THUNDERBEAN THURSDAY
November 12, 2020 posted by Steve Stanchfield

Some Musical Magic from Winston Sharples

At some point I said I’d stop talking about Rainbow Parade cartoons I think- or at least the first 13. That time is almost here since the first volume of the Blu-ray is nearly finished after much wrestling and fixing. I’ve been a little obsessed about getting this project as nice as it could be within a reasonable time— and it’s officially too long now- but I’m very happy with the results. The best news of this week is a collector friend agreed to lend the last needed “Holy Grail” for the set- a black and white print of ‘Bird Scouts’ that has the opening music. It’s the last of the ‘Official Films’ complete or nearly complete versions of tracks missing from the 16mm Cinecolor print versions of the film. I think at this point the beginning soundtracks are otherwise as complete as I’m able to make them— at least until a print of ‘Spinning Mice’ with complete music shows up. But it’s time to wrap.

In the meantime, we’ve been working on getting the films finaled and some of the bonus material. I’ve been on other projects for a bit, so jumping back into the timeline with all the cleaned up and color corrected films was really cool. There’s still some little issues to resolve, but I was surprised at how nice they look- I somehow had it in my head they were not quite there.

Our own Devon Baxter has been a good ‘right hand man’ on getting the final things done for this Blu-ray disc. When we did the DVD about 10 years back, we went through a bunch of silent cartoons that used a ‘Mood Music’ Library. This included some pieces of soundtracks from the Rainbow Parade cartoons. Devon and I gathered as many as we could find from prints of silent cartoons, and I spent part of this week matching the speeds of the pieces (they were on record then a mag track before being an optical track again).

At this moment, was only one that we had been able to find an (almost) music-only soundtrack for. It was reassembled from lots of small pieces of stock music on various silent cartoons. Here’s the article we did a whole back on Along Came a Duck.

There might be another whole cartoon or close in the stuff I still have to evaluate this week.. let’s keep fingers crossed!

Even though we don’t have full soundtracks for most of them, these clips make a nice little ‘bonus feature’ to showcase some of Sharples’ great scoring. They also will give you a first peek at what the Rainbow Parades are looking like as they get ready to be finaled. There’s a few more ‘music only’ film clips to be finished- and if we’re lucky we’ll be able to assemble one more film in a music only version— but I’m not quite sure yet.

Sharples is a genius. I especially enjoy how great the syncing is when there’s singing or dialogue. So much brilliant work gets obscured by the characters or sound effects in these films. He continues to be one of the most under-known brilliant composers in all of cartoon land.

I hope you enjoy these clips — and sing along if you know some of the lyrics. Have a good week everyone!

8 Comments

  • Semi OT, but Sharples related stock music — Stu Shostak posted a B&W print of the color 1954 pilot “Meet the Family” featuring Arthur Lake of the “Blondie” movie series and his family. What makes it interesting in connection with this is they relied on stock music for the show’s score and the opening and closing titles, including what sounds like a direct take from one of the Fleischer Studio’s 1940 recording sessions for “It’s A Hap-Hap-Happy Day” that was used for the Gabby series and its opening titles, including the fanfare for the Paramount logo intro.

    This appears to be an unused outtake that ended up being offered for stock music use, since I can’t find the exact cartoon where the opening and closing title music from the TV show was heard. But you can sync the show’s end title music up with the cartoons’ opening titles:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cfOSLY5K5lk

  • Welcome back, and I’m so glad that RAINBOW PARADE is nearly completed. I hope your dog is regaining its health, whatever the situation was that kept you from posting last week. I like Winston Sharpels’ scorings, too, and I guess that, in the earliest days of television, that is when many households owned a set, situation comedies, and possibly even dramas often sampled scores from other sources. Remeember, “THE DONNA REED SHOW” only had a theme that was merely stock music from that dreaded Capital library, and I say “dreaded” because the cost of use of that material these days has kept some notable classic cartoons out of circulation because the current video rights holders don’t want to spend the bucks to see them released. I’d stopped counting the programs that use these libraries, and I guess now that the Winston Sharpels music library is among these? I’m not speaking as if I know, so please feel free to correct me. Speaking of music arranged for silent film restorations, I often wish that the music cues used for OUR GANG comedies shortly before the sound era kicked in were available for use on restorations of some of those silent entries. Some of those are as interesting as scores made specifically for the sound films; the alternative (actually hiring a small orchestra to specifically score silent films as accurately as if they were sound films) is, I’m sure, mightily expensive!! Good luck in your future endeavors. I know I’m always waiting on news of the FLIP THE FROG collection.

  • Like many here, I’m mainly familiar with Sharples/late 40s–60s Famous/Paramount classics,i.e., the stuff that wound up on so many later poroductions, esp.New York-made TV cartoons like Felix the Cat, the studios’ own TV Popeyes, Snuffy, 1962-63 Total TV,Seeger,etc. I’ll just add a small list of cues, but “From Mad to Worse”,”Case of the Cockeyed Canary”, ?Fright-Day the 13th”,”
    Child Sock-O-Ology”,”Terry the Terror’,”Trigger Treat”, and “Cock-a-Doodle-Dino”, among many others..and of course, “Patriotic Popeye” and “Felineous Assault”…

  • Steve,

    What’s the status of “Terry/Lantz/Famous,” “All Censored” and “Toon Club”? I had ordered all three but haven’t heard anything about them in a long time.

    Was there supposed to be a bonus dvd with the Noveltoons or with the Screen Songs sets? I received both those sets but was thinking one or the other of them was supposed to have a bonus disc.

  • I loved his Felix the Cat score, and then everything else reminded me of that.

  • Gorgeous scores as always.

  • Great stuff, Steve! I never did get the recent restorations of the Charlie Chaplin Mutual Comedies for two reasons – the price, for one thing, but the most important reason was that I liked the original scores by Winston Sharples from the 1930s Van Beuren re-issues. I saw a bunch of these at a neighborhood movie theater that got on the “nostalgia” bandwagon of the late ’60s and early ’70s. I think Dave Shepard tried to keep the Sharples music tracks when he was doing early restorations on the Chaplin Mutuals, but of course Dave wanted to release the cartoons at the proper speed – not the speeded up “sound speed” of 24 fps. As I understand it, the newest restorations completely ignore the Winston Sharples scores for new scoring and I’d rather hear the ’30s music!
    As you know, the late Dave Tendlar had a lot of good things to say about Winston Sharples when I interviewed him nearly a few decades ago!

  • I much prefer the cartoon scores that Sharples composed for Van Beuren over his later work for Famous. By then his music, like the cartoons themselves, had settled into fairly regular and predictable patterns, like modulating upwards by thirds to create tension, for example. There was also a heaviness to the way he doubled instrumental lines and scored chords (though to be fair, at that point Sharples might not have been doing his own orchestrations; few film composers do). I rather pity him for having to work on the later Screen Songs, trying to find interesting things to do musically with corny old songs like “Short’nin’ Bread” and “Camptown Races”.

    The Van Beuren scores, by contrast, have a wonderful sense of counterpoint and clear textures that really sparkle. They also illustrate Sharples’s ability to tailor musical phrasing to the action of the cartoon and make it sound natural. They’re not easy, either; I marvel at the clarity of difficult passages in cartoons like “Fiddlin’ Fun” that must have been recorded with a minimum of rehearsal. Those boys in the band had some serious chops!

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