NEEDLE DROP NOTES
October 26, 2021 posted by James Parten

1931-32 Talkartoons: Give Us More Betty!

Small change of plans. We’ll hold off on the last Screen Songs of the season until after dealing with the Talkartoons, then find an appropriate place to drop them in. Well into the 1931-32 season, it was becoming clear that Betty Boop was the star of the Talkartoon series, I wonder how much of a surprise this was to Max and Dave. I’d like to imagine that they were not displeased. But te past was notentirely abandoned, with Koko appearing occasionally as a sidekick, and Bimbo continuing toappear semi-rehularly, although also generally reduced from star to sidekick status.

We begin with an advertising film, for which I am unaware of a precise release date. Step On It (circa 1031) appears to be its original title from trades, although some sources now refer to it as Hurry, Doctor. Paramount pictures was quite willing to let Fleischer take commercial gigs. He did two films for Texaco Oil, of which this is one (the other may not have turned up), and earlier had produces Finding His Voice for Western Electric, and In My Merry Oldsmobile for Oldsmobile Motors. Texaco was well on its way to becoming a national brand, and would be even more well known the next year, when it began sponsoring broadcasts on NBC Red Network, featuring Ed Wynn as the Fire Chief. Our film protagonist (using an early design for Bimbo, also seen in The Robot, discussed below) does not want to get out of bed in the morning. His cuckoo clock and his cat are telling him he’s going to be late. His date is sitting on her stoop, wondering where he is. When he finally arouses, he tries to get his car started, but every time he winds the crank, the car deflates completely. Bimbo kicks Lizzie around, and Lizzie begins crying and acting quite ill. Bimbo calls a doctor and says that Lizzie is dyung. The doctor hurries out to see his sick “patient”. Once the doc realizes what is happening, he gives Lizzie an elixir that gives her a new-found pep. Advertising hard sell is trimmed out of existing prints, so that we arenot told what the elixir was (although one would suspect it to be either Fire Chief gas, Havoline motor oil, or some gasoline additive). The hero finally meets his girl (possibly after taking a swig of the elixir himself, and they go out riding. Songs include “Oh, How I Hate to Ger Up in the Morning”; “Funeral March for a Marionette” (which would become the theme for the Alfred Hitchcock show), recorded in early versions by the Vienna Quartet for Victor in 1910, and Columbia Symphony Orcestra in the late teens; “A Peach of a Pair”, best known from versions by Gus Arnheim with Russ Colombo vocal for Victor, and by Fred Rich on Okeh et al. with Smith Ballew vocal and Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang on guitar.


Mask-a Raid (11/8/31) – Betty is attending a masquerade party, wearing a domino mask and a long trail as queen. Bimbo sees her and is immediately smitten. He winds up in a duel with the king and his knights over Betty‘s affections. He is ultimately hauled off to a dungeon by a knight, who turns out to be Betty in disguise, and the two escape to plan wedding nuptials as the iris closes. Songs: “You’re the One I Care For”, a number from late 1930, recorded by Bert Lown and his Hotel Biltmore Orchestra on Victor, by Lloyd Keating and his Misic (a Ben Selvin group) on Clarion, Sam Lanin’s Orchestra on Perfect et al., Lew Reynolds’ Flexo Recording Orchestra on Flexo (a ceolorful celluloid-based flexi-disc) and as a vocal record by Ruth Etting on Columbia, Frankie Marvin and Sylvia Froos on Crown, and in Paris by Josephine Baker (in English) on Columbia. A revival version, circa the 1950’s, was recorded by Kay Starr on Capitol. Franz Schubert’s “Marche Militaire” accompanies a costume parade. Featured vocal is “Where do you Work-a, John?”, a 1926 novelty pop, recorded by Waring’s Pennsylvanians on Victor, Les Stevens and his Orchestra on Columbia,(with vocal by Leo Dale who appears to be the same singer voicing Bimbo in Italian scat singing on the soundtrack), the Plantation Players (a Harry Reser group) on Romeo (aka as “The Seven Little Polar Bears” on Cameo), and on Brunswick by Harry Reser’s alternate group, the Six Jumping Jacks. A vocal version appeared on Grey Gull by Albert Campbell and Jack Kaufman, (Irving’s brother). Jack also recorded a solo version for Pathe. Columbia also issued a version in Italian by Coppia Ruby Di Russo (a male-female duet) Later versions included the Hi-Flyers on Vocalion in 1937, in Western Swing style.


Jack and the Beanstalk (11/22/31) – Mostly follows the well known fairytale, with some drtails missing. Jack (aka Bimbo) does not trade the cow for magic beans, Instead, he gets hit on the head by the giant’s cigar carelessly dropped from a cloud, so he plants the beanstalk to get revenge. Betty Boop is slave labor for the giant in cloudland, telling him to “keep your shirt on”, as she splits peas for the giant’s soup. No magic harp, and no concentration on the hen’s proclivity to lay golden eggs. The giant actually makes it down to earth to give chase, using roadsters for roller skates. He merely trips himself into unconsciousness rather than producing a grand canyon crater. Songs: “Sweeping the Clouds Away” (with new lyrics), introduced in the finale sequence of “Paramount on Parade” by Maurice Chevalier, who recorded it for Victor. Columbia gave its vocal version to Charles “Buddy” Rogers (billed on the label as “America’s boyfriend”). Numerous dance versions included Phil Spitalny on Victor, Coon Sanders Orchestra on Victor, and a version sold in theatre lobbies at the screenings of the feature film on thr “Publix” lavel by the Publix Ten (actually the Hotel Pennsylvania Misic from Harmony). The Colonial Club Orchestra also covered it for Brunswick. In England it was covered by Layton and Johnstone on English Columbia, Bob and Al Pearson on 8 inch Broadcast records, and a dance version by the Aldrich Players (a Jay Wilbur group) with vocal by Al Bowlly on the 7 inch Victory label (sold in Woolworth’s stores), and Ray Noble’s New Mayfair Orchestra on Victor.


Dizzy Red Riding Hood (12/13.31) – Again follows the fairy tale somewhat. Bimbo wants to join Betty in taking goodies to Grandma. They both wind up meeting the wolf, whom Bimbo bests in a fight in a hollow tree. The wolf emerges as a skeleton, and Bimbo has the pelt. Bimbo gets ahead of Betty and beats her to Grandma’s house for a surprise. Grandma has gone to the fireman’s ball, and Bimno uses the pelt as a disguise to express his interest in Betty. “She loves wolves”, he observes. The two wind up swinging on the crescent moon in a spooning session. Songs” “Break the News to Mother” (with special lyrics), a song from about 1898, originally timed to coincide wth the events of the Spanish-American War, but revived when hostilities broke out again in WW1. The Shannon Four recorded it for Victor in 1917. The Columbia Stellar Quartet followed for Columbia in 1916. Henry Burr also recorded it for Columbia. Maurice J. Gunsky made a Victor version in 1926. It was revived by the Carson Robison Trio on a 1930 Romeo release. “Swinging in a Hammock” ends the film when Betty and Bimbo ride the moon. It was from 1930, recorded by Guy Lombardo on Columbia, the Hotel Pennsylvania Music for Harmony et al., hil Spitalny for Hit of the Week, Leo Reisman for Victor, and Lou Gold on Perfect et al.. Vocals included Lee Morse and her Blue Grass Boys on Columbia, Seger Ellis on Okeh, and Aileen Stanley on Victor. It was revived by the Ray Charles Singers on MGM in 1953, and by Sue Raney for Capitol in 1959.


Any Rags (1/5/32) – Bimbo is a “ragman”, the dumpster-diver of his day, pushing his cart through the street collecting rags, bottles, and bones, among other rubbish. He happens upon Betty Boop’s neighborhood, and people throw their refuse out from upper story windows. Betty inclides herself in the bundle tossed from her own window, and sets up housekeeping with Bimbo in a shanty constructed of everything thrown out by her other neighbors. The title song was a 1903 piano piece described as a schottische. It was recorded that year by the Columbia Band. The next year, it was fitted out with a “coon song” lyric, recorded for Columbia, Victor, and Edison by Arthur Collins, who would record it again for Edison in 1913 for the label’s new “Diamond Disc” records. It may also exist as a concurrent “blue amberol” culinder with a coating of blue celliloid. “Ninety Nine Out of a Hundred Wanna Be Loved”, a song from 1931, was recorded by Ben Selvin for Colimbia, Rudy Vallee for Victor, Benny Goodman for Melotone, Sam Lanin for Perfect et al. and for Hit of the Week English versions were recorded by the Blue Jays (a Henry Hudson group) on Edison Bell, Jack Hylton on HMV, and the Riverside Dance Band on Broadcast. “New Call of the Freaks” was a hit for Luis Russell in 1929 on Okeh. It derives from an earlier “Call of the Freaks”, also recorded by Russell, both under his own name, and possibly under the guise of a release in the name of King Oliver’s orchestra – however, the earlier version is lacking the “Stick out your cann, here comes the garbage man” refrain used in the cartoon. The Washboard Rhythm Kings also covered the “New Call” on Victor. Milton Brown and his Brownies adapted the piece as “Garbage Man Blues” on Bluebird, with a vocal that seems to begin entirely off key!


Boop Boop a Doop (1/26/31) – Betty is working in a circus, and the ringmaster proves to have lecherous intentions. Betty rebuffs him, and he threatens to “take her boop boop a doop away”. Koko has to come to her rescue, and thankfully finds at the end of the film that the ringmaster couldn’t take her boop boop a doop away. (Did Betty elude him, or was this a medical disorder?) There is some original music here, including the first use of the theme song “Sweet Betty” with some different lyrics than usually heard, sung by an unidentified solo tenor. Also, Betty’s original number, “Don’t Take My Boop Boop a Doop Away” becomes a central feature of the second half of the film. Other sonfs include “The Peanut Vendor”, “Over the Waves”, Sousa’s “Washington Post March”, “Under the Double Eagle”, and “Wedding of the Painted Doll”, a song introduced in MGM’s “Broadway Melody” in 1929, recorded by Charles King on Victor, and for dancers on the same label by Horace Heidt and by the Victor Salon Orchestra. Earl Burtnett also recorded it for Brunswick, and Leo Reisman for Columbia. A childrens’ version would appear on Mercury by Hugo Peretti Layton and Johnstone covered it across the pond on English Columbia, as did Jack Hylton on HMV More tunes include “Do Something”, introduced by Helen Kane in 1929, recorded by her for Victor. “Look in the Looking Glass”, a 1931 pop, also appears, recorded by Johnny Hamp’s Kentucky Serenaders for Victor, and on Harmony by an anonymous Ben Selvin group, with Benny Goodman as sideman, and vocal by the Rondoliers (who may have had Roy Halee as a young vocalist – the future voice of Mighty Mouse and Heckle and Jeckle) . “Just One More Chance”, already encountered in our discussion of Screen Songs, is also reused.


The Robot (2/5/32) A title obviously held back on the release calendar, as evidenced by a reversion to the same early design of Bimbo used in “Step On It”. Bimbo is working on his specially souped-ip car, then calls up his girlfriend (who appears to be similar to the one in “Step On It”, although one possibly later animated scene has her resembling Betty Boop). He calls her on a visaphone and finds her in revealing poses in the bath. He wants to marry her, but she will only marry if he can beat One Round Mike in a boxinh exhibition that day. Bimbo converts the car Into what anime fans would refer to as a “mobile suit” rather than a true robot, and defeats the champ, knocking him into one of the row of hospital beds intended for his opponents. Bimbo takes on all comers and still remains champ. The victor and his bride-to-be parade through town by means of the ring, marching them along under its own quadruped power. Songs: “The Flippity Flop”, from the 1929 picture, “The Dance of Life”, recorded by Coon Sanders on Victor, and as a vocal record (in Spanish) by Jose Moriche on Victor. “Singing in the Bathtub”, a common title for several studios, reappears. “Ho Hum”, a 1931 pop, is used, recorded by Gus Arnheim for Victor wth vocal by Bing Crosby and Loyce Whiteman , Ted Lewis on Columbia, Hal Kemp on Brunswick, Bob Haring on Perfect et al, Sam Lanin on Hit of the Week, and vocals by Annette Hanshaw on Harmony et al, and Whisering Jack Smith on Perfect et al. Also successful in England, where it was recorded by Elsie Carlisle on Imperial. “Pardon Me, Pretty Baby” was recorded by Rudy Vallee on Victor, Fred Rich on Columbia, Sam Lanin on Hit of the Week, Frank Novak on Crown, Benny Goodman on Melotone, and Joe Veniti on Okeh and Harmony (with vocal by songwriter Harold Arlen). “There’ll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight”, and “Starts and Stripes Forever” also reappear.

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Minnie the Moocher (2/26/32) – Betty’s Germanic parents send her to bed without supper when she refuses to eat the ill-tasting food they’ve prepared for her (which poisons a flower who samples it). She decides to run away from home, and calls on Bimbo as traveling companion for moral support. The two encounter a haunted cave on their travels, and a mysterios ghost walrus, who coincidentally sings and dances in the style of guest artist Cab Calloway. The cave is also inhabited by a variety of ghosts, including a trio of ghost convicts and a warden who gives them the electric chair (despite their being already dead). Betty and Bimbo eventually flee from an assortment of spooks in pursuit, Bimbo retreating to the safety of a doghouse, while Betty hides under the covers of her bed back home. Her farewell note to her parents magically tears portions of its lettering away, leaving only the words, “Home Sweet Home” Songs” “Ach Du Lieber Augustin” (played when Papa’s head transforms into a repeating cylinder player, and Mama Boop decides to change the record). “Tiger Rag” appears in the closing chase. The titlle song, which tells a sordid tale of Harlem’s demi-monde fueled by drugs, was recorded by Cab Calloway, fronting a group previously known as “The Missourians” who had recorded on Victor, but whom Calloway took charge of as of 1930 – the recording Calloway issued was ultimately released on Brunswick. A James P. Johnson orchestra (billed as “Jimmy Johnson” covered it on Columbia. The Mills Blue Rhythm Band recorded it for Victor and for Perfect et al. The song would become Calloway’s theme, and “Heidi Ho” his catch phrase.

Next: 1932 – More Talkartoons and a few Screen Songs.

9 Comments

  • Texaco would become even better known a few years later when they began sponsoring radio broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera on the NBC Blue network, a relationship that endured for over 60 years until the company merged with Chevron in the early 21st century. It was the longest-lasting sponsorship of any program in the entire history of broadcasting.

    The music that plays during the battle scene in “Mask-A-Raid” is “The King’s Horses (and the King’s Men)”, written by Noel Gay and Harry Graham in 1930 and first recorded that year by Jack Hylton and his orchestra for HMV. In actuality Noel Gay was a very respectable church organist, choirmaster and composer of sacred music named Reginald Armitage, who wrote popular songs pseudonymously to avoid scandal. He was so successful as a secular songwriter that he was known as “the British Irving Berlin”. “The King’s Horses” turns up regularly in cartoons of the ’30s, for example in Van Beuren’s “Nursery Scandal”, to accompany scenes of horses or royal guards. The Fleischers missed an opportunity by not using it later in “Chess-Nuts”.

    Whatever Bimbo’s saying in the beginning of “Any Rags” — I can’t quite make it out — it’s the same thing the Jewish fish says in “Betty Boop’s Lifeguard”.

    In the 1930s the science fiction magazine Thrilling Wonder Stories published a series of humorous time-travel stories by Kelvin Kent, about a street hustler named Pete Manx who earns extra money as a test subject in an experimental time machine. In “The Comedy of Eras”, Pete travels to Elizabethan England, meets Shakespeare, and gets involved in the premiere of “Romeo and Juliet”. Everything goes wrong, and the play is turning into a disaster, until Pete grabs a lute and leads the audience at the Globe Theatre in a spirited rendition of “Minnie the Moocher”. Needless to say, he brings the house down. The story’s no stranger than anything you’d find in a Fleischer cartoon, but it comes pretty close.

    • Paul,
      isn’t “The King’s Horses” also what is heard
      during the opening credits of Laurel & Hardy’s
      1932 Oscar-winning short, “The Music Box” ??

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qnoLiNNw0a0

      • That’s right, Professor! You have a keen ear!

  • Always fun to note how forgiving the record buying public (and especially, the recording engineers) were in the early days of sound recording, when an entire three minute number had to be waxed continuously without edits. I wonder if Cab Calloway was embarrassed at his obvious flub of the word “whale” on the original Brunswick issue of “Minnie the Moocher” – and even more embarrassed when Brunswick issued the take. Yet, it certainly didn’t seem to tarnish the record’s sales, nor Calloway’s reputation. Still, I’ll bet he was quite happy the first time he ever got to re-record the number properly for another label.

    • To be honest, I always thought Cab’s “a-hay-whay-ul” was a deliberate riff!

  • The Missourians were one of my favorite bands from the late 1920s. Their repertoire seemed to be based on either the blues or Tiger Rag (Market Street Stomp, for instance). And it’s a real treat seeing Cab dancing in front of the band in Minnie The Moocher.

  • More songs heard in Jack and the Beanstalk:

    Please Go ‘Way and Let Me Sleep (0:40)
    The Man from the South (1:02)
    I’m Sitting on Top of the World (2:05)
    Song of the Volga Boatmen (2:36)
    The Prisoner’s Song (3:32)

    I don’t know the song at the part where the cigar falls down from the giant’s hand. It’s also heard in Snow Use (1929).

    • That’s “I’ve Got a Feeling I’m Falling” by Fats Waller et al.

      • Many thanks, Paul!

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