover)