If imitation is indeed the most sincere form of flattery, then Walter Elias Disney might have felt flattered on reading in the “trades” about the progress Max Fleischer was making in getting Gulliver’s Travels onto the screen in time for a Christmas, 1939 deadline.
OF course, Disney would not have had much tie to savor the flattery, as he and his were engaged in getting their second animated feature, Pinocchio into theaters soon after the Fleischer opus hit.
Following the pattern set by Snow White, Gulliver was to be a musical, with a score consisting of eight songs–seven of them by Paramount “house composers” Leo Robin and Ralph Rainger. (The eighth, “It’s A Hap-Hap-Happy Day” was written by Fleischer’s own house composers, Al Neibrg, Sammy Timberg and Winston Sharples.)
Victor Young put together an album featuring the entire song score, for Decca records. And Bluebird issued what might be called a “storyteller” set, using some of the songs. Greg Ehrbar has written about both of these sets (see here).
But the songs were also distributed to the various dance and swing-bands that were all over the place. And the record companies of the time were interested in recording them.
The bands that got to do these tunes ranged from the established swing groups (Benny Goodman), through the new sensations (Glenn Miller), the hopeful up-and-comers (Bob Zurke).
On the sweet side, there were well-established favorites among those who did not want to swing (Guy Lombardo, Eddy Duchin), to bands that had tenor saxes mooing all night long (Joe Sudy).
There were also vocal records–some of them in dance tempo, some not. These included records by Dick Todd (styled “The Canadian Crosby”), Ginny Simms (featured thrush with Kay Kyser’s orchestra) and Irish-styled tenor Kenny Baker (who had just left the employ of one Jack Benny).
Of the songs,the one that seems to have gotten the most play is “Faithful Forever”, followed closely by “It’s A Hap-Hap-Happy Day”, then by “Bluebirds In The Moonlight” and “I Hear A Dream”.
“All’s Well” got relatively short shrift, but that’s naught compared to the one commercial recording made of “We’re All Together Now”. (That one is by Johnny Messner and his Music box Music, who recorded for the tiny Varsity label.)
Nobody, outside of Victor Young, bothered with either “Faithful” or “Forever”–at least not in this country.
The film opened in England in 1940, and appears to have been just as popular over there as over here.
British bands and singers fell over themselves to record songs from the score. These included the bands of Jack Hylton, Carroll Gibbons, and Ambrose, as well as such singers as Vera Lynn (then quite young), Pat Kirkwood, and comedian Arthur Askey.
Even cinema-organists got into the act, with Reginald Dixon recording a selection of airs from the film.
Next: Melodies for a Puppet.