NEEDLE DROP NOTES
January 7, 2020 posted by James Parten

More Musical Changes For Merrie Melodies 1934-35

Once again we continue our exploration of the popular songs embedded in the classic Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies. To read the previous installments Click Here.

As if the changes made in the 1933-34 Merrie Melodies cartoons weren’t enough, the next season brought more changes yet. Black and white cartoons were phased out of the series – after Leon Schlesinger’s unit had gotten their feet wet with 2-strip Cinecolor, they changed to 2 strip Technicolor. Warner was not yet allowed to use the 3-strip Technicolor systm, as Disney had an exclusive on the process for cartoon use. But Warner did use the new 3-strip system for some live musical comedy shorts, as we shall see.

The Miller’s Daughter (10/6/34) – There is a title song (no recordings known – not to be confused with a 1937 song, ‘The Miller’s Daughter, Marianne”), and the old standard favorite, “Blue Danube Waltz” gets used, as does the big ballad from the recent musical feature, “Dames”, “I Only Have Eyes For You”. Said song was widely covered. Victor gave it to Eddy Duchin and his Orchestra. Brunswick gave it to Anson Weeks. Decca featured Isham Jones and his Orchestra. The song become something of a standard, and was revived the 1950’s by The Flamingos, in a version that is known to every “oldies” fan (Doo Bop Sh-Bop). The cartoon is standard boy-girl-villain scenario, set among ceramic knick-knacks.


Shake Your Powder Puff (10/17/34) – This one is based around a title song (by Sammy Fain) which nobody ever recorded on shellac beyond its appearance in this film (Update: Brian Cruz, in the comments below, points out the song was introduced by Ginger Rogers in Warner’s 1934 feature Upper World) – and an old chestnut associated with country folks and “hicks”, “Wal, I Swan” written by Benjamin Hapgood Burt, recorded back around 1910 by Byron H. Harlan, and revived in the 1920’s by Al Bernard. The cartoon itself is a plotless vaudeville show, comparable to You Don’t Know What You’re Doin’ (1931), without quite so much of the DT’s.


Rhythm In the Bow (10/26/34) – Gags among the hoboes, with life on a traveling train and in a farm area. Title song is the only one featured (which provided a featured number for Vernon Dent as Nero in the Warner 2-reel 3-strip Technicolor Leon Errol fantasy short, Good Morning, Eve). No commercial recordings of the song known. But here is Vernon Dent:


Those Beautiful Dames (11/16/34) – Warner’s first 2-strip Technicolor cartoon. The Dubin-Warren title song from the feature Dames appears first with specialty lyrics, then as played on a “Kiddie-Phone” record player with its original lyric. No other notable songs featured. A Christmas cartoon in everything but name. A poor little girl trudges through the snow to her hovel, where she has nothing in the way of food and/or heat. As she dreams, a bunch of toys come in, performing an extreme makeover, turning her hovel into a cozy little cottage, and spreading out a feast for her. Here’s a beautiful copy of the Eddy Duchin cover:


Pop Goes Your Heart (11/26/34) – Title song comes from one of Dick Powell’s pictures for First National – Happiness Ahead. Ted Lewis recorded the song for Decca, in a version that features the cornet of Muggsy Spanier (as well as one of the last times Lewis would break out his clarinet and actually play it). Abe Lyman recorded it for Brunswick with vocal by Phil Neely (embed below), and Dick Powell himself got the vocal version on the same label. Various animals from the forest and farm cavort to the tune, including a frog quartet. A bear chase provides the climax, with the bear running afoul of a hay-bailer and becoming a “real square”.


Mr. and Mrs. Is The Name (1/19/35) – Buddy and Cookie’s only Technicolor appearance – doubling as merman and mermaid. A chorus of other topless mermaids (much more well-endowed than Cookie) chime the title song (yet this film presumably got an MPPDA seal?) The octopus who is the villain of the piece finds reuse as part of the rogue’s gallery in the black-and-white Looney Tune, A Cartoonist’s Nightmare (1935). The title song, from the First National feature Flirtation Walk, was introduced by Dick Powell and recorded by him on Brunswick. Victor Young got the song for Decca.


Country Boy (2/3/35) – A cute bunny cartoon, with a rabbit whose name is Peter (not necessarily connected with anything by Beatrix Potter), but he is prone to play hookey from school, get into mischief, and explore a neighboring farmer’s vegetable garden. Featured songs include “Naughty Boy”, of which I know of no commercial recordings, and “Fare Thee Well, Annabelle”, introduced in the film Sweet Music by a singer who at the time could not act (Rudy Vallee), and an actress who at the time could not sing (Ann Dvorak). It was recorded by Rudy Vallee on Victor, Louis Prima and his New Orleans Gang on Brunswick, Chick Bullock and his Levee Loungers on Melotone et al., and Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra on Decca. Also recorded in London by the bands of Ambrose (Decca) and Debroy Sommers (Columbia), and as a vocal record by the Boswell Sisters on English Brunswick while on a tour there.


I Haven’t Got a Hat (3/2/35) – A musicale at the local school (in homage to the “Our Gang” comedies), with songs, recitations, and piano features. Joe Dougherty is introduced as the voice of Porky Pig The title song was never recorded commercially, but Warners loved it. The song was performed in a live-action two reeler by a group known as “The Sizzlers”, included in this post by Will Friedwald years ago – and embed below. The song was remembered a few years later for the Merrie Melodie, A Sunbonnet Blue, as delivered by the Three Ratz Brothers, and even made an out-of-left-field appearance in the recent The Addams Family animated feature, performed by Uncle Fester! Use is also made of the “Poet and Peasant Overture” by Franz Von Suppe.


Along Flirtation Walk (4/20/35) – All the tropes of the collegiate musical, including the pep rally and the big game, get converted into poultry terms in the form of an egg laying contest between Plymouth Rock and Rhode Island Red Universities. Songs heard in the soundtrack: “Frat” (written up heavily in articles on this website before), and “Flirtation Walk”, from the First National Picture of the same name. Dick Powell (who introduced it) recorded it for Brunswick. Irving Aaronson and his Commanders performed it for royal blue Columbia. Victor Young got it for Decca. If a viewing of the film leaves you wondering if something’s missing – it apparently is. Several quantum leaps in continuity, and audible chops in the music, appear in the egg-laying sequence – suggesting the censors got a hold of this and snipped heavily before its release. No uncut prints are as yet known to have surfaced.


My Green Fedora (5/4/35) – The same rabbit family from “Country Boy” is featured again, with mischievous Peter getting stuck with minding the baby. He tries to keep the baby quiet by singing him the title song, in a manner reminiscent of Joe Penner. No commercial recordings of the song are known. (The song animation was later repainted in three color pallette for a full Technicolor reuse in Toy Town Hall (1936).)


Into Your Dance (6/5/35) – Captain Benny’s Showboat is in town. The orchestra leader disguises himself as Paul Whiteman, but does not command the respect of the musicians on board, one of whom plugs his tail into an electric light socket, causing him to conduct the “Zampa” overture at a tempo that could only be called, “Presto”. Main song featured is “Go Into Your Dance”, title song of a 1935 Warner Brothers feature starring Al Jolson. One verse is hesitatingly performed by Joe Dougherty in his trademark stutter, slightly less speeded than his reads for Porky Pig, as a dog who clears out the audience in an amateur night performance, while hiding the gong in the seat of his trousers. “Go Into Your Dance” was recorded by Johnny Green and his Orchestra (embed below), as well as Henry Biagini (former director of the Casa Loma Orchestra before Glen Gray was elected) on Melotone, et al.


Country Mouse (7/13/35) – Elmer considers himself the strongest mouse in the county. This might be so except for one competitor – his own grandmaw, who can do the farmyard chores with even greater feats of strength than he has. Elmer wants to be a fighter, and runs away to the city. Grandmaw listens on the radio as Elmer takes something of a licking, then cycles into the city, barges into the ring, and makes a molehill out of the “man-mountain”. And as we iris out, she administers a spanking to Elmer in the ring, much to the amusement of the spectators. Songs include an original, “I’m the Strongest In the County”; an old chestnut, “Reuben and Cynthia” (recreation embed below); and the boxing match is set to “La Cucaracha”, a Mexican folk song which emerged In the 1910’s and is believed to be about female camp followers of Pancho Villa. In 1934, the song was re-arranged as a rhumba, and fitted with an English lyric making no reference to the marijuana in the Spanish lyric. It was first recorded in rhumba tempo by the Pan American Marimba Band on Victor, and was also cut for Decca by Louis Armstrong.


The Merry Old Soul (8/17/35) – The title song’s lyric gives away the plot – Old King Cole marries the Woman in the Shoe – and lives to regret it. Said song is an original, which tells of how Old King Cole was merry until he married, the second verse describing the consequences of a house full of precocious toddlers. The film was reviewed in depth in previous Animation Trails article, Holy Matrimony! And a Stack of Storks on this website. No commercial recordings known.

Next: Looney Tunes 1935-36 – Bye Bye, Buddy! We Need a New Star.

9 Comments

  • I’m very grateful that you posted the Three Sizzlers’ rendition of “I Haven’t Got a Hat”. I could never make out all the lyrics in the cartoon, but those boys have some sizzlin’ diction.

    “Rhythm in the Bow” is my new favourite song! I’ve seen Vernon Dent as King Cole, King Arthur, and King Rootentooten, but his Technicolor Emperor Nero rules! I would love to hear Larry Fine covering that song. “There is no Ritalin about my fiddlin’ when I put rhythm in the bow!”

    The title song is actually not the only one featured in the cartoon “Rhythm in the Bow”. There’s also the Civil War song “Kingdom Coming” (used in many cartoons), as well as the Merrie Melodies standard “Singin’ in the Bathtub”. The sad tune that the hobo fiddler plays to pacify the dog is Schumann’s famous “Traumerei” from his Kinderszenen (Scenes from Childhood).

    I learned the old chestnut from “Country Mouse” at an early stage in my music lessons, and I’ve never heard it called anything but “Reuben and Rachel”, not “Reuben and Cynthia”. How did they come up with Cynthia? Reuben and Rachel are a pair of good, strong, alliterative, trochaic Old Testament names that’ll really put the rhythm in your bow. Oh God, that song is going to go around in my head all night….

  • In advance, my response to your next post: “G-g-g-ga-goo-ggg-ga-goood old PPPPPP-PP-Porky!”

  • “Shake Your Powder Puff” was also performed by Ginger Rogers in the 1934 WB film “Upper World”.

  • These films are a GREAT memory of early tv-viewings!! TY!

  • The bouncing hat in “My Green Fedora” was something I considered hopelessly corny as a kid. But I never forgot it.

  • Kudos to whomever got the idea of putting “I Haven’t Got a Hat” on the Addams Family movie. It was one of the film’s highlights.

    • Yes, I noticed that, especially withe difference in studios (WB vs MGM). Take care.

  • Middle song in COUNTRY MOUSE: title not familiar, but “Strawberry Jam” (Grandma right before the tree chopping, right after the open song), IS briefly heard. Rueben and Cynthia is also known as “Strawberry Jam Cream of Tarter”! Listen to it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z2-CuhHPWNY

    Fun cartoon, and the oldest re-released as a Blue Ribbon (1953’s one is what later viewers saw on TV – with THE END title). Take care!

  • I feel like the “Naughty Boy” song is a parody of the original “Country Boy” song the cartoon is possibly named after. I could be wrong, but I’ve always thought that.

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