Changes that had been going on in the Merrie Melodies series were now being echoed in the Looney Tunes. The “Tunes” remained in monochrome, while the Melodies went to color and would go to full 3-strip in the calendar year 1936. And Buddy must not have been scoring as well as they’d hoped, as he was drppped at the beginning of the new season. The studio found its new star from one of the gang introduced in the Merrie Melodies short, I Haven’t Got a Hat. And they continued to plug songs from Warner Bros. films.
A Cartoonist’s Nightmare (9/21/35) There are those who think this cartoon was a Merrie Melodie that got hijacked and sent over to the Looney Tunes unit. It’s main protagonist is Beans, while its villains tend to be retreads from previous Merrie Melodies. The score of this cartoon is built around “The Teddy Bears’ Picnic”. This piece was written in 1908 by John W. Bratton, and was originally written as an instrumental played and recorded by military bands, with frequent “growling” by members of the band. The familiar lyric had been written by 1932, and was featured on a British recording by Henry Hall and the B.B.C. Dance Orchestra (Columbia). With the new lyric (by Jimmy Kennedy), the song became a much-loved children’s song, and would be recorded frequently on discs aimed at the tykes, including 1950’s versions by Bing Crosby (Secca) and Jack Arthur (Narrator heard weekly on the radio anthology series, “Grand Central Station”) (Peter Pan).
Plot: An animator falls asleep at his drawing board, and sreams he is captured by the villains he has created, who threaten him with “the works”. Beans comes to his rescue.
Hollywood Capers (10/19/35) original title Beans In Hollywood – Beans (“One of the Boston Beans”) going through a movie studio and causing havoc wherever he goes. Main song featuted is “Sweet Flossie Farmer”, a song recorded for Victor by Rudy Vallee and his Connecticut Yankees, a tune inspired by old-timey sounding ditties such as “The Man on the Flying Trapeze” and “The Tattooed Lady”. Elsie Carlise also recorded this version on Decca in 1935:
Golddiggers of ‘49 (1/6/36) – The first Warners’ cartoon to be supervised by “Fred Avery”, later known as “Tex”. Set in, and full of gags inspired by, gold rush California. This appears to be the first Warners’ cartoon to use “(Where They Play) Rural Rhythm”, which would become the go-to number when Warners wished to evoke the rustic or the rural. The song was recorded by the Hoosier Hot Shots (Vocalion) a few years later. There is also a gag built around the inebriate’s theme song, “Sweet Adeline”.
The Phantom Ship (2/29/36) – Plot: a Jack King adventure cartoon for Beans with stowaways Ham and Ex looking for sunken treasure, with a paucity of gags – but then, the gag-laden style that would become Warners’ was not Jack King’s forte. Only one pop song was featured in the soundtrack: “You Let Me Down”, which today is best known from a recording by a Teddy Wilson all-star group with a vocal by Billie Holiday (Brunswick). A version also came out on Melotone and the dime store labels by their house vocalist Chick Bullock.
Boom Boom (2/29/36) – No particular songs featured in the soundtrack score. This would mark possibly the only time where Porky Pig and Beans would actually work as a team, despite the fact they did appear within the same cartoon on multiple occasions. World War I adventure cartoon, with Porky and Beans saving a general being held captive in an old farmhouse. Lots of violence, explosions, and even some sadism!
The Fire Alarm (3/9/36), a vehicle for Ham and Ex, two playful puppies from “I Haven’t Got a Hat”, cavorting around a fire station and its big fire truck. Main song is an original: “Oh, How We Like To Fool the Firemen”, a song delineating the mischief these characters like to do. No commercial recordings known.
Alpine Antics (3/9/36 One wonders if existing filmographies have a discrepancy here, as this would mean two Looney Tunes were simultaneously released on the same day!) – A skiing race for Beans the Cat (recently reviewed in “Animation Ski-Trails” article in this website). Music features a special material version of She Was an Acrobat’s Daughter (introduced by Joe E. Brown in Warners’ Bright Lights (1935), allowing him to open vocally wide), changing her lineage to an “Ice Skater’s Daughter”. (We will meet the Acrobat’s Daughter in a later Merrie Melodie in a future article.) Judging by the scene in “Bright Lights”, one can only wonder if the script-writer and/or director was attempting to replicate the scene in It Happened One Night where a busload of travelers sang “The Man On the Flying Trapeze”. No commercial recordings of the “Acrobat” are known.
Also featured in the cartoon is “What a Little Moonlight Can Do”, introduced in the British picture, Road House. It was widely recorded in England, some of the versions also appearing here on U.S. labels. Jack Jackson’s version (embed below) appeared on HMV in England and on Victor in the United States. Ambrose recorded it for Decca, and Harry Roy and his May Fair Hotel Orchestra recorded it for Parlophone. American versions include a Brunswick by Kay Kyser and his Orchestra, and a version on Melotone and other dime store labels by Smith Balllew fronting a Russ Morgan orchestra and singing the vocal refrain. The best known American version, however, was a Brunswick by a Teddy Wilson all-star hand-picked unit, which included Benny Goodman on clarinet and a vocal by Billie Holiday.
The Blow Out (4/4/36) – Plot: Little Porky has found that he can earn pennies toward his desired ice cream soda by picking up packages and other objects passers-by drop in the street. Things get complicated when the Mad Bomber tries to leave a clock filled with high explosives at the Blotz Building. Porky attempts to return the clock, much to the chagrin of the Mad Bomber. Eventually, Porky has enough reward money to afford tons of ice cream sodas. The main song featured, symbolizing Porky’s joy at acievement, is “The Fella With the Fiddle”, which song we will meet again in a later post in this series. No commercial recordings known, nor is the origin of the song.
Westward Whoa (4/23/36) – Western gags about a covered wagon train, with Native Americans featured according to the Hollywood “Gospel” – “the only good I________ is a dead I_______.” Ham and Ex are featured in their usual mischief, driving Beans and Kitty crazy with “boy who cried wolf” style calls for alarm. “Oh Susanna” with special-material text is heard. But the song featured is “Covered Wagon Days”, an M.K. Jerome, Joan Jasmyn original tune written for a Warner Bros. Dick Foran B-Western Moonlight On The Prairie (1935), embed below, with no commercial recordings beyond that.
Plane Dippy (4/30/36) – Porky decides to enlist in the air corps, and winds up running afoul of a robot plane that follows any command its super sensitive electronics hear. The plane goes into acrobatic gyrations when it hears the orders a group of kids are giving to a dog showing off his tricks. In the end, Porky decides he’s had enough of the air, and switches to marching in the infantry. Songs include “When I Yoo Hoo”, which we meet again in a Merrie Melodie of that year, “Nancy Lee” (the motif for the Navy – embed below), an unidentified Viennese Waltz, and “I’d Love To Take Orders From You” from the film Shipmates Forever, which we will also meet again in a later post.
Fish Tales (5/28/36) – Plot: Porky goes fishing, falls asleep, and has a nightmare about being caught by a fish and prepared for the oven. On awakening, he throws away all his fishing equipment and heads back for good old dry land. Song included: “I Don’t Have To Dream Again”, from the feature, Colleen. None of the songs from Colleen seem to have attracted any of the record companies to cover them. We will meet this song again in a future post.
Shanghaied Shipmates (6/26/36) Plot: An unsavory sea captain decides to kidnap or “Shanghai” a crew for his sailing vessel. The crew, led by Porky, rebel against the ill treatment they are receiving. A typical Jack King adventure cartoon, without a great lot of gags. Song: “Don’t Give Up the Ship” from Shipmates Forever. Recorded for Decca by Dick Powell, and for Melotone et al. by Chick Bullock.
Porky’s Pet (7/11/36) – Porky and his pet ostrich Lulu find themselves heading for New York where Broadway fame awaits – but to get there they have to ride a train that doesn’t allow pets. Billy Bletcher displays his usual bluster as the conductor. The story seems to foretell and possibly influence two later scripts at Disney: Donald’s Ostrich (1937), on which Jack King later worked, and Mr. Mouse Takes a Trip, in which Billy Bletcher again played an animal-frustrated conductor, this time being Black Pete. Song featured: “You’re the Cure For What Ails Me”, whuch was introduced in the feature The Singing Kid by Al Jolson and Sybyl Jason (embed below). Best known if not only recording of the song was by Cab Calloway on Brunswick, who was himself also featured in The Singing Kid. This would become a go-to song under Carl Stalling for anything involving doctors, nurses, medicine or pills.
Porky the Rainmaker (8/1/36) – Porky spends the last dollar his family has, not to get feed for the stock, but to buy weather pills from a medicine show hawker. Daddy isn’t too happy, and throws the pills into the farmyard, where they are gobbled down by various livestock (with predictable results), but ultimately saving the crops with a rain piil. Songs: “Rhythm In the Bow”, “April Showers” (an oldie from 1922 associated with Al Jolson), and a reference to “In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree”, a song from 1906.
Porky’s Poultry Plant (8/22/36) – Porky’s poultry farm is quite productive – especially for the hawk (Public Poultry Enemy #1), who has already made a number of aerial raids on the place. The Hawk manages to grab a baby chick, but he and his hawk squadron are defeated by Porky in his “Gee Bee” style crop plane, and wind up in a mass grave which the rooster places a lily upon when they are well and truly interred by the chicken scratches of the flock. This cartoon introduces two new names to the staff – Supervisor (Directot) Frank Tashlin and musical director Carl W. Stalling. Songs include the verse of “Streets of Cairo”, which had already by this time become the standard tune associated with hootchie-kootchie dancers. The song dates back to 1895, and was inspired by an exhibit at the Chicago World’s Fair two years earlier, Originally recorded in 1895 by George J. Gaskin for Berliner,(and possibly other cylinder companies), and revived in 1940 by the Hoosier Hot Shots on Okeh.
Next Time: Merrie Melodies 1935-36.