The Screen Song cartoons of the 1930-31 season, for the most part, kept up with what the Fleischers had done in the previous season. This despite the fact that the movie industry was reacting to change brought on by the ongoing depression. The public’s tastes for musicals had waned, and musicals vurtually went into eclipse that season. The public was also tiring of campus comedies, operettas, and backstage frivolity. The genre wouldn’t come back until 1933. In its place, crime melodramas were instead riding high. It’s possible that during this season, the Fleischers might have realized that they were not themselves immune to the vicissitudes of the current economic sitation. Still, they didn’t cut corners, and kept supplying the distributors with a respectable and improving product for their money.
Strike Up the Band (9/28/30) – Not to be confused with the Gerswhwin tune associated with Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, this melody is sometimes subtitled “Strike Up the Band (Here Comes a Sailor)” – a tune familiar to Popeye historians, as it would reappear for use as the opening titles number for the original “Popeye the Sailor” in 1933. Cartoon footage is mostly spot gags on nautical life, the protagonists being a couple of “sea dogs”. Dan W. Quinn recorded a version of the song for Berliner Gramophone in 1900. (Quinn was a successful singer of comic songs from the 1890’s through early 1900’s. He made a few records as late as the 1910’s.) Beatrice Kay and the Elm City Four included it in one of her “Naughty 90’s” sets for Columbia. The Jesters also recorded it for Decca. Other songs include, “Asleep in the Deep”, and “March of the Grenadiers” from “The Love Parade” (recorded by Jeanette MacDonald for Victor, and by Debroy Somers’ Band in England on Columbia).
My Gal Sal (10/18/30) – A street serenader is singing the title tune, and winds up with the makings of a furnished apartment from the items thrown by all the neighbors, whose aim isn’t very good (including a piano, bed, and assorted chamber pots). Ends with a second segment featuring a hoochie-coochie dancer dancing to “Mazel Tov”, who’s act is covered over by a curtain bearing a police department shield. The title tune was written by Paul Dresser in 1905. An early recording was issued by Byron G. Harlan on Imperial. The number became a standard among musicians, and was recorded by Ted Weems on Victor in 1924, the Charleston Chasers on Columbia in 1927, Tom Gerunovich (who would later shorten his last name to Gerun) and his Roof Garden Orchestra on Brunswick in 1928. Danny Altier ‘s Orchestra featuring Francis “Muggsy” Spanier on trumpet for Vocalion in 1929, Fletcher Henderson on Columba in 1931, Chick Bullock ad his Levee Loungers on Melotone in 1936, the Mills Brothers in barber shop style for Decca, and Freddy Martin on Victor.
Mariutch (11/15/30) – The full song title is often known as “Mariuch (Make-a da Hooch-a ma-Kootch Down on Coney Isle). An Italian flavored novelty song about a good italian girl finding employment at a Coney Island sideshow. The cartoon closely tracks the song’s storyline, with a sideline having the Italian boyfriend doing a little flirting with a beach bathing beauty, resulting in a run-in with a cop who the Italian mistakes for a mannequin. At the end of a chase through a fun house barrel roll, the boyfriend notices a large crowd, and finds them all eyeing the undulating sways of his girlfriend’s dance. While she is plainly seen in these shots, the closing lyrics have the boy sneak up on what still appears to be the dancer, silhouetted against a curtain. But when the curtain is pulled, it turns out to be three acrobats instead. James Brockman (who may be the song’s composer) recorded a 1908 two-minute cylinder of the piece for Edison, with a clear, clean vocal signal. A comedy sketch incorporating the song was also recorded by Ada Jones and Len Spencer as “Mariutch at Coney Isle” on Zon-o-Phone.
On a Sunday Afternoon (12/27/30) – A large family is going out for a Sunday jaunt in an open car. What’s a long auto trip without car trouble? One of the front tires goes flat, and when repairs are made, the hub has a cast on it, and is also augmented by a cane. Only the title song appears, written by Andrew B. Sterling and Harry Von Tilzer. Sheet music credits the song as performed with great success by Joe, Myrna, and, yes, Buster Keaton on the vaudeville stage, long before Keaton’s illustrious film career. Recorded by Harry MacDonough on Monarch circa 1906.
Row, Row, Row (12/20/30) – A not so-romantic date with a gitl in a waterfront dive turns into an apache dance, The nautical “hero” sets out in a rowboat, but takes the girl along only by forgetting to untie the craft from the dock, ripping the part of the pier she is standing on away and hauling it in tow. Songs include “The Bowery”, “How Dry I Am”, “Valse Chaloupee” by Offenbach (the apache dance theme), “A Precious Little Thing Called Love” (a 1929 pop song, recorded by George Olsen on Victor, Ben Selvin on Columbia, and vocal renderings by Johnny Marvin and Ed Smalle on Victor – also covered by most of the smaller companies), and “Little Annie Rooney” (a gay 90’s style song – Arthur C. Clough recorded it for Edison in 1911, and later James Egan on electrical Columbia in their Irish series. The song snuck its way into countless retrospective medleys, including Arthur Fiedler’s “Old Timers’ Night at the Pops” for the Boston Pops Orchestra on Victor). The title number was from the Ziegfield Follies of 1912. Victor had it by Ada Jones. Columbia offered the Columbia Quartette (Albert Campbell, Henry Burr, Arthur Collins, John Meter). Revived in the film “Two Weeks With Love” by Debbie Retnolds and Carlson Carpenter for MGM. Phil Harris also revived it for RCA Victor. Another exceptional film version, though never issued at the time on a commercial recording, was performed by Betty Hutton, in the film “Incendiary Blonde”, where she impersonated night club impresario Texas Guinan.
Please Go Way and Let Me Sleep (1/14/31) We’ve covered the title song as used incidentally in a previous article. Its original title is “Please Let Me Sleep”. Bimbo is trying to avoid getting woken up, avoiding alarm clocks and the like. Other songs in the score include “Revielle”, “Lazy Mary, Will You Get Up” (same medlody as “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush”), “Narcissus” (a well-known idyll written by Ethelbert Nevin. recorded by Sousa’s Band on Victor, Pryor’s Band on Victor im 1908 (one of the first months in which Victor produced double-face records), Rudy Wiedoeft (a saxophone virtuoso) as the Wiedoeft Ensemble on Brunswick, the Argonne String Quartet on Aeolion Vocalion vertical-cut records, Henry Hatley’s Orcgestra on acoustic Okeh, Felix Arndt on acoustic Victor, Alfredo Campoli and his Salon Orchestra on British Decca, and Hans Barth on Victor electrical. The tune might be best remembered by animation fans as one of the numbers Goofy and Donald trot to while seducing two amorous moose in Moose Hunters (1936).
By the Beautiful Sea (1/23/31) – The film’s animation content was recently reviewed in an Animation Trails column, “Hit the Beach (Part 1)” on this website. Songs include “In the Good Old Summertime”, and the title song, which was recorded by Ada Jones and Billy Watkins for Columbia, and the Heidelberg Quuintette for Victor (Will Oakland, John Bieling, Billy Murray, Steve Porter, and William Hooley). Irving Kaufman revived it in a Thesaurus transcription in 1946. Spike Jones recorded two versions – a Standard Transcriptionin 1944, and a Victor recording in 1947 (it was the original flip side of his hit, “William Tell Overture”, but some executive appears to have enturely misheard one line of lyric, thought someone had said something naughty (I find no evidence of same), and had the title pulled from later pressings. The Firehouse Five Plus Two would again revive it for their “Goes to Sea” album on Good Time Jazz.
I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now (2/28/31) – A tough street cat, who is courting a female who claims to be busy entertaining her “daddy” inside, uses catnip which is labeled “For cold and indifferent dames” to lure her out. The female turns out to be not so faithful to either the street cat or her “daddy” – waiting until they leave to give a whistle into the street, hailing several other potential suitors. “You Brough a New Kind of Love To Me”, a hit for Maurice Chevalier from the otherwise lackluster feature, “The Big Pond”, is included. Maurice would record it twice for Victor – once in English, the other in French. Ethel Waters recorded it for Columbia, with Benny Goodman ad Adrian Rollini in the backup band. Bert Hirsch and the Hit of the Week Orchestra recorded a good instrumental version for the cardboard 15 cent Hit of the Week. Victor had its own dance band version by the High Hatters. Columbia also provided large dance band arrangement by Paul Whiteman’s Orchestra with vocal by Bing Crosby. Brunswick had the Colonial Club Orchestra (a studio band). Sammy Fain, one of the song’s composers, also issued a vocal cersion on electrical Harmony, featuring accompaniment by guitarist Eddie Lang. The number would also be well remembered from a sequence in the Marx Brothers’ “Monkey Business”, where all four brother try to sneak through customs by providing singing impersonations of Chevalier – even Harpo (using a gramophone). Also included was “My Future Just Passed” from Paramount’s feature “Safety in Numbers:” starring Charles “Buddy” Rogers. Rogers recorded the piece for Columbia. Harmony had a vocal version by Annette Hanshaw. Dance versions were again issued by the Columbia Photo Players (a Ben Selvin house band), the High Hatters on Victor, and Stan Stanley and his orchestra (a midwestern territory band) on Champion. As for the title song, Billy Murray recorded it for Victor in 1909 – a bit straighter material than one might expect for his tastes. A good-sized hit was achieved in revival of the number by Ted Weems and his young vocalist Perry Como on Decca in the 1930’s. Joe Howard (one of the composers) recorded it for DeLuxe in about 1946. Perry Como would record the number again with his own name in star prominence for Victor in 1947. Ray Charles (when he was still trying to be Nat King Cole) recorded the number with a trio in his early career for the Swing Time label.
Next: Screen Songs 1931.