Today’s long-awaited release of the Shout Factory DVD Mr. Magoo – The Theatrical Collection 1949-1959 calls to mind two soundtrack records featuring the master of myopic misadventures.
1001 ARABIAN NIGHTS
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Colpix Records SCP/CP-410 (Stereo/Mono / 12” 33 1/3 rpm / 1959)
Vinyl Reissue: Varese Sarabande Records STV-81138 (Stereo / 12” 33 1/3 rpm / 1980)
CD Reissue: Film Score Monthly Vol. 9 No. 1/Rhino (Stereo / 12” 33 1/3 rpm / 2006 /
CD also includes Bell, Book and Candle)
Available on iTunes.
Composer: George Duning. Conductor/Music Supervisor: Morris Stoloff. CD Reissue Producer: Lukas Kendall. Liner Notes: Howard Berk. Running Time: 31 minutes.
Performers: Jim Backus, The Clark Sisters, The Jud Conlon Singers.
Songs: “Magoo’s Blues,” “You Are My Dream,” “Three Little Maids from Damascus,” “You Are My Dream (Reprise)” by George Duning and Ned Washington.
Instrumentals: “Main Title,” “Sultan’s Parade,” “Palaquin Chase,” “Wedding Celebration,” “Bar Fly Magoo,” “You Are My Dream (Reprise),” “Unhappy Magoo,” “Dream Ballet,” “Crazy Carpet,” “End Title” by George Duning.
UPA’s first animated feature may not have caught fire at the box office, but its soundtrack album has had a long and steady success among audiophiles, especially since its first reissue. (You can get this film now on the spectacular new Mr. Magoo Theatrical Cartoons 1949-1959 DVD set from Shout! Factory.)
1001 Arabian Nights (1959) is not a musical – perhaps a conscious decision to make it less “Disney,” even though there are two extended showpieces dedicated to the feature’s breakout hopeful, “You Are My Dream” composed by Duning with lyrics by Ned Washington (lyricist of Disney’s Oscar-winning signature song, “When You Wish Upon a Star,” which was being heard at the time every week on the Disneyland TV show. A lovely song that deserves more attention, “You Are My Dream” bears a resemblance to Sleeping Beauty’s “Once Upon a Dream” in composition and execution. Ironically, when UPA fully embraced the “book musical” form, they had their greatest non-theatrical success, Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol.
Aladdin and Princess Zasminda have so little to do in 1001 Arabian Nights that “You Are My Dream” is the closest the viewer gets to knowing them—the film belongs to Backus and Hans Conried as the Wicked Vizier (here we go again: Conried had voiced Captain Hook for Disney earlier in the same decade).
The big “however,” though, is that the overall score of George Duning (not to be confused with Yellow Submarine director George Dunning) does not suggest the Disney house sound of the period. According to the album cover, Duning was striving for authenticity by employing such instruments as boo bams, crotales, rhythm logs and ceremonial bells. Duning handles the 1001 Arabian Nights score in the manner of a live-action film (Bell, Book and Candle, which accompanies Nights on CD, shares a lot of similar Duning touches).
The music also puts one in the mind of a Star Trek episode. Duning underscored William Shatner’s acting for eight episodes. Even though he didn’t score “The Cage,” much of the music in 1001 Arabian Nights could easily fit alongside scenes of Susan Oliver as Vina, dancing around as the verdant Orion slave girl.
“Three Little Maids from Damascus” could qualify as a “bonus track,” as it didn’t make the final cut between the making of the album and the film’s premiere. Shreds of the intro can be heard early in the film, and then it stops. I love the thumping bass lines in Morris Stoloff’s orchestration, a popular musical style of the late ‘50s to mid-‘60s. You can hear it in everything from Doris Day’s single version of “Pillow Talk” to the graveyard scene in Disney’s Haunted Mansion.
UPA’s 1001 Arabian Nights makes a terrific album, with that rich, full fidelity so fully realized in early stereophonic records (which had just been introduced in late 1957). The album’s only flaw is its lack of Backus. The cover promises his presence—which also might have nudged the decision to buy the album – yet he only sings the very short “Magoo’s Blues,” a tune that comes across as a better background theme than a legitimate song (was it originally longer but shortened for time?).
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Sultan’s Parade” & “You Are My Dream”
The Sultan’s Parade piece is not only a clever blend of authenticity with sass, it also puts one in the mind of a Star Trek episode. “You Are My Dream,” besides being a lovely song, exemplifies UPA’s conflicted acquiescence to the Disney style.
Wonderland Records WLP-318 (12” 33 1/3 rpm / Mono / 1975 / 31 minutes)
Album Producer: Ralph Stein. TV Series Producer: Glan Heisch. Story: Bob Ogle, George Atkins, Al Bertino, Dick Kinney, Dave Detiege. Dialogue Director: Jerry Hausner.
Voices: Jim Backus, Jerry Hausner, Mel Blanc, Paul Frees, Frank Nelson, Howard McNear, John Stephenson.
Choo Choo Magoo (aka Chug Chug Magoo) – Magoo tangles with an outlaw as he engineers a train through the west.
Gasser Magoo – An oil baron needs Magoo’s last share of stock, but Magoo thinks he’s interested in buying his car. Funny gag about Magoo having a file copy of his fan letter to Clara Bow.
Safety Magoo – An ad agency randomly chooses Magoo as the safest citizen in the world at the same time he goes to take his driving test.
Life Can Be Miserable – See “Give a Little Listen” below.
Waldo & Prezly Cartoons:
“Magoo’s Vacuum Caper”
“Oh, Waldo! My favorite nephew. What? You and Prezly are in the vacuum cleaner business? You’re cleaning up?”
Magoo accompanies Waldo and Prezly to the great outdoors, and then we don’t see him again for three and a half minutes.
Who would have thought that, out of the blue, Wonderland Records (formerly Golden) would produce an album of TV soundtracks from The Mr. Magoo Show? The cartoons were running in syndication at the time, so maybe UPA’s licensing people were giving a little push to potential toy, book and record makers in 1975.
Veteran children’s record producer Ralph Stein (he did those “April Fool” records covered a few weeks back) must have selected the six cartoons—either from the entire 130 or whatever quantity UPA sent him in New York—based on how well they played without seeing the visual gags. All of them are on Shout! Factory’s Mr. Magoo: The Television Collection 1960-1977. I might have chosen to open the album with a Magoo story rather than one with Waldo and Prezley.
Even though the TV Magoo shorts have more dialogue than their theatrical cousins, much is still lost without the picture when compared to, say, Jay Ward or Total TeleVision cartoons. A narrator might have been employed to supply the unseen details, but pauses would have had to be inserted because there’s not enough time between the dialogue and sound effects.
Still, it’s highly wonderful to have cartoon soundtracks on vinyl records. With home video just around the corner, there would be precious few more of them.
Fun fact: Glan (Glanville) Heisch, who produced UPA’s Mr. Magoo and Dick Tracy TV shows, wrote the beloved 1937 radio fantasy The Cinnamon Bear, which featured such voice acting greats as Gale Gordon, Verna Felton, Joseph Kearns, Frank Nelson, Howard McNear and Martha Wentworth.
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Life Can Be Miserable”
Howard McNear plays an ethically challenged motivational speaker. Magoo, thinking he’s Waldo, wants to save him from being a juvenile delinquent. Even without the visuals, this snappy cartoon works in audio. It’s interesting to hear “Floyd the barber” go ballistic.