NEEDLE DROP NOTES
March 17, 2020 posted by James Parten

Looney Tunes 1937-38: Steady As She Goes

By the beginning of the 1937-1938 season, both the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies were zooming their Warner Brothers’ shields at the audience. The zoom on the cartoons does not appear to be as fast as concurrently used on the feature films. And early in this season, they made the zoom seem more gentle by curing it to an upwards glissando on the electric steel guitar. segueing into the new theme songs used for both series, “Merrily We Roll Along” for Merrie Melodies, and “The Merry Go Round Broke Down” for Looney Tunes.

Porky’s Garden (9/11/37) – Porky’s grown a garden, but a neighbor raises chickens. Both want to enter their biggest home grown item for a County Fair prize. Porky thinks his large vegetables will do the trick, until his neighbor sets his chickens loose within the garden for a feeding frenzy, wiping out all the bumper crop except a large pumpkin. Porky rescues this sole survivor long enough to get to the fair. The neighbor brings his flock of fattened chickens, but is foiled by a spilled bottle of reducing pills from a medicine show hawker, which the chickens swallow like after-dinner mints. At the judging stand, the neighbor is about to take the prize, when his flock shrinks to little chicks. Porky grabs away the prize through the holes of a double iris out.

Songs: “Hi Ho the Merri-O”, a 1926 pop song recorded widely by bands such as Irving Aaronson and his Commanders on Victor, The Knickerbockers on Columbia, and Mike Markel’s Society Band on Brunswick; “I Went To the Anima Fair”, a 1924 song based upon a well-known nursery rhyme, recorded by Carl Fenton’s Orchestra with vocal by Billy Jones and Ernest Hare (The Happiness Boys) on Brunswick; “Chicken Reel”, “Am I Blue”, “Farner in the Dell”, “Carolina in the Morning”, and “Song of the Marines”, from Dick Powell’s feature “The Singing Marine” (used as an underscore as a defenseless chick eats a leaf of spinach and transforms into a junior version of Popeye), recorded by Powell on Decca and as a dance record by Jimmy Ray on Bluebird. This latter song would become a favorite and often-used cue by Carl Stalling for anything nautical, and receive several vocal renditions in the cartoons as well.


Rover’s Rival (10/9/37) – You can’t teach an old dog new tricks – or can you? Faithful old rover is shown up by a young puppy – but age and experience prove the better virtue, as the pup can’t tell the difference between a regular stick and a stick of dynamite. Songs: “Old Black Joe”; “Nagasaki”; and “Because My Baby Says It’s So”, another number from “The Singing Marine” recorded by Dick Powell on Decca, and in popular dance tempo by Bunny Berigan on Victor, Vincent Lopez on Melotone, and Ozzie Nelson on Bluebird (yes, Ricky’s dad could sing!).


Case of the Stuttering Pig (10/30/37) – Porky, Petunia, and their family are stuck in a creepy old house, as Lawyer Goodwill comes to preside over the reading of the will of their late uncle, Solomon Swine. Uncle Solly left the house to them – but if anything hapens to the pigs, the house reverts to lawyer Goodwill. After the lawyer leaves, he disappears into the basement, mixes some Jekyll and Hyde juice (mixing it as a Bromo Seltzer by pouring it from glass to glass), and transforms into a monster to do in the family – even challenging a “guy in the third row” to do anything about it. The monster traps the family in stocks, and is about to do a little throat cutting, but gets bonked by a thrown chair and locked in the stocks himself – the chair thrown by the guy in the third row. Songs include “the storm” 2nd movement of the William Tell Overture; “How Could You?”, recorded by Miff Mole and his Orchestra or Brunswick, and Teddy Wilson (also for Brunswick) with vocal by Billie Holiday; “Half of Me (Wants To Be Good)” and “Puddin Head Jones”.


Porky’s Double Trouble (11/13/37) – Public Enemy #1 (The Killer) is an absolute double for bank teller Porky Pig. Killer decides to kidnap Porky and masquerade as our porcine hero, hoping to get easy access to the bank assets. Petunia determines which is the real Porky and which is the Killer – but walks off with the Killer based on his superior abilities at kissing. Songs include “He Was Her Man”; “Puddin’ Head Jones”, and “With Plenty of Money and You”, all of which have been encountered before.


Porky’s Hero Agency (12/4/37) – Porky reads a book of Greek Myths, and dreams of being a great Greek hero. The Grecian “Emperor Jones” finds his populace switching from people to statues, thanks to the “good for nothing Gorgon”. “Porkykarkus” is hired to retrieve a life-restoring needle from the Gorgon’s statue factory. However, he has to stay out of view of the Gorgon’s photographic eye to accomplish the task. He injects everything in Greece made of stone with the needle – including a large “Temple” and a smaller structure named “Shirley”. Porky wakes up in his mother’s arms, but thinks he is in the clutches of the Gorgon – and momentarily reverts to rigidness as if turned to stone.

Songs: “Remember Me”, introduced by Kenny Baker in “Mr Dodds Takes the Air”, recorded by Hal Kemp on Victor, Teddy Wilson on Brunswick (with vocal by a west-coast nightclub singer, Boots Castle, and also including Benny Goodman), and as a vocal record by Bing Crosby on Decca. The song crossed over the ocean, and was recorded by Elsie Carlisle (label unknown) and in Germany by Greta Keller on Telefunken. “Love Is On The Air Tonight” and “Old King Cole”, both from the feature “Varsity Show” are also featured – Stalling would in fact draw upon this feature’s score quite heavily for awhile. “Love Is On The Air” was recorded by Dick McDonough for Melotone et al. “Old King Cole” was recorded by Larry Kent on Melotone et al. “You’ve Got Something There”, also from Varsity Show, is also included, recorded by Dolly Dawn and her Dawn Patrol on Variety (a George Hall spinoff group). “Have You Got Any Castles” also appears from Variety Show, and will be discussed in a later Merrie Meoldies article. “Am I In Love?” (below) is partially sung by the Gorgon, and was recorded by George Hall on Variety Records, and by Art[ie] Shaw and his orchestra on Brunswick. “He Was Her Man” reappears as cue when Porky uses a broken statue to masquerade as the god “A-Powell-o”. Two more incidental cues include “The Merry Go Round Broke Down”, and a snatch of the Popeye theme (as Porky replaces the broken arms on a Venue De Milo statue with Popeye-style biceps).


Porky’s Poppa (1/15/38) – Hard times have come to Porky’s Poppa’s farm. Old Bessie is no longer producing because of “Hoof and Mouth Trouble”. Poppa spends some of their last money to buy a mechanical “Creamlined” cow. This cartoon has been written up in “Animation Trails” on this website, q. v. Songs include old standard favorites: “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” with special lyrics, and “Dixie”, plus a new favorite, “Bob White (What’cha Gonna Swing Tonight?)”, recorded widely both as a dance and a vocal record. Cut by Benny Goodman for Victor, the composer Johnny Mercer’s version on Brunswick, Mildred Bailey on Vocalion, and a duet of Bing Crosby and Connee Boswell on Decca.


Porky At the Crocadero (2/5/38) – Young Porky Pig wants to be a swing bandleader, and has acquired a diploma from the Sucker’s Correspondence School of Music. He hopes to see his favorite bandleaders conducting the Crocadero Orchestra, until he sees admission prices – $25.00 a plate/$25.50 with food – a good week’s wages for a middle class worker of the time. Porky accepts employment as a dishwasher to hear the music, but proves no match for an annoying little fly. When the bandleaders’ plane is delayed, the manager remembers “dot swing dishvasher”, and brings Porky back to pull the wool over the customers’ eyes. Porky impersonates Paul Whiteman, Guy Lombardo, and Cab Calloway. Songs include “Remember Me” from “Mr. Dodds Takes the Air”, the “Poet and Peasant Overture” by Von Suppe, “Vieni, Vieni” (a 1934 French song which became popular here when Rudy Vallee brought it back from Europe, and recorded same on Bluebird; Benny Goodman also recorded it for Victor with his Quartet), “Avalon” (a 1920 oldie originally introduced by Paul Whireman and his orchestra), :”Summer Night” (introduced by James Melton in a Warner Brothers picture, and recorded by Guy Lombardo (Victor)), and “Chinatown, My Chinatown”, an old standard previously featured in one of the earliest “talkie” Fleischer Screen Songs.


What Price Porky? (2/26/38) – A flock of ducks (including Daffy) swipe all the feed from Porky’s hen’s. The result is a battle royal between the respective poultry, lampooning all manner of WW1 epics. Musical score includes a revisit to “Song of the Marines” from “The Singing Marine”, and “Mademoiselle from Armentiers”.


Porky’s Phoney Express (3/19/38) – Porky, employed in a menial position at the pony express office, wants the chance to take the mail out himself. His boss doesn’t think he has the stuff to be a rider, but a plot to use Porky as a decoy backfires when Porky, quite by accident, winds up with the real mail sack. Indians attempt to prove a hindrance, but Porks makes it through anyway. Songs: “Cheyenne” (1905), recorded for several firms by Billy Murray. It would be recorded again in the 1960’s by Homer and Jethro in an album of straight novelties – if that doesn’t sound too much like a contradiction in terms.


Porky’s Five and Ten (4/16/38) – Porky intends to open a five and ten cent store in the Boola Boola Islands. He is taking a load of stock there, when a swordfish saws the bottom out of his boat and drops the supplies into the ocean for the aquatic community, where the items become part of a parody on Hollywood, with emphasis on the Hollywood Hotel, and celebrity caricatures abounding. All is going well for the fish until a giant waterspout sucks up all the stock and deposits it back on Porky’s boat. Songs; “Hooray for Hollywood” from Warner’s feature Hollywood Hotel (embed below), and “I’m Like a Fish Out Of Water” also from the same picture. No contemporary recordings are known of “Hooray for Hollywood”, although a recording surfaced in Budapest around 1942 by “Chappie” (I believe on Columbia), and Columbia would much later issue the song as an album cut for Doris Day. “I’m Like a Fish Out of Water” was recorded by Benny Goodman for Victor. “Let That Be a Lesson To You”, also from “Hollywood Hotel”, also appears – we will meet up again with this number in a Merrie Melodies cartoon to be discussed in a later article.


Porky’s Hare Hunt (4/30/38) – Porky goes rabbit hunting, and finds himself on the business end of a gun aiming at “Bugs’s Bunny”. Borrows some gag ideas from the previous “Porky’s Duck Hunt”, and would have influence on some later Bugs Bunny cartoons. Songs again include “Little Man, You’ve Had a Busy Day”.


Injun Trouble (5/21/38) – The move West of paleface settlers is being hampered by Injun Joe, the Super Chief. Scout Porky Pig tries to protect the wagon train, and faces off against the Chief and his tomahawk. Meanwhile, a stranger knows a secret about Injun Joe, but doesn’t get much chance to tell until the end of the cartoon, providing a key secret weapon. Songs include oldies such as “Oh, Susamma”, as well as a more recent number, “The Old Apple Tree”, introduced in “Swing Your Lady”, a Warner comedy musical. “Old Apple Tree” was recorded by Guy Lombardo for Victor.


Porky the Fireman (6/4/38) – Firefighter Porky receives a call to put out a blaze at Mr. Twerp’s Theatrical Boarding House. A collection of gags ensues involving the fire hose and fire hydrants, but neither seems to help Mr. Twerp’s clients much. Songs include the old favorite, “It Looks Like a Big Night Tonight”, “Boulevardier From the Bronx” – as well as “The Old Apple Tree” introduced in the 1938 feature Swing Your Lady – and heard in the first minute of the trailer for that film, below.


Porky’s Party (6/25/38) – Porky throws himself a birthday party. His first present is an Oriental silkworm who does his stuff every time someone says “sew”. Porky finds himself embarassed by some of the silkworm’s production-line “unmentionables”. Meanwhile, Porky’s dog winds up drinking hair tonic with a high alcohol content, and ends up a drunken hairy mess with shaving cream around the mouth, leading to a mad “mad dog” chase. Songs include “Bei Mir Bist Du Schon”, a song from the 2nd Avenue theatre district which became a hit when swung by the Andrews Sisters on Decca. Victor issued a six-minute, two part version by Benny Goodman augmented by Ziggy Elman on trumpet, and a standard one-side version by Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians. “Sissy” is also featured, recorded for Bluebird by Frank Dailey and his Stop-and-Go Orchestra, a stylized sweet band in a style similar to Shep Fields. It was also recorded on Decca by Frank Crumit with backing by the Al Duffy Quartet. The Pizzicato from Delibes’ “Sylvia” ballet accompanies the Silkworm’s sewing, while the dog’s inebriation receives the usual treatment with “How Dry I Am.” Another 2nd Avenue Theatre song, “Joseph Joseph”, accompanies the chase sequence, also poularized by the Andrews Sisters on Decca.


Porky’s Spring Planting (7/28/38) – Similar to Porky’s Garden, Porky plants a veritable smorgasbord of vegetables – and a flock of chickens (more proactive this time, as they don’t require a next door neighbor to prompt their intrusion) convert the garden into their personal cafeteria. Porky adds a scarecrow, whose clothes bring comments from a decidedly Kosher chicken, “Hmmmm, nice material.” The film ends with a reference to radio star Ken Murray’s sidekick Oswald’s catch phrase, as Porky suggestion to plant a separate corn garden for the chickens is met with approval by a unison “Ohhh, Yeaaaahh!” Songs include “Just a Simple Melody”, recorded by Chick Webb’s orchestra on Decca with his young vocalist, Ella Fitzgerald, and by Tommy Dorsey on Victor. “Daddy’s Boy”, recorded on Decca by Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra, also appears, along with a return of “Bob White (Whatcha Gonna Swing Tonight?)”.


Wholly Smoke (8/27/38) – Little Boy Porky appears in a cautionary tale about what happens when little punks – – that is, boys – – smoke. Porky’s attempt to smoke a cigar gives him a tobacco-induced fever dream at the local smoke shop, where he meets “Nick O’Teen” of 1313 Tobacco Road, who, in fashion similar to “Pigs Is Pigs”, gives Porky “All the smoking he can handle”.

Songs: “Mysterious Mose”, with special lyrics (“Little Boys Shouldn’t Smoke”), recorded in its original form by Ted Weems on Victor, Rube Bloom and his Batou Boys on Columbia, the Radio All Star Orchestra on Brunswick (believed to be a Harry Reser group), and Carl Radlach on Perfect and other dime store labels (believed to be Bernie Cummins cheating on his Victor records contract), and also performed in an early Fleischer Talkartoon of the same title by an early Betty Boop; “The Little Old Church In the Valley”, a 1931 sentimental waltz recorded by Ted Lewis at the time for Columbia, and for Victor by the sweet Irish tenor Morton Downey; and “The Merry Go Round Broke Down”.

By this time, the Looney Tunes series was going along so smoothly, it seemed the Termite Terrace gang could do them in their sleep. Next time, we look at their Merrie Melodies from 1937-38.

12 Comments

  • I’m over the moon for these Looney Tunes tunes!

    Many years later, Mel Brooks would adapt “Song of the Marines” into the title song of his 1993 film “Robin Hood: Men in Tights”.

    “Mr. Twerp’s Theatrical Boarding House”: Joe Twerp (1910-1980), born Escott Brandon Boyes, was a comic bit player in Hollywood films of the thirties, for example playing the Stuttering Clerk in “In Old Chicago” (20th Century Fox, 1938). He had a distinctive manner of delivering stammering spoonerisms, which would often conclude with his catch phrase, “Oh, let it go, let it go!” According to the Internet Movie Database, Twerp did voice work for three Schlesinger cartoons, playing a ditch digger in the Porky Pig cartoon “The Village Smithy (Avery, 1936), the Ice Man in “I Only Have Eyes for You” (Avery, 1937), and the horse race announcer in “Porky and Teabiscuit” (Hardaway/Dalton, 1939). (Naturally I defer to Keith Scott as to the the accuracy of these credits.) Apparently Twerp was considered for the role of Doc in “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, but it went to Roy Atwell instead.

    • I didn’t realise Twerp said “Let it go.” Atwell used the same catchphrase on the early Fred Allen shows.

  • I remember seeing most of these shorts on Saturday mornings as a kid – of course, it was the colorized versions done in Korea, so the quality was off, but still fun. It wasn’t until the Nickelodeon Looney Tunes block of the 1990s that I saw the B&W originals (as well as some digitally colorized versions).

    Porky’s Poppa was a particular favorite, especially the “Old MacDonald” song at the beginning with the cow showing “a little calf here and a little calf there” and Porky struggling with his one line “Oh, b-b-boy!”

    “Hurray for Hollywood” had a lyric change in Porky’s Five and Ten. The original went “Go out and try your luck / You might be Donald Duck”; naturally, Warners had it changed to Daffy Duck. The Boola Boola Islands are, of course, a reference to the Yale football song.

  • Where does “Remember Me” play in “Porky’s Hero Agency”? I didn’t hear it. The song definitely plays in “Porky at the Crocadero”, though.

    “Porky’s Phoney Express” actually used quite a few other songs not listed in your summary: “Songs of the Circle Bar”, “Ridin’ the Mail”, “When a Cowboy Takes a Wife” and “My Little Buckaroo”, all by M.K. Jerome; and “San Antonio” by Egbert van Alstyne.

    “Porky the Fireman” uses perhaps my favorite instance of J.S. Zamecnik’s “Traffic” in any WB cartoon. Just adds to the urgent nature of the situation. It juxtaposes nicely with the firedog’s nonchalant walking to “Boulevardier from the Bronx”.

  • Now that’s what I’m talking about!!!!
    I loves me some Porky Pig!!!!
    These are all my favorites!

  • One note on “Porky’s Hero Agency” that’s not music related; the hero’s name “Porkyakarkus” was a takeoff on the character “Parkyakarus” played by comedian Harry Einstein (father of comedians Albert Brooks and Bob Einstein).

  • Didn’t Mel first use that melody for “Jews in Space” from History of the World, Part I?

    • Sound to me like an original song inspired by “Song of the Marines.” It was probably written by Mel himself. He is an accomplished songwriter.

  • Wonderful work! A few more songs, though, that you didn’t note:

    In ROVER’S RIVAL, the music over the episode title is “The Bulldog On the Bank,” and it segues straight into “They Gotta Quit Kickin’ my Dawg Aroun’,” which continues over the opening scenes.

    In INJUN TROUBLE, “Kingdom Coming” plays over many of the early scenes. (NSFW: its lyrics are dated, to put it kindly.)

  • One more for ROVER’S RIVAL: “Old Dog Tray” is the recurring theme tune for Rover, suggesting a noble, faithful and elderly pooch.

    • “Old Dog Tray” was also later heard in “Farm Frolics”, “Fresh Airedale”, “Mixed Master”, “Unnatural History”, and “The Dixie Fryer”.

  • Late in his life, Dick Powell, who had long before abandoned crooning and musicals in favor of dramatic acting and television moguldom, made a brief cameo in a 1962 episode of ENSIGN O’TOOLE (a naval sitcom produced by his company) as an eager Chief auditioning for the ship’s talent show. “I can sing!” he declares, and launches into a rousing rendition of “Song of the Marines.” The organizers of the show are unimpressed, and muse aloud after he leaves, “Whatever would a guy like that do if he weren’t in the Navy?” I believe it was Powell’s final appearance on screen; he passed away a few months later.

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