Mid-to late 1932 continued to be a reasonably successful time for RKO. Memorable pictures from the period would include “What Price Hollywood?”, “Bird of Paradise”, and the often-remade, “The Most Dangerous Game”. A Frank Buck picture (which would influence a cartoon discussed below), “Bring ‘Em Back Alive”, would also offer documentary-style action. Wheeler and Woolsey would provide broad comedy with the combined prison/football parody, “Hold ‘Em, Jail”. Clark and McCulough were establishing a prestigious addition to the studio’s short-subjects offerings. The Van Beuren end of the deal also continued to hold its own, despite the primitive appearance of some of the cartoons (e.g., “The Ball Game”).
A Stone-Age Error (7/9/32) – More gags among the dinosaurs and saber-toothed cats. A female stone-age cat makes her entrance dancing upon the stripes of a tiger. Marriage to a male cave cat ensues, and domestic life follows. Songs: “The Wedding March, The Bridal Chorus”, and “Do You Take This Woman For Your Lawful Wife?”, a piece from around 1913, recorded for Victor by Billy Murray’s American Quartette. It was revived in 1969 as an album cut by Tiny Tim on Reprise.
Chinese Jinks (7/23/32) – Gags set in Chinatown, with at least one obligatory laundry gag, and various scurrying around the alleys and stairways of Chinatown. Song: “Is I in Love? I Is”, recorded by Ben Selvin for Columbia, Roane’s Pennsylvanians on Victor, and Joel Shaw on Crown.
The Ball Game (7/30/22) – Various bugs and arachnids are engaged in a baseball game. One bug pitcher has some excellent curves, while a huge batter resembling Babe Ruth wields several bats with his many arms. A couple of shots of spectators applauding look very primitive and ramshackle. Eventually, baseballs are flying everywhere, when the entire pitching staff is called in to throw simultaneously to the multi-armed batter, causing the spectators to abandon the stadium. Songs: a return for “I Love a Parade”, and “A Shanty in Old Shanty Town”, originally written as a waltz, but from inception also being performed as a fox trot. Recorded by Ted Lewis on Columbia (below), Ted Black on Victor, and Joe Green’s Ambassadors on Melotone. Later recordings include a hit revival by Johnny Long, who recorded it twice for Decca with special-material lyrics for the entire band. Also cut by the likes of Doris Day on Columbia, Perry Como on RCA Victor, Bing Crosby for Decca, and Somethin’ Smith and the Redheads in the 50’s on Epic.
The Wild Goose Chase (8/12/32) – It is raining, and various flowers and critters are singing “Let a Smile Be Your Umbrella”. An old weathered tree tells two cats about a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, and uses some magic to conjure up a wild goose to fly them to the rainbow’s end. They find a castle, inhabited by all manner of strange creatures and demons, including a naked ogre. They find gold, and attempt to take it down to Earth, but as they fall, the gold disappears. The cats land safely, and go back to being satisfied with their smile and song. Some viewers may classify the visuals and concept of this cartoon as downright weird. Song: There is an original song, “There Is No River Deep Enough”, of which I know of no recordings. “Let a Smile Be Your Umbrella” was a 1928 pop song, recorded by Roger Wolfe Kahn for Victor, Sam Lanin on Okeh, Lee Morse and her Bluegrass Boys in a vocal rendition on Columbia. Arthur Fields and the “White Way Dance Orchestra” on Grey Gull, Jay C. Flippen on Perfect, and Radio Ed and Bobby Dixon (actually Ed Smalle and Dick Robertson) on Conqueror. In England, the Royal Hawaiian Troubadours on Electron. Later versions include the Andrews Sisters on Decca, Frankie Carle on Columbia, Jimmy Dorsey’s Orchestra on Columbia in the 1950’s, Lawrence Cook on Abbey, and in the 1960’s, Shari Lewis with Charley Horse on the Golden Records LP, “Hi Kids”.
Jolly Fish (8/19/32) Gags about fishing, with Tom and Jerry, including the old gag of bringing in a fish that looks like a whopper, only to have one fish after another fall off the line like a series of nested dolls, reducing the catch to the first bait-sized fish swallowed. Songs: a return for “By the Beautiful Sea” with special lyrics, and a newcomer, “There’s Oceans of Love By The Beautiful Sea”, a 1932 pop song, recorded by Alex Bartha and his Orchestra (a band whose regular gig was the Million Dollar Pier at Atlantic City) on Victor (below), and by Dick Robertson accompanied by a Victor Young house band featuring Jimmy Dorsey on clarinet, on Perfect, Conqueror, et al. Also heavily used is “By a Rippling Stream (Waiting For You)”, a melodic song played in the film by a 12-armed octopus. Johnny Hamp and his Orchestra may have had the only issued recording of this piece, on Victor.
Nursery Scandal (8/26/32) – A group of gnomes witness a romantic flirtation and rendezvous between Mother Goose and a scarecrow. This sets the other characters out of the Mother Goose book to gossiping. “How long has this been going on?” “It’ll never last.” Eventually, everyone ends up back in the book, except the Goose, who’s on the outside of the covers trying to get in. Songs: Mostly nursery rhyme tunes, but a new number is featured, “Moonlight and Roses”, a 1925 pop tune based on LeMare’s “Andantino”. Recorded by Henry Halstead for Victor in 1925. Also cut for Victor by singer John McCormack, in one of his first electrical records. Ray Miller and his Orchestra performed it for Brunswick. The Waikiki Hawaiian Trio recorded an acoustic version on Sunset. A crude electrical recording was produced by organist Milton Charles on Autograph. Electrical versions included Waring’s Pennsylvanians on Victor in 1926, and in the late 40’s or 50’s revivals by Ken Griffin on Columbia and the Three Suns on RCA Victor.
Bring ‘Em Back Half-Shot (9/9/32) – Big game hunting, parodying Frank Buck’s animal hunting expeditions in Africa. Frank was one of the best-known hunters for zoos and circuses, with the motto “Bring ‘em back alive.” The hunters catch a baby elephant in a snare trap, then run from the stampeding herd of adult elephants defending it. They carry the baby elephant into their traveling jungle barge, then slip out a back porthole themselves, as the pursuing herd stampedes headlong into the hold. Shutting the hatch door behind them, the hunters manage to keep the overloaded ship afloat, bringing back a record catch of pachyderms for the happy children to see. Songs: a return for “Shim-Me-She-Wabble”, and the new “Lonesome Me”, a 1932 pop song, recorded for Victor by Russ Columbo and his Orchestra.
Barnyard Bunk (9/16/32) – Tom and Jerry come in toodling their saxophones, to a farmyard where the mice have reduced the farmhouse and outbuildings to a dilapidated mess. Rustic gags include a cow, wearing an apron over her udders, who gives milk already in bottles, packaged six bottles to a basket. The farmer eventually pulls out a large money bag to buy the pair’s saxophones, which seem to have a magic effect upon revitalizing the farm. Unfortunately, when Tom and Jerry open their reward, the sack contains nothing but an infestation of the farm’s mice. Songs: The primary featured song is “Wabash Blues”, a jazz standard recorded in 1921 by Isham Jones for Brunswick, the Newport Society Orchestra on Vocalion, the Charleston Chasers in an electrical version on Columbia (basically Red Nichols and his Five Pennies moonlighting), the Coon-Sanders Nighthawks in a version for Victor which remained unissued until a 1965 LP, Sol Hoopii’s Hawaiian Trio for Columbia in 1927, Ted Lewis for Columbia in 1929, Boyd Senter and his Senter-pedes for Okeh in 1927 or 1928 and again on Victor in 1929, Louis Panico for Brunswick in 1930 (later reissued on Melotone and Vocalion), Russ Morgan on Decca around 1940. Pee Wee Hunt on Capitol in the late 1940’s, Bill Wood on Tennessee in 1951, Ralph Bell and his Hammond organ Trio on Mercury in the early 1950’s, The Mulcays on Cardinal in 1954, and the Firehouse Five Plus Two on Goof Time Jazz. Also in the cartoon is a snatch of “My Home Town Is a One Horse Town”, recorded by Aileen Stanley for Paramount, and later redone by her electrically for Thesaurus Transcriptions in the 1940’s. Victor Roberts (actually Billy Jones) also released a version on Victor around 1920, and the tune was later revived by Freddie “Schnickelfritz” Fisher on Decca.
NEXT TIME: 1932-33 when we continue.