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.
On 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)
With this plot synopsis and dialogue sheet (above) and musical cue sheet (below) we can only imagine what this cartoon looked and sounded like.
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).
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.
2016 UPDATE: Rare cartoon locator-extraodinaire David Gerstein found THIS black & white 16mm print (below) of Spree For All on French Ebay in early 2016.
A Holy Grail found and I’m grateful, but the cartoon itself is a bit disappointing. Here’s a theory: Famous had a ‘Screen Song’ on the boards using “Comin’ Round The Mountain” as the tune to sing-along. For some unknown reason they sought (or were granted permission) to use King Features’ Snuffy Smith (did King ask Famous? Did Famous ask King? Arguments for both theories could go either way). Now having a “star” character to front the film, they revised the scenario to omit the bouncing ball. I posit this theory as the film itself has nothing to do with Snuffy Smith, the comic strip character. He’s a generic returning soldier coming back home to the Ozarks.
A color print is now rumored to exist – and we will hopefully have another chance to reevaluate Spree For All. For now, here it is: