NEEDLE DROP NOTES
December 15, 2020 posted by James Parten

1948-49: Rabbits and Duckies and Bears, Oh My!

The 1948-49 season proved a bit more musically rich than some in recent memory at Termite Terrace. Although the usual contingent of standard Carl Stalling cues would frequently recur, along with some original scoring work, Carl began to expand his memory backwards, bringing into play a small bevy of tunes from the first few decades of the century not touched before, along with an occasional newcomer from the pop record market.

Hare Splitter (9/25/48) – Bugs and his muscular but not too bright neighbor (whom he refers to as “Casbah”) are both vying for the affections of attractive Daisy Lou, each popping out of their respective holes with ever-increasing arrays of candy an flowers, until Bugs responds with an anvil. Bugs of course gets a chance at female impersonation, and a disguise as Daniel Cupid (complete with bow and arrow), to play his usual tricks on Casbah. Bugs finally prevals, and he and Daily June experiene kissing ecstacy (through the added “oomph” of an exploding carrot).

Songs: “Don’t Take Your Love From Me”, appearing over the titles, a song written by Henry Nemo, and recorded by Artie Shaw with Lena Horne on Victor, Harry James on Columbia, Mildred Bailey on Columbia, Alvino Rey on Bluebird, Glen Gray on Decca, Charlie Spivak on Okeh, Tony Martin on Decca, and later by Tommy Dorsey on Decca, the Three Suns on RCA, Luis Russell on Apollo, Keely Smith on Capitol, Al Hibbler on Aladdin, and Flip Phillips on Mercury.

“Cuddle Up a Little Closer” is also a newcomer, a song from about 1908, revived in 1943. The Ambassadors (usually directed by Louis Katzman) performed it instrumentally for Vocalion around 1924. Ben Pollack’s Pick-a-Rib Boys performed a small group version in the 30’s for Decca, Ginny Simms recorded it during the first 40’s recording ban with a cappella choir for Columbia, also appearing on V-Disc, and similarly Kay Armen recorded a cappella for Decca. Doris Day recorded a later version for Columbia. The Pied Pipers recorded for Capitol. Seger Ellis recorded it on Okeh. A rhythm and blues treatment appeared on Aristocrat records (associated with the Chess labels) by Sherman Hayes and his Orchestra. Another jazz-flavored version appeared on Savot by Teddy Tucker and his Band, Guy Lombardo performed it in anything but jazzy fashion for Decca. Dick Jurgens recorded it on Okeh. Sammy Kaye also got it on Victor. And a “strict tempo” dance band, Josephine Bradley, recorded it across the pond for British Decca. Also return engagements for “All in Favor Say Aye” and “If I Could Be With You (One Hour Tonight)”:


Daffy Dilly (10/21/48) – Daffy hears a radio report about an ailing rich man who would give a fortune for a good laugh. Daffy, who makes a meager living selling novelty items on the street out of a suitcase, thinks himself the perfect man to accomplish this task, but runs afoul of a butler quite resistant to his efforts. The “Buzzsaw baron” tycoon does get a good laugh, at Daffy’s expense, from an accidental pratfall – and Daffy becomes employed as a modern day court jester, taking pies in the face as “a living”.

Songs: Stalling’s first use of “I’m Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover”, a 1927 song, at the time recorded by Gene Goldkette with Bix Beiderbecke and Billy Murray for Victor, Paul Specht for Columbia, and Ben Bernie on Brunswicl, also with a vocal version on Brunswick by Nick Lucas (the Singing Troubadour). The Radio Imps (Gerry Macy and Ed Smalle) would record it for the Banner and other ARC dime story labels. The song received a 1940’s revival by Art Mooney and his orchestra on MGM, and was covered on Decca by Russ Morgan with the Ames Brothers on vocal. The Uptown String Band recorded it for the Philadelphia Krantz label as a regional hit, then it went nationwide through a master sharing with Mercury. The Ferko String Band would also cover it on Palda, and their version would make the rounds on several labels, actually outliving the Uptown version. Alvino Rey also went for it on Capitol, the Three Suns for Victor, the Harmonicats on Universal, Al Jolson for Decca, Frankie Laine on Mecury,. and Arthur Godfrey on Capitol. Foreign versions in its original heydey included Jack Hylton on HMV, Eugene Brockman (actually Bert Firman) on Homochord, and George Trevare for Australian Columbia. “Four Leaf Clover” would find several reuses in later Stalling scores, including its cler incorporation into a road-runner freeway cloverleaf chase, and as a lurical play-on-words to confuse a dim-witted hawk to fire a rifle on cue in Bugs’s Backwoods Bunny.

Another new number to the series, which would become a favorite for later Stalling Pepe Le Pew scores, was “L’Amour, Toujoirs, L’Amour”, a song from about 1922, tecorded by Richard Crooks for Victor Red Seal, Richard Tauber for Parlophone/Odeon, Jan Peerce on Majectic, Maxine Sullivan with Claude Thornehill on Victor, Jesse Crawford on Victor, Marek Weber on Columbia, Alfred Piccaver on Decca, and Lily Pons for Columbia


Riff Raffy Daffy (12/21/48) – Daffy, sleeping in the park, continues to get rousted by cop Porky Pig. He finally holes up in a department store windiw, leading to a wild chase, climaxed by Daffy’s sob story about having to care for his little ones (two wind-up duck decoys). Soft hearted (and headed) Porky lets him stay, and commiserates “I know how it is when you have a family”, leading home a string of windup pigs.

Songs: “Every Little Movement” (a number I actually overlooked from one previous brief quote in The Unruly Hare (1945), but used to greater advantage here, accompanying a pantomime scene where neither Daffy not Porky can hear each other through a plate glass window). The song suggests that aesthetic dancing has replaced such steps as ragtime, the schottische and the polka on the ballroom floors of 1908. Inez Barbour and Reinald Werrenrath recorded a duet vocal for Victor, with Henry Burr covering it for Columbia. A late 30’s revival appeared by Tiny Hill on Vocalion, and a 40’s version by Meredith Wilson on Decca. Other late revivals included the Harmonicats on Mercury, and Ken Griffin on Broadcast. Return performances of “Fountain in the Park”, “Home Sweet Home”, and “Jimmy Valentine” are also included.


The Bee-Deviled Bruin (5/14/49) – Papa Bear wants honey for his breakfast, and thinks he’s out of it. He won’t listen to anybody, including Mama Bear (who actually knows they have a full cupboard of stock in supply), but insists on gathering it from the wild, with the usual inept ”help” of Junior Bear. A face full of bee stings – and a whack in the face with a shovel – are the inevitable result. “Be My Little Baby Bumblebee”, a 1912 ragtime flavored number. Is featured, recorded by Billy Murray and Ada Jones on Victor, with a late revival by Bob Crosby and Marion Morgan on Columbia. Warner’s interest in the song was Doris Day’s revival, also on Columbia, originating from the Warner picture, By the Light of the Silvery Moon. Also, a return for “Puddin’ Head Jones”.


Long Haired Hare (6/25/49) – Bugs engages in a musical serenade for his own enjoyment, outside the grounds of the swank abode of opera singer Giovanni Jones. When Bugs’ plebeian repertoire interferes with the star;s rehearsals, Jones embarks of a series of destructive temper tantrums, reducing to tatters Bugs’ instruments – and doing a number on the rabbit too. The stage is set for “war”, which Bugs delivers big time at that night’s performance at the Hollywood Bowl – climaxed by Bugs’ impersonation of conductor “Leopold” – which literally brings down the house. Many old numbers return in Bugs’ serenade, including “A Rainy Night In Rio” and “When Yuba Plays the Rumba on the Tuba”, and Jones performs some of “Largo Al Factotum” from Rossini’s Barber of Seville. The newcomer is one of the oldest popular songs to make a Warner score – “My Gal Is a High-Born Lady”, introduced around 1897. (Bugs notably cleans up the act by changing a few racially-flavored lyrics, including singing the title as “My Gal is a High Tone Stepper”). A Columbia Cylinder (7252) by Len Spencer still survives from the song’s year of creation. Years later in England, it was included in a medley by Foden’s Motor Works Band (Old Timers Selection Part 2) on Regal Zonophone. In the LP era, it has developed into am old timey-number for several country and bluegrass bands, including a recording by Sam and Kirk McGee, as well as made ragtime revival repertoire in a recording by the St. Louis Ragtimers.


The Grey-Hounded Hare (8/6/49) – One of only a handful of Hollywood cartoons to highlight the now mostly-banned sport of dog racing (others that come to mind being Columbia’s The Greyhound and the Rabbit (1940), and Terrytoons’ A Hare-Breadth Finish from the 1950’s). Bugs, at the dog track, decides to look over the field of contestants, and immediately makes an enemy of one of the fiercest competitors. When Bugs falls instantly in love with the mechanical rabbit running ahead of the dogs, he risks life and limb to save her, shouting “Chivalry is not dead!”, and ends with a kiss that raises the “electricity” level of their relationship. Mel Bland doubles as the voice of the track announcer, running a string of bad puns upon the contestant’s unusual names (much in the tradition of Doodles Weaver in Spike Jones’ racing parodies), and includes one of the last uses of the “Now I’ve Seen Everything” suicide gag – this time not seen on camera, but just heard as a shot over the loudspeaker). Songs include “The Whistler and His Dog”, a composition by trombonist Arthur Pryor for Sousa’s Band, recorded frequently by Pryor for Victor, which became a light classical standard over the years. “Baby Face”, a 1926 pop song, also appears, recorded by Jan Garber on Victor, Ben Selvin for Brunswick, and the Ipana Troubadours on Columbia. The Savoy Orpheans also recorded a vintage version in England for HMV. Vocal versions appeared by Jack Smith (the whispering baritone) on Victor, and Honey Duke and his Uke (aka Johnny Marvin) acoustically on Harmony. An entirely different Jack Smith would later record it for Capitol with assist by the Clark Sisters. Other versions included Henry King on Decca, and revival by Art Mooney for MGM, and Little Richard for Specialty.


Often an Orphan (8/13/49) – Charlie Dog turns on his “big soulful eyes” down on the farm, again trying to convince Porky to be his “master. Porky flips his lid, turns canine in personality himself, and is picked up by the county dog pound. Songs: “My Buddy”, a 1922 reminiscence of WW1. Ben Bernie would record it for Vocalion, and Paul Specht for Columbia. It would receive many revivals, including Mel Torme on Capitol, Harry James on Columbia, Sammy Kaye on both Elite and Victor. Kate Smith on Columbia, Larry Clinton on Bluebird, Benny Carter on British Brunswick, Lionel Hampton on Victor, Bing Crosby on Decca, and “Buddy” Clark on Columbia, among others. And of course, Doris Day again, in Columbia. Also a return for “42nd Street” (“Look. The Towers. They’re Falling!”)


The Windblown Hare (8/27/49) – Bugs’ take on the Three Little Pigs, who turn out to be not so cute and innocent as they’re made out to be. Bugs winds up scheming with the Big Bad Wolf to get back at the pigs. Songs: “Just a Cottage Small (By a Waterfall)”, a late 1925 composition, recorded by Waring’s Pennsylvanians on Victor, John McCormack on Red Seal Victor, Jimmy Flynn on Perfect, Howard Peterson on Columbia, Hugh Donovan on Domino, Fredric Fradkin on Brunswick, Jack Denny on Brunswick, and Irving Kaufman on Silvertone. Late revivals would include Larry Adler on Columbia, and Danny O’Neil on Varsity. Also, a reappearance of “The Lady in Red”.

BACK IN TWO WEEKS TO RING IN THE NEW YEAR. Merry Christmas to all!

8 Comments

  • Often an Orphan: In the Gilbert & Sullivan operetta “The Pirates of Penzance”, Major-General Stanley and the Pirate King engage in a famous bit of comic cross-talk based on the confusion between the words “orphan” and “often”, which are only homophones in certain old-fashioned English accents. It may seem rather contrived to modern audiences, especially people who pronounce the T in “often”, but it can be pretty funny with good actors.

    The Savoy Orpheans, mentioned in this post, were the house band at London’s Savoy Hotel in the 1920s. It was built by Richard D’Oyly Carte using the profits he had made over the years from the operettas of Gilbert & Sullivan; many years earlier he had built the Savoy Theatre expressly to showcase their works. The name of the band, coupled with the venue, certainly suggests a possible connection with that cross-talk routine in “Pirates”. “Have you ever wondered what it must have been like to be a Savoy Orphean?” “Often!” “Yes, Orphean. Have you ever wondered what it was like to be one?” (Etc., etc., etc….)

  • Notably, “Be My Little Baby Bumblebee” is the song Chuck Jones was referring to when he criticized Carl Stalling’s penchant for using existing music cues in the cartoons: “He was a brilliant musician. But the quickest way for him to write a musical score was to simply look up some music that had the proper name. If there was a lady dressed in red, he’d always play “The Lady in Red”. If somebody went into a cave, he’d play “Fingal’s Cave”. If we were doing anything about eating, he’d do “A Cup of Coffee, a Sandwich and You”. I had a bee one time, and my God, if he didn’t go and find a piece of music written in 1906 or something called “I’m a Busy Little Bumble Bee”.”

    Another few songs used in “The Grey-Hounded Hare”: “I Go For You” by M.K. Jerome, when Bugs is inspecting the dogs; “The Black Horse Troop” by John Philip Sousa when Bugs makes his first appearance. The oft-used “In the Stirrups” by J.S. Zamecnik is also heard. Anyone find a recording of this one?

    Where does “The Whistler and His Dog” play in the short, though? I didn’t hear it.

  • Here’s a little tidbit: “The Whistler and His Dog” is very familiar to New Yorkers of my generation, as it was the theme song for WPIX Channel 11’s “Officer” Joe Bolton. whether he was hosting the daily showing of the Three Stooges, Our Gang or Little Rascals shorts.

  • Nice article.

    Also Hare Do (1949), with “Don’t Sweetheart Me”

  • “The Windblown Hare” also appears to be the earliest WB cartoon for which the standalone music track survives. Large sections of the repurposed soundtrack show up in “Daffy Duck’s Quackbusters” even though the film itself wasn’t excerpted.

  • Ian: I just had another look at “The Grey-Hounded Hare”, and “The Whistler and His Dog” isn’t in it. James has confused it with the similar-sounding “The Black Horse Troop” march by John Philip Sousa, which is played as Bugs is emerging from the earth beneath the racetrack. One would expect “Whistler” to be used in a cartoon about dogs, rather than horses. Stalling’s go-to Sousa composition for horse-racing cartoons was not “Black Horse” but the cavalry march “Sabre and Spurs”, used for example in “Milk and Money” and “Porky and Teabiscuit”.

    Incidentally, Arthur Pryor began his career as trombone soloist for Sousa, but by the time he composed “Whistler” he was already leading his own band. “The Whistler and His Dog” is a lot of fun. I love doing any piece where the orchestra gets to sing, whistle, bark like dogs, snap fingers, or otherwise take a break from playing our instruments.

  • “My Buddy” was also used to memorable effect in Boardwalk Empire when Al Capone sings it to his deaf son. One of that series’ more touching moments.

  • When 2021 rolls in, we start the 1950s era! 😀

    Right after finishing up the other cartoons of 1949.

    I have a good feeling two more Looney Tunes Stars will be-beeping their way into legend next! 😀

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