The Popeye cartoons were still the main drawing card for Paramount’s shorts subject line. But with the switch from Fleischer Studios to Famous Studios, money had to be saved in some way – and one way was to avoid the Flesichers’ tendency to be amazingly elaborate (as they had in the Superman series). The new Little Lulu cartoons were, like Popeye and Superman, based on a pre-sold character (appearing in the popular Saturday Evening Post magazine) and these were not going to be nearly as complex to produce as the Man of Steel of Max and Dave. And it is quite possible the rights to use Marge’s character were considerably less expensive than permission to animate Superman and company. The staff writers were clearly encouraged to aim the storylines at a younger, home front audience. After all, the main protagonist was a little girl – not a strange being from the Planet Krypton.
Eggs Don’t Bounce (12/14/43) – Mandy, the Moppets’ maid, is looking for Lulu, who is out walking and being her usual mischievous self. Mandy asks Lulu to go to the store for a dizen eggs, adding that she be “mighty careful not to disintegrate them”. However, through no fault of her own, the eggs wind up shattered anyway. Envisioning in a musical number suffering the consequences of this development, Lulu decides to raid the nest of Henrietta Hen in the farmhouse for a replacement dozen. Her dog stages a parade with fife and drum imitations to raise Henrietta’s patriotic spirit, while Lulu attempts to pilfer the henfruit from behind. Henrietta foils her schemes repeatedly, until Lulu (politically incorrectly) impersonates a black farmhand, contemplating a chicken dinner. Lulu ultimately makes off with the nestful, and thinks she’s dodged a bullet of a spanking, but trips again on the doorstep of her home. However, she receives no whipping, as she is just too cute amidst the flock of a dozen chicks that have popped out of the cracked egg shells. Song: “Now Ya Done It”, an original with lyrics by Buddy Kaye and Fred Wise, and music by Sammy Timberg (which was published as sheet music with Lulu on the cover).
Lulu in Hollywood (5/19/44) – A telegram arrives at the Moppet household. When Mom reads it, she faints dead away. Dad goes right through the floor. Lulu is the only one who takes the news with deadpan calmness – she is being asked to go to Hollywood, for $10,000 a week (which is not mere pin money, even in this age). Packing a valise full of lollipops (indexed by flavor) and a rain slicker to deal with California weather, Lulu is off. She is her usual self at the contract signing meeting, skating on the highly-polished board room table, and signing the contract with two fingers dipped in ink, duplicating side-by-side efforts as she writes only “LU” but prints the letters twice. She receives the Hollywood treatment in publicity photos, including a hair restyling resembling Veronica Lake. She shows her stuff in acting to the Germanic director, mirroring a sequence from Marion Davies’ “Show People” (1928) in which she hides her face behind a fan, then reveals a different expression with each lowering of the fan to demonstrate her ability to emote – except that Lulu’s face reveals the same deadpan look every time! Nevertheless, she commences shooting of an epic, casting her as a royal princess – who seems to have nothing more to do than lick lollipops and gobble pie. The film director gives her a kiss at the gala premiere, resulting in Lulu’s lollipop stuck to his lips, while his moustache transposes to Lulu’s lip, allowing her to impersonate Charlie Chaplin’s moustache twitch for the fade out. Songs: “California, Here I Come”, introduced by Al Jolson in 1924, and recorded by him for Brunswick with Isham Jones’ Orchestra, Brunswick’s top dance band. Also recorded in the day by Paul Whiteman for Victor, the California Ramblers for Columbia, and by various other bands for nearly every label in New York at the time. It was revived in 1928 by Nat Shilkret and the Victor Orchestra, and in 1933 by Claude Hopkins for royal blue Columbia (embed below). AL Jolson would remake it electrically in the 1940’s for Decca. Also included in the film score is a return for “Moonlight Becomes You”, and a brief quote from the William Tell Overture – The Storm.
I’m Just Curious (9/8/44) – Lulu is sent to bed after a spanking – however, her rear end has been saved from her father’s whipping by insertion inside her clothes of a book on “The Art of Self Defense”. Lulu sings a song from her bed about why she gets in trouble, furious, because “What I really am is curious.” She spots a shadow outside resembling a stork – but it is a chicken hawk planning a raid on the henhouse, who tries to pull the wool over her eyes, Lulu innocently upsets his plans at every turn. She nevertheless winds up in Dutch again, and ends the cartoon after a spanking that hit the mark, requiring her to sit atop a dozen pillows. Song: “I’m Just Curious”, an original with writers unknown.
Lulu’s Birthday Party (12/1/44) – Lulu has plastered every wall, object, nook and cranny of her home with written reminders of her impending Birthday – including one note pinned to Mandy’s rear. Mandy plans to whip up a birthday cake, but faces the dilemma of trying to keep it secret from nosy Lulu and her pet bullfrog Quincy. Lulu spies in every window and door, only to be shut out again and again, until she lets Quincy hop into the kitchen through a window, frightening Mandy and destroying the cake. Mandy tells her there will be no party (spelling the operative word “N-O-U-G-H”). Lulu bemoans her curiosity again having brought about nothing but trouble, and lapses into a fantastic dream as she dozes off in the back yard, of lemonade lakes, lollipop Ferris wheels, and cakes reaching the sky at her special birthday party. Just as her dream cake begins to topple, she is snapped back to reality by Mandy’s call. As she enters the house, a yell of “Surprise” greets her, as Mandy has cooked up another cake anyway, and all the kids have arrived for the party. Lulu blows out the birthday candles with a fireplace bellows, spraying the kids across the table with cake on their face – bit it tastes good, so they’re happy. Song: “At My Birthday Party”, an original song. Unique to this cartoon was that The Satisfiers, who had given Lulu her theme, were called back for the only time in the studio’s career to record the new specialty number. They would soon find work a few doors down at rival Terrytoons, where they would spend the next decade in recurrent voice-over vocals.
Beau Ties (4/20/45) – Lulu is disconsolate after receiving a note that her date with Tubby (here called “Fatso”) has to be cancelled because Tubby is ill. Lulu decides to go for a walk, and spots Tubby entertaining a blonde at an ice cream parlor, performing stunts at the table blindfolded. Uh-oh – Busted! Tubby gets knocked out, and has a nightmare about married life with Lulu. Scenes include endless exhortations to “Get to work”, having to raise a kitchen full of very Little Lulus, and even being placed on exhibition by Lulu in going over Niagara Falls in a barrel during their honeymoon. Tubby awakens, and trues to escape the promise of marriage Lulu is forcing him to carve on a tree, but Lulu finally figures the way to a man’s heart – through his stomach, especially a big one like Tubby’s. After a few doses of cakes and pies, Tubby adds to the carved promise, “Positively.” A surprisingly adult concept for a kid’s cartoon series (perhaps more akin to a Popeye script). Song: “Just One More Chance” (heard when Tubby is trying to get Lulu to forgive his indiscretion), a 1931 pop song which was under recent reissue by Decca in a special collector’s series album set of Bing Crosby’s Brunswick recordings. The Crosby Brunswick had dance competition by Abe Lyman on Brunswick, Gus Arnheim on Victor, and Ben Selvin on Columbia. The tune was revived in the 1950’s by Les Paul and Mary Ford on Capitol. A special LP of historical reissues released in the “Vintage Series” by RCA in the late 1970’s unearthed an aircheck performance of the song by Crosby from his first broadcast on CBS, taken from a feed over radio station KHJ.
Musica-Lulu (1/24/47) – Lulu wants to play baseball with her buddies out in the yard, but her father insists she practice violin (the old Kreutzer etude) for another half-hour. Lulu pulls a fast one, using her dog’s wagging tail to power the violin bow, while she sneaks out to the game. But a long fly ball conks Lulu on the head, and she has a nightmare about being tried before a court of musical instruments for desertion of her violin. Jackson Beck gets some good voice work as the Judge. Though Lulu flirts with the jury by showing them a sizeable amount of rubber-hose leg, they unanimously find her “Guilty”. She is jailed inside a giant guitar, but sneaks through the strings in a prison break. She is pursued by a quartet of singing music notes, and by every instrument in the land, including giant cymbals, accordions that move like snakes, etc. She is finally netted in a web of harp strings, but returns to reality with the team. A compromise is reached to keep the dream from coming true, as Lulu continues to play ball, but uses her violin as the bat, practicing between at bats while she sits on base. Song: “You Gotta Have Music”, an original, penned by Mack David and Winston Sharples. See the cue sheet below. The trial is also set to musical couplets, also originally penned for the film.
A Scout With the Gout (7/24/47) – Lulu’s father sees her engaging in a craft she is trying to learn for a scout troop, sending smoke signals via stencils. This brings back memories of his childhood, which was a long, LONG time ago. Her father decides that they should go into the forest primeval to get a taste of what nature is really like. Lulu does get the hang of producing fire by rubbing sticks together, but their fish dinner gets stolen by a raccoon. Father tracks the raccoon to a cave, but Lulu seals them both in by rolling a boulder into the cave’s mouth. A fire develops in the cave, which Lulu quenches by diverting a stream into a hole in the cave’s roof – causing Dad to swallow the entire cave full of water. Lulu eventually extricates him through the impossibly small hole by means of a snare trap tied to a springy sapling, and they head home musically, with Lulu adding “straight home to the doctor”, as Dad follows on crutches, while the Raccoon enjoys one of Lulu’s lollipops in her backpack. Song: “We’re Going To Go Camping”, an original song sung by Daddy (Jackson Beck), then reprised by Lulu at the ending with different lyrics.
A Bout With a Trout (10/30/47) – Lulu is more interested in playing hookey than going to school. She even has her fishing gear at the ready, concealed in one of the steps of the schoolhouse. Lulu gets a bump on the noggin, and winds up in a surreal dream sequence about education, which amounts to a music video on the current Bing Crosby hit, “Swingin’ On a Star”, an Oscar winner from the feature, Going My Way. Bing recorded it on Decca, and Gray Rains and his Orchestra on the Hit Label. I believe the Rains band was formerly the band of Jan Garber during a brief period when he attempted to abandon the Lombardo sound in favor of Swing, Gray being an arranger who took over fronting the aggregation. The Rains version charted for one week. Also recording the number was Freddie Slack on Capitol. Geraldo would get the number for the British Isles on Parlophone, and Carroll Gibbons likewise performed it for Columbia. Bill Snyder would perform it as a piano solo in a 50’s revival on Decca. Big Dee Irwin would also rock it up on the Dimension label in 1962.
According to “Marge and Lulu: The Art of the Deal” by Jennifer Gotwals (2021), Marjorie H. Buell’s 1943 contract with Paramount entitled her to a flat $500 for each Little Lulu cartoon they made, plus 5 percent of all profits above that sum. Her 1960 contract, on the other hand, required her to put up $3500 toward the production costs of each cartoon. Only two of them were made, and Marge lost money on both of them.
“A Bout with a Trout” is the first Little Lulu cartoon I remember seeing, when I was a six-year-old sick with the chicken pox, and the song is what I remember best about it. Bing Crosby has a little cameo in the cartoon, along with Bob Hope and Jerry Colonna. The three of them also appear in the later Little Lulu cartoon “The Baby Sitter”, as well as W. C. Fields, Frank Sinatra, Harpo Marx, and Cab Calloway — all as babies!
It’s “just curious” that “Lulu in Hollywood” doesn’t contain caricatures of any Hollywood stars (Lulu sporting Veronica Lake’s peekaboo hairstyle or Chaplin’s moustache doesn’t count). The majestic music that plays during Lulu’s big scene is the Coronation March from Act 4 of “Le Prophete” by Giacomo Meyerbeer.
I love the Satisfiers’ recording of the theme song. I’m going to have to learn that second verse!
I really like the songs you’ve included in this article, including the extended little lulu theme song. Where can I get that? Seriously, this is one of my favorite, or maybe I should say my absolute favorite series of all of the famous studios cartoons.
The original single of “Little Lulu” on 78 is decidedly scarce (I’ve never encountered it in 40 years of collecting, nor am aware of any copies being offered on the Internet). However, it has been included in a CD collection called “The Satisfiers: Personality!”, an import CD from legitimate sources which is available on Amazon – for an exceptionally low price!
Bill Evans,one of the best post WWII jazz pianists,found treasure in the Little Lulu theme,also covered California Here I Come.
Regarding the “Little Lulu” 78 by the Satisfiers: many 78s have been digitized and can be downloaded on the Internet Archive, including “Little Lulu.” Her’e’s the URL:
“Lulu’s Birthday Party” and “Musica-Lulu” are my particular favorites, and hopefully they will be restored to their original Technicolor glory (as one or two Lulus apparently already have been). At least the missing second of soundtrack that plagued many prints of the latter, throwing the last two minutes out of sync, has reappeared on one YouTube video.
On the whole, however, deadpan Lulu lacked sufficient charm for adult viewers to be enthralled by her willful mischief. The sympathy goes to the unidentified man (with a handlebar mustache and a chin almost to rival Popeye’s) who suffered through many of Lulu’s antics.
She may have dodged a spanking in that first cartoon, but apparently it happened often enough for her to have a rubber stamp for her diary: “I got a spanking.” That being a major tenet of childhood in those days, her friends didn’t escape it, either: “Bored of Education” ends with Lulu fanning Tubby’s large rear end, glowing red from beneath his short pants, as she chuckles and says “You sure stuck your neck out that time.”
“Musica-Lulu” may be an unlikely candidate for a full restoration, unless someone is fortunate enough to locate a positive nitrate original. UCLA’s catalog of holdings indicates only one soundtrack element, labeled as “duped”, likely indicating the copy with the soundtrack break that has been used on all UM&M prints – indicating that the master soundtrack no longer exists. I was the one that “fixed” the soundtrack, but it was a cobbling-job of pasting together isolated syllables from other portions of the track and from another cartoon in which the same chorus performed. It may unfortunately be the best anyone can hope for – short of hiring a new chorus and orchestra in attempt to “match” the sound of the original session.
FABULOUS post. Many thanks!
The jazz pianist Bill Evans recorded the Little Lulu theme on two of his albums in the 1960s:
The 1997 CD reissue contains two longer, alternate takes (which you can find on most streaming platforms today).
Further Conversations with Myself
I’m a fan of Evans (and Lulu)—and I wish I knew why he apparently had a fondness for this song.