NEEDLE DROP NOTES
May 4, 2021 posted by James Parten

Max and Dave: More Mix From ‘26

We don’t know if Max Fleischer’s choice of songs to use in the Song Car-Tunes series was indicative of his own musical tastes. By the 30’s. he would in fact be getting quite up to date. But most of the songs in this week’s run are either old standard favorites or popular songs of the ‘aughts or ‘teens, with something of a plurality of Irving Berlin songs. The venture with Alfred Weiss of Red Seal Pictures was going along apace, but one suspects it was not doing Fleischer much financially, with so few theaters wired for sound, and bookings likely sporadic for the song content. It would not be long until Max would seek new studio associations altogether, getting himself out of the Red Seal situation, and out of the logistical nightmare of selling states’ rights, into the more lucrative cycle of studio package bookings, and theatre ownerships guaranteeing a place where they could be viewed.

Annie Laurie (1926, silent?) – John McCormack recorded this Scottish standard for the red seal series on Victor. Swing versions surfaced in the 1930’s by Tommy Dorsey on Victor, Jimmie Lunsford on Decca, and in Australia by Jim Davidson and his ABC Dance Orchestra (a popular broadcast band) on Regal Zonophone, with Alice Smith on vocal. Maxine Sullivan, who had already risen to fame with a swing vocal version of “Loch Lomond”, gave this companion piece a waxing on Vocalion.


In My Harem (1926, silent?) – An Irving Berlin song from 1913. Billy Murray recorded it for an Ediscon Blue Amberol cylinder. Victor issued a “one step” by the Victor Military Band. Walter J. Van Brunt (aka Walter Scanlon) recorded it at least twice – for Columbia, as well as for vertical Phono-Cut records. Jack Charman recorded it for English Homochord.


Just Try To Picture Me (1926, silent?) – Another Irving Berlin song from 1915, actually commercially known by its next line, “Back Home In Tennessee”. Recordings appeared by Collins and Harlan on Victor, and Prince’s Band for Columbia. An unknown vocal duet, Hayes and Croft, recorded it for the British Coliseum label. Besides these few recorded sources, no other waxed versions are known.


My Sweetie (1926, silent?) – This may possibly have used a 1923 pop song, “My Sweetie Went Away”, often subtitled “(She Didn’t Say Why, When, or Where)”. Bessie Smith and Dolly Kay each performed notable vocal versions for Columbia. Billy Murray and Ed Smalle covered it for Victor. The Cotton Pickers (a slightly augmented version of the Original Memphis Five) recorded a jazzier version for Brunswick. The Missouri Jazz Band (possibly a Joseph Samuels studio group) recorded it for American Regal. Anna Chandler gave a vocal version to Edison. Ernest Hare recorded it without his partner for Gennett. Lenzberg’s Riverside Orchestra recorded an early 1920’s version for Banner. Sam Lanin (as “Lanin’s Arcadians”) recorded a version for Perfect. The California Ramblers also performed it uptempo for Columbia. Red Nichols and his Five Pennies recorded it as one of their last sessions for Brunswick. A British version appeared on Zonophone by the “Queen’s” Dance Orchestra (the beginnings of the Jack Hylton Orchestra). The Rhythm Rascals performed a 1936 version for British 9 inch Crown. Sid Phillips and his Orchestra (a saxophonist known for his work with and arrangements/compositions for Ambrose) recorded it for British Rex, imported here on scroll Vocalion. Teresa Brewer recorded a 50’s single on Coral. A very late version appeared on Aristocrat records (eventually replaced by the Chess label) by Frank Abbott.


Oh, How I Hate To Get Up In the Morning (1926) – Originally a 1918 Irving Berlin song from the camp show, “Yip Yip Yaphank”, later to be revived by him for the 1942 all-soldier review, “This is the Army”, with Berlin himself performing the number in both productions (and in the filmed version of the second show for Warner Brothers). Recorded at least five times, for Victor, Columbia, Little Wonder, Edison, and Pathe, all by Arthur Fields, who seems to have had an exclusive on it). Chick Bullock later revived the song in his last recording session, with an all-star Teddy Wilson group, for Okeh. Dock Robertson recorded it for Decca, also issued abroad in their Australian division. Berlin himself also recorded a studio version for the “This Is the Army” original cast album on Decca. The fact that he was able to revive the number is indication how in the army, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Perhaps its last release was on Little Golden Records (with some lyric changes) as a special “Extra Play” black plastic 7″ 78, at the higher price of 35 cents. The recording really wasn’t much longer than a regular Little Golden issue, but they probably had to pay an extra royalty for it, so demanded a little more from the consumer.

Here’s a rare clip of the Fleischer film introduced by Poppo of the Popcorn Theater:


Margie (1926). Film exists on this title (see below). This one was an aberration from the norm (as was a previously-reviewed episode, “When the Midnight Choo Choo Leaves for Alabam”), in that Fleischer chose to have the bouncing ball appear against a patterned background rather than a black screen, preventing the usual use of negative imagery except by possible double exposure of images (which was not the avenue he chose). Instead, the ball’s movement is hand animated – and looks rough by comparison with the usual ping pong ball! In fact, the studio’s successors would not learn how to properly hand-animate the ball until the 1940’s, with the Technicolor revival of the “Screen Song” series by Famous. The film for once also uses an opening not featuring Ko-Ko. Instead, a magician performs a few parlor tricks, leading into an elephant who presents the invitation to sing in lettering on the saddle blanket on his back. Another strange feature of this film and “Choo Choo” is the use of some “extra” song verses that appear to have been penned for the film only, using parody lyrics lampooning love and marriage, that in all likelihood never came from the pen of the original composer.

The original tune, with lyric by Benny Davis and music by Con Conrad, was a big hit in late 1920 and early 1921. Early recordings include a Victor by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, a Brunswick by Gene Rodemich and his Orchestra (who would later in life write scores for Van Buren cartoons), as well as Eddie Cantor on Emerson. Also recorded in England by Fred Douglas (label unknown). It was popular with jazz and swing orchestras, including Red Nichols on Brunswick, Bix Beiderbecke and his band on Okeh, Cab Calloway on Victor, Jimmie Lunceford on Decca and later on Majestic. The song was also the title of a 1940’s Technicolor picture with Jeanne Crain and Alan Young for Fox, and a short-lived TV series based on the picture for ABC in the 1961-62 season.


Oh, What a Pal Was Mary (1926, silent?) – The song was from 1919, and was recorded several times by Henry Burr, for Victor, Columbia, and (as a member of the Sterling Trio) for Emerson. Charles Hart recorded it for Brunswick and for Silvertone (actually cut by Federal, though rarely appearing on its own label). Joseph C. Smith’s Orchestra recorded it as lead song of a medley for Victor. Despite initial popularity, the song did not become a standard, and seems to have received no later revivals.


Everybody’s Doin’ It (1926, silent?) – A 1911 Irving Berlin ragtime hit Collins and Harlan gave it featured prominence on Victor. Tommy Dorsey revived it in the wake of its film appearance in the Fox feature, “Alexander’s Ragrime Band” in the late 30’s. The Mariners gave it a 50’s revival for Cadence.

Finishing up ‘26, and on to a new year, next time.

9 Comments

  • In addition to starring in “Margie”, Jeanne Crain also played a character named Margie in the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical film “State Fair” around the same time.

    The sitcom “Margie” used a Charleston-style arrangement of the song’s chorus as its opening theme. However, it omitted the words “My little”, as “My Little Margie” had been an earlier sitcom on another network.

    I learned “Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning” from an Irving Berlin ukulele songbook that I picked up, along with the ukulele itself, at a neighbour’s estate sale. I swear I remember the couplet as “I’ll amputate his reveille and STAMP upon it heavily,” not “step”, thus creating an internal rhyme with “AMPutate”. But I just looked up the original sheet music online, and as in the Screen Song, it really was “step”. I don’t know if the lyric was altered for a later revue, of if my memory is playing tricks on me.

    • The song ‘Margie’ was also used extensively through out the 1950 feature THE GOOD HUMOR MAN scripted by Frank Tashlin. Frank may have left his animation days behind him, but this was one of those slapstick ‘occupation’ films Tashlin concocted with a very cartoonie twenty minute chase finale… all set to a brassy ‘Margie’ on the soundtrack.

      • Thanks for mentioning that, Dave. I had never seen “The Good Humor Man” before, but I watched it this afternoon and man, what a scream! The musical score is as cartoony as the gags, and the pie fight is the icing on the cake!

  • All of these songs (except Annie Laurie) were either written by Irving Berlin or published by Wassermann, Berlin, & Snyder. So possibly there was an arrangement made to promote the publisher’s songs in return for some sort of financial consideration.

  • So how many early pre-1930 Screen Songs exist?

  • When I learned the lyrics to “Oh How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning,” in place of the “amputate” lines, it was “And then I’ll get the little pup/The one that wakes the bugler up.”

  • James, I’d like to recommend, as I have to Mr. Stanchfield, that you listen in to “The Old Codger” on WFMU.org every Thursday at 6:00 PM EST (3:00 PM PST). He is well known for playing 78 RPM records of the era from which the format was in it’s heyday.

  • I pride myself on being able to sing along with the later screen songs, but boy, these older ones are tough! That “Alabama” song is just about tuneless. And those extra lyrics to “Oh, How I Hate To Get Up In The Morning”…I can’t imagine the kiddos singing along with those!

  • So these Song Car Tune posts have gotten me curious to see as many of these as I can. So far I am at 13. The weird extra lyrics about a “married man” they came up with for “Midnight Choo Choo to Alabam’” makes me wonder if they devised those as a way to reuse much of the animation from “Margie”, which uses the same tuxedo man and flapper girl. Just a thought.

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