October 15, 2019 posted by James Parten

The Tunes Were Still Looney

The 1931-32 film season was a time of anticipation. With 1932 being an election year, the incumbent president, Herbert Clark Hoover, must have known that his chances of reelection were like unto those of a snowball in the “nether regions” discussed in several recent “Animation Trails” articles during the Summer on this website.

Meanwhile, the Bosko series of Looney Tunes was going on a pace. They may have been popular with exhibitors, and they endeavored to plug songs by Warner Brothers’ publishing companies.

Bosko Shipwrecked (9/19/31) – This cartoon, oddly, does not appear to have plugged any of the popular songs Warner was handling. After a storm at sea (with typical “massaging on the groin” from the ship’s wheel), Bosko lands on a jungle island, having adventures bearing not-accidental similarity to his encounters in Congo Jazz.

Bosko the Doughboy (10/17/31) – Nostalgia for WWI runs amuck, as do the shot and shell. This cartoon plugged “Boo Hoo You Hoo (Don’t You Know the Moon is New-Hoo)”, which Victor gave to Snooks and his Memphis Ramblers, as well as “Am I Blue?”, a song that had appeared two years earlier in the All Technicolor feature “On With the Show”, sung by Ethel Waters.

Bosko’s Soda Fountain (11/14/31) – Bosko, while busy making sodas and phosphates, has to make an ice cream cone for Honey’s obnoxious charge, a cat named Wilbur, It turns out Wilbur doesn’t like vanilla, and Bosko gets it in the face. Footage from this one was still being reused as late as MGM’s Bosko’s Parlor Pranks, redrawn in color yet! This cartoon opens with the song, “It Looks Like Susie”, which was recorded as a vocal by Billy “Uke” Carpenter, aka Billy (Popeye) Costello, and was cut as a hot jazz number by Cab Calloway for American Record Company’s dime-store labels (Perfect, Oriole, Romeo, Conqueror, and Banner), as well as the standard, “Where, Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone?”

Bosko’s Fox Hunt (12/14/31) – Pretty standard collection of fox-hunting gags, and lots of use of “A Hunting We Will Go”. This cartoon includes the sentimental waltz, “Many Happy Returns of the Day”, recorded for all time by Bing Crosby on Brunswick, and further immortalized by Hal Roach when he later gave it to Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer for the Our Gang comedy, Feed ‘Em and Weep. Also included was “(With You On My Mind, I Find) I Can’t Write the Words”, which was recorded by the Boswell Sisters on Brunswick.

Bosko At the Zoo (1/9/32) – Bosko and Honey decide on an afternoon at the Zoo, with typical results. Uses the oldie, “Ta Ra Ra Boom Der E”. Here’s Mary Martin performing it in 1942:

Battling Bosko (2/14/32) – This drama of the pugilistic endeavors of Bosko in a total mismatch (also with footage later redrawn in color for MGM’s Bosko’s Parlor Pranks) features the song, “Freddy the Freshman”, also used in a Merrie Melodie reviewed in my last article, as well as “A Hot Dog, a Blanket, and You”, which, like “Freddy”, was recorded by Gene Kardos on Victor.

Big Hearted Bosko (3/5/32) – We start out with Bosko skating, and Bruno, as you would expect, having trouble with his footing. Bruno falls through the ice, and Bosko thinks he’s frozen stiff – but Bruno’s only tricking him. They discover an abandoned baby and decide to take it home, but nothing seems to stop the baby’s crying. Once again, “Am I Blue?” gets pressed into service. Also, “When the Shepherd Leads the Sheep Back Home”, recorded for Victor by the High Hatters – and Guy Lombardo for Columbia (below). Bosko also tries playing “Narcissus”, another old standard.

Bosko’s Party (4/2/32) – A surprise birthday party doesn’t come off as planned, but makes use of the old favorite, “It Ain’t Gonna Rain No Mo’”, introduced and popularized by Wendell Hall years earlier – who was later parodied by Warner Brothers in Frank Tashlin’s The Woods Are Full Of Cuckoos in 1937.


Bosko and Bruno (6/4/32) – Just to show the lengths to which Harman-Ising and Frank Marsales would go to plug a song, this title again features “Moonlight For Two” from a recent Merrie Melodie, yet neither of these cartoons encouraged any commercial recordings of the song!

Bosko’s Dog Race (6/25/32) – This film features the tune, “Whistle and Blow Your Blues Away”, which would become the new theme song of the series the next year, replacing “A Hot Time In the Old Town Tonight”. The song was recorded by Ben Selvin on Columbia, with vocal by Eddie Walters and the 3 Nite Caps . This can be found on the Internet Archives.

Bosko At the Beach (7/23/32) – May have been the first Warner cartoon to use Ain’t We Got Fun?, a 1921 song that originally dealt with a young couple starting out with accumulating debt. (At least one other studio had used the song previously – it was featured prominently as the opening number of Paul Terry’s Popcorn in 1930. It eventually became the title tune of a Merrie Melodie for Tex Avery in the later 30’s, as well as receiving prominence in the opening of the wartime Fifth Column Mouse from Friz Freleng).

Bosko’s Store (8/20/32) – Bosko runs a grocery store, and has problems with several customers, including a boy who makes a mess of things. The main song is “How Can You Say No (When All the World Is Saying Yes)”. I believe this song was covered by a number of artists on numerous recordings. Here is Henry Hull and the BBC Orchestra:

Bosko and Honey, the infamous unreleased Bosko title, rejected by management for too much reused animation (dipping back as far as scenes from Sinkin’ In the Bathtub), has Bosko awakened by a phone call from Honey, again giving Wilbur music training producing dire off-key notes. Bosko and Honey plan a picnic, but a lightning storm hits Bruno in the rear end, causing him to drag his heinie all over the real estate. Bosko sings “It Ain’t Gonna Rain No More”, but winds up “all wet” anyway. Besides the off-key rendition of “In the Shade of the old Apple Tree” (a song also used by rival Fleischer studios for an early Screen Song), the primary song here is “(We’ve Got To) Put That Sun Back In the Sky”, one of those relentlessly upbeat “cheer up” songs of which America and England were fond at the time. The song was fairly widely covered. Victor gave it to Roane’s Pennsylvanians, a hot territory band who only recorded 10 sides for the label in 1932. Columbia gave it to Ted Wallace and His Campus Boys, a successor to the California Ramblers of the 1920’s, managed by Wallace T. “Ed” Kirkeby. Brunswick had a vocal version by the Boswell Sisters with the Dorsey Brothers’ Orchestra. There are two takes of this – one recorded while the band sounded well “lubricated” with bootleg hooch. You can decide for yourself which version this is:

Next: The 1932-33 Merrie Melodies.


  • Always nice to hear a Wendell Hall song, even if it’s a familiar one. “It Ain’t Gonna Rain No Mo'” might not sound like much today, but it was the first song to be a hit on the radio and sold over two million copies.

  • “Bosko Shipwrecked” does use a popular song, which I assume was part of WB’s library. It’s a thing called “Happy Little Tune”, which you can hear here.

  • These musical columns are rapidly becoming my favorite features here at Cartoon Research — particularly music from the Thirties!

  • How come the animated shorts link on the post are both out-of-synched and time-compressed?

  • I’m really enjoying this series!
    Thank you for all the hard work and effort You put into this.🎼

  • I’m afraid I only just discovered this thread, a month late. But there is another song in “Bosko at the Beach” that has stuck with me since I heard it as a kid. I even play it on the piano having learned it from memory perhaps 50 years ago. But I never have figured out what it is and haven’t ever met anyone who could identify it. The song sounds a little like “Kansas City Kitty” and for a while, I thought that might be it. But with the rise of the internet, I’ve been able to hear it repeatedly from the cartoon, and it clearly isn’t “Kansas City Kitty.” Unfortunately, the cartoon isn’t linked on this site, so I can’t give a timestamp. (It’s on Youtube, Internet Archive and all over the web in varying quality.) If anyone might have a guess what this mystery song is, I’d sure like to know.

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