Saluting Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, released nationwide in February 1938, here’s the first of two looks at adaptations on records.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered in 1937, but it did not go into wide release until early February 1938. An eager public, already excited by word-of-mouth and publicity of this game-changing phenomenon, flocked to theaters. Snow White quickly became the highest-grossing movie of its time with an ongoing popularity and business impact on the level of Star Wars. It’s still near the top of the list of all-time biggest hits, along with several prestigious “Best Of” lists. Its impact on the entertainment industry cannot be underestimated.
The buzz for the movie was accompanied by the hit status of its musical score. “Heigh-Ho,” “Whistle While You Work,” “Someday My Prince Will Come,” “One Song” and “With a Smile and a Song” became standards, with novelty status for “A Silly Song” and “Bluddle-Um-Dum-Dum (The Washing Song).” Countless single records and compilations featured these songs by major recording stars as well as “cover” artists on various budget and children’s labels. Our colleague James Parten has already created a voluminous account of the earliest records in a number of Needle Drop Notes posts.
Here at Animation Spin, we’ve looked at the Snow White soundtrack album on RCA Victor and Disney’s house labels as well as the Radio City Music Hall cast version and, most recently, Tutti Camarata’s interpretation of the score.
Lots of albums included songs from Snow White combined with additional Disney or other songs. This two-part edition of Spin examines an eclectic mix of albums that feature Snow White exclusively, particularly the score.
1938: Decca Presents the Complete Score of Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Especially Adapted for Children from the Walt Disney Production – Frank Luther (Decca)
In 1933, singer/songwriter Frank Luther appeared on what is believed to be the first Disney-related records on RCA Victor: “Mickey Mouse and Minnie’s in Town,” “In a Silly Symphony,” “Lullaby Land of Nowhere” and “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf.” He became one of the most prolific recording artists for children in the mid-20th century, Decca being his primary label. Decca and its subsidiary label, Vocalion, reissued most of his records on LP. More about the Disney records and Luther are in this Needle Drop Notes post.
Luther recorded what is perhaps the earliest cover album of the Snow White film score with his wife, Zora Layman as Snow White and The Clubmen as the Seven Dwarfs. In addition to signing and narrating, Luther often chose to weave the elements together into little scenarios with his own additional rhymes, lyrics, and story material. On the Snow White album, he is the prince as well as the narrator, with some solos becoming his duets with Layman.
Decca’s 78 rpm album was reissued on a Vocalion LP with no mention of Disney on the cover, with Luther’s 1936 version of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland on side two. His version of Alice resurfaced when Ginger Rogers played the role for Decca, which is discussed in this Animation Spin.
1944: Selections from Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – Lyn Murray (and His Orchestra & Chorus (Decca)
Emmy winner Lyn Murray was one of Hollywood and Broadway’s busiest composers, conductors, and vocal arrangers. His animation credits include Walt Disney’s Cinderella, George Pals’ tom thumb, and the UPA series The Gerald McBoing-Boing Show and The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo.
For the Snow White album, Murray called upon many of the finest Hollywood studio vocalists including Evelyn Knight, Audrey Marsh, Harrison Knox, and the Andy Love Four. Of particular note is Elizabeth Mulliner, also known as Betty Mulliner and Betty Luboff (during her marriage to musical director Norman Luboff. On Camarata’s spectacular classic Disneyland album, Music from Alice in Wonderland with Darlene Gillespie, Mulliner-Luboff can be heard singing several short solo lines. She is also prominent in the early Mickey Mouse Club records.
Murray presents the Snow White score on a grand scale with a full orchestra. The arrangements are alternately lush and playful, with inventive touches like interpolating “Listen to the Mockingbird” and “The Whistler and His Dog” into “Whistle While You Work.” The 78 rpm album was reissued by Decca on a ten-inch “Deccalite”
1966: Songs from Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (MFP Music for Pleasure)
A year before The Mike Sammes Singers began their long association with Tutti Camarata and Disneyland/Buena Vista Records, they recorded this album and other songs from Disney films. Brian Fahey, who was also involved in the Disney recordings, created the orchestrations.
And lavish these orchestrations are. British records were still able to record albums with larger orchestras far into the 1960s, even for children’s and low-budget albums. American record companies had discovered this and frequently recorded albums in Europe.
Snow White’s songs are heard in Polly James’s bell-clear soprano. It’s almost like hearing Julie Andrews singing the score (but no coincidence, James also sang on a Mary Poppins album for MFP). A stage and screen actor-singer, James appeared with Dame Judi Dench in The Merchant of Venice, as well as numerous series including the popular Coronation Street.
The Mike Sammes Singers would continue to be one of the world’s top vocal groups, recording with Frank Sinatra, Tom Jones, and The Beatles, and many more, as well as themes for Gerry Anderson Supermarionation series.
Look for part two, and four more albums, in the next Animation Spin.