In Thunderbean Land:
At Thunderbean, things are moving more rapidly than ever. Watching several projects move forward quickly and others just wrapping makes for a happy February. Dave and Becky Grauman have basically taken over the shipping and order duties, and I’ve had my head stuck in front of a computer a majority of the time in the last weeks with the intention of moving many things forward. One of those has been a project that involved scanning original 35mm neg from a famous designer… more about that soon. I’ve wrapped up two of the three reels and working on the last on one film- and it’s beautiful to see this and other projects come to a good conclusion. The film library has been getting cleaned up as well- with anything borrowed heading back to their proper homes. I recently moved the last of the archival (borrowed) nitrate prints to the office to get them ready to ship back. Now that I can scan things in LA, having to ship things all the way across most of the country can happen a lot less!
Some major goals are getting realized pretty quickly: It looks like we’re now able, fingers crossed, to have 10 sets finished and sent out this month all together- three ‘official’ sets and seven of the special ones. This is largely due to being able to scan 35mm again. A handful of days back, a friend (and fellow archivist) acquired a new, excellent scanner for 16mm and 35mm film, and has generously offered to let me come out to scan a bunch of the 35mm that has been stacking up here. I’m really excited to finally get some of the delayed projects in the can, but it’s a heck of a road trip! I’ll be heading out on a Thursday (this or next) to drove 10+ hours, scanning things late Friday through probably mid-Sunday, then back to Detroit to teach Monday afternoon. When I was 25 this sort of thing was easier. A huge goal is to have a majority of the things on the plate actually done within the year- and that’s looking every plausible at this point.
We’ve launched a special set that I’m scanning to help with the trip and scan costs, available here.Friends have been greatly contributing to the Van Beuren Rainbow Parade set as it rounds the last corner. Chris Buchman has been working on a wonderful review of the Sharples scores for the booklet. Dragan Kovacevic, a talented artist friend and contributor to Thunderbean projects, saw the video we posted last week and offered to help with color correction on a few using the Davinci suite. I handed off Parrotville Old Folks to him for some TLC, and he did a wonderful job getting the blue/ greens and the reds to be much closer to the look of the 1930s prints. In the last handful of weeks, collector and music-finding master Evan Schad lent an excellent ear to helping finding music queues from Rainbow Parades in silent cartoon prints and other stock footage for the ‘Music Only’ versions of the films, adding to the ones Devon Baxter and I have found. Evan found a little piece that opens The Rag Dog that’s more complete than Official Films prints— and this is the exact type of minutiae that I love. Still, it has to end on this one. Letting the possibility of further consideration go is always hard on a project like this, for me anyway, but I’m also thrilled to be thinking about the final master on it. It’s possible to get the master done next week.
I’m purposely not looking at the latest scans from UCLA that have come in quite yet; they include several Iwerks’ Comi-Colors scanned from the original black and white negs/ color records. The series was shot with a special camera using a prism system to record both color records on two strips of film at the same time (what else would you expect from Iwerks?). It appears that no one has gone all the way back to any of these negs since the early 40s (Castle’s Cinecolor prints), instead making materials from prints, even through the Commonwealth and Blackhawk periods. I’ll look soon though, and will of course share them here. There’s many more to do, but the list is getting scanned, little by little, from the things that have been already looked through. Here’s hoping all are in as good of shape as the ones we’ve taken a look at already. It’s always a fingers-crossed scenario when opening each can of nitrate neg.
Now, onto a cartoon for the day!
As I was looking through things to show this week in Thursday’s animation history class, I was surprised to find I’ve never shown In My Merry Oldsmobile (1931) here. While this cartoon has made its rounds over the years (Blackhawk offered decent 16mm prints in the 70s) it was still a really cool find to be able to borrow a nice 35mm print from Eric Greyson for the Fleischer Classics – Gulliver’s Travels set back in 2014. I honesty can’t think of a bad film from this period at Fleischers since almost everything is entertaining about them. This film features one of my favorite gag moments in any Fleischer short. While Lucille sings as she tries to fend off the properly-dressed villain, she’s throwing anything she can at him. At one point a squeaky mouse shows up from nowhere, removing a cup from Lucille’s hand that she’s about to pelt at the villain, replacing it with a large vase! It’s a little almost throw-away moment, but clever and really funny. Besides a little better picture quality (and a wide Movietone aperture) the print has really nice sound. I was surprised also tonight in how much I was enjoying the clever sing along section in this particular cartoon- wish the other few Fleischer commercial shorts would show up at some point. Maybe they’re buried in France somewhere, or perhaps in Spring Lake, Mi or something. The one known print of Step On It (also 1931) seems to be the only other one of these sponsored films that has survived, in the collection of Mark Kausler.
I hope you enjoy this sponsored short, even though you can’t buy an Oldsmobile any more. I’ll always miss my various incarnations of Olds Cieras I had over the years, the last one being a 1996 model. Have a good week everyone!
I believe “In My Merry Oldsmobile” was the first song ever written about a car. At least, it was the first to become a hit and a standard.
I wonder where the live-action portion of the film was shot. The landscape certainly looks like lower Michigan in late autumn or early spring.
What is the name of the new Special Set?
The new special set would appear to be “Cartoon Road Trip.”
The great Gus Edwards- many hits including By the Light of the Silvery Moon, School Days, etc.
Here is the original sheet music:
A timely song indeed.
Many commercial uses were made by the company though the years. Here is a very famous version:
I am looking forward to Ranbow Parades. However, the BIG prize for me. will be Flip The Frog. I hope that comes out this year.
Please give me some hint that it won’t be too long.
There is a single flip the frog, the village specialist, that I want to get 35 mm on that’s in another country. Almost all of the other films are cleaned up with all finished pieces in them. It will be pretty soon if we can manage to get that one last print. So on the coming months… let’s hope!!!
In My Merry Oldsmobile is not the first car song but it may be the first on the name a specific brand of cars. It’s really an advertisement for Oldsmobile
The Jean Goldkette Orchestra recorded a “Victor Special” version of the song for Oldsmobile’s 1927 Convention. Two versions exist, a waltz-time version and a more conventional dance band version with the band members themselves doing the singing. Bix Beiderbecke comes in on the final ride out and improvises the hell out of the melody on cornet. That’s the only reason I know of this tune prior to hearing about the Fleischer cartoon!
As I understand it audiences in theaters rejected this film because it featured a specific car. That’s a shame. Thanks for sharing.
“In My Merry Oldsmobile” is essentially a Screen Song in all but name (plus the Oldsmobile plug, of course). I, too, wish the remaining Fleischer commercial films would resurface. Who owned the films back in the day? Oldsmobile? Were the shorts ever copyrighted to begin with? (I’d research, but…) On a side note, how is “Step On It”?
I have also been interested in locating the Fleischer Industrials. According to the Copyright records, some were listed for Copyright in the name of the sponsor and others were registered with Paramount-Publix since there may have been a joint production-distribution agreement. Jam Handy, as an example distributed through Audio Cinema in the 1930s and later Monogram. I’m sure Jonathan Boschen can elaborate on that.
Thanks for this short, dude! 👍
Interesting that the only Oldsmobiles featured are old time gas buggies that no one in 1931 would ever drive. Is this supposed to sell cars?
The company was founded in 1897, but 1901 was their first year of volume production, so 1931 was celebrated as the company’s 30th anniversary. (The company was the first to use mass production methods, introduced in 1901.) The model used in the film is the famous “curved dash” Olds, first offered in 1902. It was the first widely popular mass produced car. (I rode in a replica many years ago. It’s a fun, bouncy ride.)
Also note also that in 1931 those old cards were well within living memory of adults with disposable income.
Beautiful restoration work there! Brings back memories of the Cutlass my late husband and I inherited from my great aunt. RIP Oldsmobile.
There is a Columbia advertising record from 1915 that was widely distributed through stores that sold Columbia products. It also includes a version on “In My Merry Oldsmobile,” sung (I believe) by Henry Burr, aka Harry McClaskey. They pop up for sale every so often. There are versions by Bing Crosby, Les Brown and others currently offered online, including multiple reissues of the Jean Goldkette/Bix Beiderbecke recordings.
As a bit of trivia, Arthur Godfrey owned a curved-dash Oldsmobile that he periodically featured on his TV show. Mechanix Illustrated ran a story on the car around 1960.
Hey, if you didn’t know, two Van Beuren cartoons were redrawn colorized (not sure if any more exist) in the early 1970s (Sinister Stuff and Japanese Lanterns). However, they were given different titles, considering the prints they used were from Official Films. Wondering if you could do comparison videos with the original, re-issued, and redrawn versions of those two shorts for the next “Thunderbean Thursday”. Sinister Stuff: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vdwbv0l515Q&t=379s Japanese Lanterns: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rgq8ZS7HtgU&t=810s
BTW, nice print of a rare Fleischer short!
OUTSTANDING, Steve! I look forward to your 2021 releases!
So Johnny Steele kills the villain by turning him into a staircase1
That Lucille sure looks like a 30s Marge Simpson, I wonder if Groening ever got to watch this one. Its a hilarious short, its hard to believe audiences back then didn’t appreciate it, it beats most commercials on TV or in the cinema. I really like the gag of the villain locking the door after making a huge hole on it.
I always wanted to know what Al Eugster did. considering he did all the work in Strike Up the Band, I assume he draws large, more rounded hands, structured, even, as opposed to the more loose models from Grim Natwick. That being said, he also had a tendency to stretch limbs as they thin out. It just feels interesting to know something like that.
Now if only we can find Eugster in some of the Krazy Kat shorts he did at Columbia…