September 28, 2021 posted by James Parten

Max and Dave: Screen Songs 1931-32: Slight Changes

Just as the Talkartoons developed during the 1931-32 season, the Screen Songs had developed too. They began to use more up to date song material, rather than the relics they had been used to (although occasional “vintage” items would continue to creep in). And the Fleischers began using more live action footage of famous radio personalities. Not only would Rudy Vallee reappear, but an added recurring player would be Arthur Tracy (the self-styled “street singer”)..

Mister Gallagher and Mister Shean (8/29/31) – We begin which a title which is currently very obscure, despite the fact it was in the U.M.&M. package, I haven’t seen it and I don’t know anyone who has. Eddie Gallagher, of the original team who originated the song as their theme, had already died by the time this film was produced, so it’s apparently Al Shean alone who sings the duet himself, solo. The number was introduced in 1922 in the Ziegfield Follies, and became indelibly associated with the duo of Gallagher and Al Shean, spawning verse after verse in subsequent performances. The duo recorded a two-sided performance of the number for Victor records (below). A French version was performed by Maurice Chevalier and Yvonne Callee on Pathe. It was also covered for at least one label by Billy Jones and Ernest Hare, and by Irving and Jack Kaufman on American Regal. An interesting updated revival was recorded by well-known composer/performer Johnny Mercer with Bing Crosby, as “Mr. Crosby and Mr. Mercer” on Decca, with new lyrics switching the subject to the origins of jazz and swing. Surviving partner Al Shean recorded a version in the 40’s with a new substitute for Gallagher, and would also perform the number with Charles Winninger in the MGM picture, “Ziegfield Girl”. Instrumental versions also existed by Paul Whiteman on Victor. and by the Savoy Havana Band on British Columbia.

You’re Driving Me Crazy (9/15/31) – There’s a festival going on in the jungle, with shimmy dancing, scat singing, and generally hot entertainment among the jungle beasts. After awhile, we see live action footage of a woman borrowing Kate Smith’s “Hello, everybody”, raising the alter call for the audience to join in singing. She is not identified on exusting prints (unknown if this is because of an edit in the reshot titling), nor does she particularly sound to my ears like Kate Smith, so we have no idea who is the mystery artist. Any assist in this regard will be helpful. The title song is the only notable number in the picture, and has already been covered in our discussion of “Silly Scandals” among previous Talkartoons. Things climax in a frenzy as a storm hits the jungle, sending the animals running every which way, and becoming so berserk they begin swapping heads, then all collide, leaving their various parts in a hopeless mess.

Little Annie Rooney (10/10/31) – Annie Rooney is coming home, to find that her fiends are giving her a surprise birthday party. The kids also know that she’s got a sweetheart, who finally shows up at the party, and appears to be Bimbo or a reasonable facsimile. Songs include a return of “Baby’s Birthday Party”, and “Yes Sir, That’s My Baby”, a 1925 hit , recorded by Gene Austin on Victor with assist by Billy “Uke” Carpenter, whom I believe to be Popeye voice Billy Costello, Blossom Seeley on Columbia, the Coon-Sanders Original Nighthawk Orchestra on Victor, and Ace Brigode and his 14 Virginians on Columbia. Victor also issued a version in Yiddish by one Charles Cohan. An unusual comedy version was performed with mock-Oriental accent by Hari Kari and his Saki Sippers (actually Harry Stewart, normally known for an entirely different dialect under the recordings billed as Yogi Yorgesson.) on Capitol. Finally, the title song of the film was recorded for Edison Cylinder by Arthur C. Clough, with a male chorus including Billy Murray.

Kitty From Kansas City (10/31/31) – Not to be confused with “Kansas City Kitty”, another song hit from 1929. A day in the life of Kitty, a character drawn much in the style of Betty Boop, complete with Mae Questal voice – except that her curves all go in the wrong directions. The song refers to Kitty as weighing 243 pounds, and a girl of 110 kilos is not going to resemble a bathing beauty. Rudy Vallee, who originated the hit of the song on Victor, personally appears, while Kitty waits for a train, which she catches by the mail hook. Rudy makes sure to include a line from the original number about Kitty being so dumb, she thinks that Rudy Vallee is a place between two hills. Other recordings of the title number include Johnny Walker (pseudonym for Ben Selvin) on Columbia, and a vocal version by Eddie Walters (under the name “Milt Coleman”) for Harmony, Velvet Tone, and Diva.

By the Light of the Silvery Moon (11/14/31) – Goings on in the night sky. The silvery moon is late, and confesses he was out with a star last night. Old Sol pumches the time clock to retire for the evening. Songs: The title number, from 1911, recorded back in the day by Billy Murray and the Haydn Quartet for Victor. It became a well-loved standard, revived in the early 40’s by Ray Noble for Columbia, and Fats Waller for Bluebird. In the 1950’s, it became the title number of a Doris Day picture, with the song recorded on Columbia.

Also included, “(There Ought to be a) Moonlight Saving Time”, a 1931 song, fairly popular in the spring of the year, recorded by Rudy Vallee on Victor, Guy Lombardo on Columbia, and vocal versions by Ruth Etting on Columbia, and Chick Bullock on Perfect et al. One suspects the song was inspired by the controversy them facing states as to adopting daylight saving time.

“Stardust”, the song of the 20th century (considering how many times it was recorded, and during how many years), also appears Hoagy Carmichael’s original composition was first presented as a hot dance number, not yet affixed to Mitchell Parish’s lyric. He recorded it that way for Gennett in 1927, but the first big selling version was by Isham Jones for Brunswick in 1930. Ted Wallace and his Campus Boys were given the song on Columbia. Wayne King got it for Victor. And it was recorded by Fletcher Henderson’s Connie’s Inn Orchestra on Crown. Once the lyric was affixed, the song rocketed to popularity, and was recorded by Bing Crosby on Brunswick, and Gene Austin on Victor. Jazz musicians fell in love with the piece. It was recorded by Louis Armstrong on Okeh, and much later by many of the big swing bands, including notable versions by Artie Shaw on Victor and Glenn Miller on Bluebird. Victor and RCA would eventually chalk up so many versions of the piece, they would release a reissue LP including twelve different versions, entitled, “The Stardust Road”, also including versions by Benny Goodman, Fats Waller, Tommy Dorsey, Richard Maltby, and Ralph Flanagan, among others. Frank Sinatra would include it as a 50’s album cut for Capitol, but sing only the verse. Possibly the definitive vocal version was recorded by Nat King Cole in the 50’s for Capitol. The song even crossed over into the Rock and Roll vein by means of Billy Ward and his Dominoes on Liberty, and April Stevens and Nino Tempo on Atco in the 1960’s. Even in the late 70’s, it was recorded by Willie Nelson on Capirol. Considerable longevity for a composition. Other songs in the film include “I’m Wild About Horns on Automobiles”, which provides backing for a gag where Bimbo’s girlfriend proves she’s prepared for anything, carrtying in her purse a portable automobile so that she does not have to stay with Bimbo when he feigns a car breakdown. Billy Hays recorded it on Victor, Harry Reser’s Syncopaters on Columbia, and Jack Kaufman for Cameo, Romeo, and Lincoln.

“When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain” is also quoted – theme song intimately associated with Kate Smith, first recorded by her for Harmony, Velvet Tone, and Clarion, then re-recorded in a separate session for Columbia. Frank Luther and Carson Robison cut it as a vocal duet for Victor. A dance version also appeared by Leo Reisman on Victor. “Got the Bench, Got the Park (But I Haven’t Got You)” is aother included ditty, and was recorded by Bert Lown on Victor, and by Noble Sissle on Brunswick with Sidney Bechet on soprano sax and Sissle himself on vocal. Finally, “Row, Row, Row”, also makes a return appearance, as a bunch of mice row the moon through the sky.

My Baby Just Cares For Me (12/5/31) – Bimbo finds what he thinks is a lucky horseshoe in the street. Turns out there is a horse attached, which Bimbo names “Baby”. Bimbo tries cleaning up Baby, which results in a session of barbering. When Bimbo gives Baby a shave, the stubble comes back as quick as it is cut (Been there, done that?). (This gag would be stolen years later by Columbia for its first L’il Abner cartoon, Amoozin’ But Confoozin’.) Eventually, Baby is cleaned to Bimbo’s satisfaction, and they go out to a merry-go-round, where Baby becomes one of the horses of the carousel. They stay on the merry go round until they hear a call to the post, and Baby joins a horse race, which he wins by a tongue. Prior to the race, Baby’s feedbag was full of oats. Now it is full of greenbacks, and several Yiddish mice are there to collect the change.

Songs include “The Old Gray Mare”, “Horses”, “Good Morning, Mr Zip Zip Zip” during the barbering of Baby (a 1917 song commenting on the very short haircuts given in the military, recorded by Arthur Fields and the Peerless Quartet for Columbia and Victor, and without the Peerless Quartet for Paramount), “When I Take My Sugar to Tea” (a 1931 pop, done as a vocal by the Boswell Sisters on Brunswick, and as a dance record by Noble Sissle for Brunswick, and Bert Lown for Victor. The Chocolate Dandies issued a version on Vocalion – actually an unbilled last session by King Oliver’s orchestra. The Sunshine Boys reorded it for Melotone, and Harry Reser for Hit of the Week. It was revived in the late 40’s by Don Cornell for Victor, and Johnny Long on Decca. Later versions included Billy May on Capitol, and Les Elgart on Columbia). Other songs in the score include “Stars and Stripes Forever, and “Mahzel Tov”. The title number of the cartoon was from the Eddie Cantor Broadway production, “Whoopee”, but curiously was not commercially recorded by him at the time. Ted Weems performed it on Victor, Lou Gold for Perfect et al., and Isham Jones on Brunswick A vocal version was issued on Okeh by “Bob Blue” (actually Smith Ballew). English version included The Merry Melody Men (a Harry Hudson group) on Edison Bell Radio, Jack Payne for Columbia, Billy Cotton for Regal, and Wolf Phillips and his Swing Stars on Columbia. In later years there were versions by Somethin’ Smith and the Redheads for Epic, the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra (led by Warren Covington) on Decca, Woody Herman and Nat King Cole in collaboration on Capitol, and Nina Simone on Colpix.

Russian Lullaby (12/27/31) A stork brings a baby to a Jewish family, and the baby is already showing signs of being a budding performer. Some celebration and dancing leads up to the title song, an Irving Berlin song from 1927, with Berlin given credit on the titles. Arthur Tracy (“The Street Singer”) is heard on soundtrack, but on the presently available print is nearly cut out entirely from the film, all of his live action footage excised excepting a single frame behind the frozen title card. The title song was recorded by Roger Wolfe Kahn on Victor, with a vocal version also issued on the same label by Franklyn Baur. Ernie Golden got it as a waltz on Brunswick. Harold Leonard from Canada recorded it for Columbia. Englidh Columbia recorded the duo Turner Layton and Clarence Johnstone, two American blacks who performed internationally in night clubs and made many, many recordings in prodigious quantities. Okeh had a version by Irving Kaufman as “Noel Taylor”. Victor also issued a pipe organ solo by Jesse Crawford, the most prominent theatre organist of his day. Also included: “Marta” (Tracy’s theme song, heard briefly in the truncated credits, recorded by him for Brunswick), and “Lezghinka”, the go-to number for anything Russian.

Sweet Jennie Lee (1/7/32) – Cotton pickers are demonstrating their lassitude, until the moon rises, at which time they finally show some energy in song. Songs include “Peek a Boo”, “Dixie”, and the title song, recorded by the High Hatters for Victor, Ted Wallace and his Campus Boys for Columbia, Cab Calloway for Perfect et al., Isham Jones for Brunswick, and Harry Reser’s Radio Band for Hit of the Week. and vocal version by Chick Billock on Perfect et al. Milton Brown and his Brownies, a Western swing band, recorded a 1936 version for Decca. British versions included Jack Hylton on HMV, The Blue Jays on Edison Bell Winner, and Harry Hudson’s Melody Men (same orchestra as the Blue Jays) on 8 inch Edison Bell Radio. Later revivals included Bob Wills on a Tiffany radio transcription, Jack Palmer on American London in 1949, Grady Martin and the Slew Foot Five on Decca, and Merrill Moore for Capitol.

Next: Screen Songs 1932 – More Live Footage.


  • The contralto in “You’re Driving Me Crazy” is Harriet Lee, at that time probably the most popular female vocalist in radio, with her own show on the CBS network. A few years later she relocated to Hollywood, where she worked as a vocal coach to stars like Dorothy Lamour, Ava Gardner and Ginger Rogers. I believe she also did some overdubbing a la Marni Nixon, but I can’t offhand think of any examples.

    I’m enjoying these recordings, but that cartoon — WOW! I think “You’re Driving Me Crazy” ranks with the very best of the Fleischer studio output. Just when you think it can’t possibly get any wilder, it tops itself!

    Nina Simone’s recording of “My Baby Just Cares for Me” from the late ’50s unexpectedly became a hit in the United Kingdom thirty years later as a result of its use in a perfume commercial. It was her first song to chart anywhere in nearly two decades. Aardman Animations made the music video for it using their trademark stop-motion clay animation technique. Thus “My Baby Just Cares for Me” was the subject of two animated shorts, made over fifty years apart.

    The presence of “Stardust” in “By the Light of the Silvery Moon” raises the question of why “the song of the 20th century” never had a Screen Song devoted to it. It’s a little hard to sing, true, but no more so than some of the others in the series. Hoagy Carmichael wrote it while he was a student at the Indiana University School of Law, and like his fellow composers Handel, Schumann, Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky, all of whom read for the Bar, he neglected his legal studies in favour of musical pursuits. “Music is full of people who might have become lawyers,” wrote musicologist David W. Barber. “It never seems to happen the other way around.”

    When I was at IU, the table at which Carmichael wrote “Stardust” was on display at a pizza parlour called Garcia’s (known locally as “Greasy-a’s”). At least, there was a plaque that said so; an awful lot of lore has sprung up surrounding that song, some of which might even be true. Don’t know what’s become of the table, or whether Garcia’s is still around, but somehow I doubt it. There were many better places in Bloomington to get pizza.

    “Stardust” is a very poignant song, and for many people of my parents’ generation a heartbreaking reminder of all the wartime romances that didn’t last. But I’m afraid I’ll always associate it with where I first heard it, as sung by Fred Flintstone with new lyrics by Barney Rubble: “Could it be love that makes me feel the way I do? This fuzzy-wuzzy mess, this ring-a-ding, this ring-a-ding-a-ling, that keeps on ringing in my head since the day you said that you couldn’t live without me. But now you say you can, and so I’ll ask my mother to get me someone else instead….”

  • It is fairly well known that Al Shean was the uncle of the Marx Brothers, and over the years Groucho would occasionally perform some of his uncle’s famed songs and patter. Groucho teamed with Jackie Gleason in a spirited if slightly updated rendition of “Mister Gallagher and Mister Shean” on Gleason’s TV show in 1967; it’s a highlight of the excellent “The Marx Brothers TV Collection” DVD set.

    “Even in the late 70’s, it was recorded by Willie Nelson on Capirol.”

    Willie’s famous recording of “Stardust” appeared on his eponymous (and well received) 1978 album of popular standards for Columbia.

    “The title number of the cartoon [‘My Baby Just Cares for Me’] was from the Eddie Cantor Broadway production, ‘Whoopee’, but curiously was not commercially recorded by him at the time.”

    I believe that Kahn/Donaldson’s “My Baby Just Cares for Me” was actually written for the 1930 Goldwyn/Ziegfeld feature film version of “Whoopee”; at any rate, the song wasn’t heard in the show’s 1928-29 Broadway production.

  • I’ve always wanted to see the entire cartoon of Mr. Gallagher And Mr. Shean

    • I saw gallagher and shead at the redford theater in Detroit, albeit with UM&M titles.

  • I don’t think it’s possible to sing “Mister Gallagher and Mister Shean” as a solo without coming across as a raving lunatic. Perhaps he sings it as a duo with an animated Ed Gallagher!

  • Pat Boone:

  • Any idea where this segment came from?

    • That segment is from the 1926 Max Fleischer Song Car-Tune “When the Midnight Choo-Choo Leaves for Alabam'”, made using the Lee DeForest sound process. The “Happy Married Man” lyrics are set to the melody of the title song by Irving Berlin. The complete cartoon is embedded in the Needle Drop Notes column of April 6, 2021.

      • Thanks! It figures it’s on Geno’s channel. 😉

  • The Buffalo Bills released “My Baby Just Cares for Me” as a single in 1959, with “Toot Toot Tootsie” as the B side. Both tracks are featured on their album “Barber Shop!”, released the same year on Columbia.

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