Animation History
April 10, 2013 posted by Jerry Beck

The Case of The Missing Cartoon: “Spree For All” (1946)

Not every Hollywood animated cartoon produced in the 20th Century still exists. Sure, every episode of Johnny Cypher in Dimension Zero is accounted for, but a large amount of silent era films are gone and several sound cartoons from such studios as Fleischer, Famous, Terrytoons, Screen Gems (Columbia) and Lantz are missing in action.

One cartoon I’m particularly intrigued to see is a 1946 Paramount Noveltoon named Spree For All. During the 1940s Famous Studios was best known for its Popeye cartoons, and was having success with a series of Little Lulu shorts. The Noveltoons was set up to try new ideas which could become series. Paramount licensed several outside properties for the Noveltoons, including Johnny Gruelle’s Raggedy Ann and the radio show, Land Of The Lost.

barney_snuffy-comicOn October 4th, 1946, Paramount released “Spree For All” – a Noveltoon featuing Snuffy Smith. Snuffy was, of course, a well known hillbilly comic strip character who emerged as the star from a strip fronted by Barney Google. The film was never included in the UM&M TV package sold into syndication in 1955. After years of fruitless search, I can report that the negatives are not in the Paramount vaults; no copy rests at the UCLA Film and Television Archive, nor The Library of Congress. No collector has come forth with a print in 35mm or 16mm.

King Features (Hearst Entertainment) does not have it in their vaults. Research among contracts with King Features show that they routinely licensed their characters to Hollywood under strict ten year terms. After ten years they required the studio to junk all prints and negatives. The exceptions to the rule were the Fleischer/Famous Popeye cartoons, Columbia’s Blondie movies and Universal’s Flash Gordon serials.

This explains why Columbia’s Barney Google cartoons were lost for many years, as well as Columbia’s serials of Terry and The Pirates, Mandrake The Magician and The Phantom (all three serials were located in recent years at LoC and have since been released on DVD by VCI Entertainment).

What do we know of Spree For All? According to the U.S. Copyright Catalog, the film was directed by Seymour Kneitel and released in Cinecolor. The story was by Bill Turner and Otto Messmer. A review in the October 2nd 1946 issue of Motion Picture Exhibitor tells its plot:

Snuffy Smith returns from the war and determines to find some peaceful spot to settle down. He builds his house in the Smokey Mountains and discovers it is right in the middle of the feuding McCoys and Mulligans. Snuffy, trying to stop the feud, throws a bottle of “Perfume of Love” and the scent is picked up by one of the feminine members of the Mulligan’s and one of the McCoys. They decide to get married and it seems as though the feud is over. At the wedding, Snuffy taking the cork out of his jug, produces a pop, andthe feud is on. Snuffy hauls out his machine gun and keeps firing until both families are scared away to other sectors.

UPDATE: David Gerstein located the copyrighted dialogue sheet for this cartoon (click second page, below cover sheet, to enlarge)

Spree_For_All-cover_page Spree_For_All-dialogue500

With this plot synopsis and dialogue sheet (above) and musical cue sheet (below) we can only imagine what this cartoon looked and sounded like.

spreefor_all_cue

Below are several documents found in the cue sheet file at Famous Music (click thumbnails to enlarge) – and a small review from Boxoffice magazine (at right).

spreefor_all_letter001 spreefor_all_letter002 spreefor_all_letter003 spreeforall_boxoffice

Jim Tyer worked at Famous during this period – did he animate on Spree For All? Tyer did animate on some of the Paramount-produced Snuffy Smith cartoons for television (see embed below). Until the film is found we can only speculate.

19 Comments

  • I’m locked in to thinking of Paul Frees as Snuffy’s voice, so hearing Jack Mercer, Jackson Beck or someone else in the roll would be a jolt, along with seeing the character in full animation (at least Sharples’ music would sound familiar).

    Tyer only was credited on one non-Popeye during his stay at Famous, “Cheese Burglar”, though if he did work on it, his trademark style would have been held in check with Seymour Kneitel as director.

    Tyer’s wild animation was muffled by Kneitel’s desire for polished, good-looking designs — his wildest work at Paramount came under the studio’s other directors (In contrast, Tyer had a relatively free hand under Kneitel on the KFS Snuffys, probably because with those and the Beetle Baileys and the TV Caspers and the regular Noveltoon and Modern Madcap sch2dules, Kneitel literally had a killer workload that gave Tyer more freedom in 1964 than he had in 1946).

  • There’s also LITTLE IODINE, a 1946 live-action feature based on a long-running comic strip by Jimmy Hatlo. It was also lost due to King’s requirement that the prints and negatives be destroyed after ten years.

    Was Paramount not required to destroy the Popeye’s, or did they just nor bother to do it?

    • Was Paramount not required to destroy the Popeye’s, or did they just nor bother to do it?

      I suppose we ought to be thankful we even had Popeye and the Blondie movies on TV at all. We could’ve lost it all had someone not came to their senses over it.

    • In the original contract (from 1932) Paramount was required to destroy the Popeye cartoons in 1942. When that ten year deal was nearing its end, Paramount was eager to retain its valuable Popeye library (they were still making good film rentals) and to re-up the contract removing that stipulation from the arrangement. The Paramount’s 1941 renegotiation with King of the Popeye deal was one of the factors that led to the ouster of the Fleischer Studio.

  • Even with a barebones TV budget, Tyer finds a way to make a toon much more interesting than it would be otherwise. I particularly like his borrowed Farmer Al Falfa character, with his mutating crooked neck and occasional 6-fingered hand.

    Did he ever have his hands on an actual Al Falfa at Terry?

  • I’ve seen “Private Snuffy Smith”, an ultra-low budget wartime comedy that includes a pre-Mouseketeer Jimmie Dodd singing a song full of catchphrases from the strip. The sequel, “Hillbilly Blitzkrieg,” also survives in the bargain PD bin. Don’t know if they exist by accident or what.

    Does King actually own the Flash Gordon serials (the ones under copyright)?

  • You’ll have to chalk up the long disappearance of the “Terry” serial to something other than the standard King Features contract. “Terry” was not and is not owned by King/Hearst, but rather by the old Chicago Tribune/NY News syndicate, now known as Tribune Media Services.

    • You’re right Pat. My bad.

      However, both Terry and the Pirates and Brenda Starr – both owned by Chicago Tribune/NY News Syndicate – were indeed “lost” Columbia serials for many years… I would surmise that they both had that same limited time clause in their contract.

  • What other color sound Golden Age Hollywood cartoons are lost?

    • I don’t have a complete list at hand – but as for color cartoons: there are several Columbia Screen Gems cartoons that are “missing” including Who’s Zoo In Hollywood (1941) and Rippling Romance (1945); wartime Terrytoons like Somewhere In The Pacific (1942) and Canine Camouflage (1943); even Shamus Culhane’s Paramount Go-Go Toon, The Space Squid (1967). There’s a bunch.

    • Wow, another Paramount 60′s cartoon I haven’t seen yet! Really a shame when you think about it sometimes (not like there would be the off-hand chance someone would’ve saved a 35mm print for any number of reasons).

  • One of the other missing Noveltoons was Cat O’Nine Ails (A Buzzy Noveltoon) . Is that one also still lost?

  • I wonder if someone at King Features just really hated the adaptations (animated and live action) of Snuffy Smith and Barney Google? In addition to the Popeyes, the Columbia Krazy Kats, the Van Beuren Little Kings and Sentinel Louies, and Fleischer’s “Betty Boop and…” adaptations from 1936 all survive today.

    • That is something we ought to be thankful for I suppose, all that could be lost if another thought wasn’t given to them.

  • Too bad Spree for All is lost forever!

  • I am so glad all the Popeye cartoons still survive to this day! It is on TV today.

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