The Oscars kept coming for the Termite Terrace crew, with Bugs finally getting his statuette (instead of his 1940’s “Booby Prize”). Franklyn and his confederates, to their credit, did not avert their emphasis to rock and roll, only occasionally lampooning the medium with the likes of an Elvis impression. They instead preserred swinging jazz, and knew where to go to get it when needed, as in out first offering this week.
Three Little Bops (1/5/57) – A favorite among jazz collectors. Friz Freleng’s hot and contemporary setting of the Three Little Pigs as jazz musicians playing the night club circuits. Complications arise when Big Bad Wolf, a fledgling trumpet player, tries to sit in on their session, but demonstrates to the pain of everyone’s eardrums that he has no lip. He finds himself getting ejected bodily from every venue, amd gets his revenge with his huffing and puffing – until the pigs find a nightclub made of bricks. Unable to blow the place down, the wolf decides to blow it up – but is too close to ground zero to escape the effects of the blast. Reduced to a devil-red ghost in a Hades stewpot, the wolf finally “gets hot”, and blows notes suitable for the band, joining the pigs ro form the Three Little Bops Plus One. Original narrative music is provided throughout by Shorty Rogers and his Giants, with vocalist Stan Freberg demonstrating his affinity for jazz and having a ball. Two oldies sneak into the score, played by the wolf, “Don’t Give Up the Ship” and “Charleston”.
Here’s a Shorty Rogers track, not from the film, but presented to illustrate the inspiration provided for Freleng, Foster and his crew.
Birds Anonymous (8/10/57) – Oscar Winning episiode in which Sylvester tries to kick the habot in a support group of bird-a-holic cats. When he gets home, he finds everything reminds him of bitds, including a cooking-show takeoff on Chef Milani, an Italian accented entrepreneur whose 15 minute cooking shows appeared on Los Angeles television. (The show was originally broadcast following another 15 minute program called “It’s Fun To Reduce.” It would have been much funnier if they had appeared in opposite order!) The representative of the support group tries his best to intervene as Sylvester’s resolve weakens, but ultimately turns out to be even weaker afainst the temptation of Tweety than Sylveste, and totally breaks down, leaving Tweety to comment, “Once a bad ol putty tat, always a bad ol’ putty tat”. “Tip Toe Thru the Tulips” is geatured, a number introduced by Nick Lucas in one of Warner’s earliest musicals, the all Technicolor Gold Diggers of Broadway (1929), a film now mostly lost, though the song’s footage somehow survived. Recorded by Lucas for Brunswick, Gene Goldkette on Victor, Fred Rich on Columbia, and Roy Fox (the Whispering cornetist) and his Montmartre orchestra on Brunswick. Don Voorhees also featured the song on the first issue of Hit of the Week from Durium records – pressed on cardboard base for 15 cents. Revived 40 years later by Tiny Tim on Repriise, becoming essentially his theme song.
Ducking the Devil (8/17/57) – Daffy hears of a $5,000 reward for the escaped Tasmanian Devil. The duck may be a coward, but he’s a “greedy little coward”, and would like to get his hands on those 5 G’s. Daffy learns that Taz becomes docile when exposed to music, so goes out hunting for the beast, hoping to prove that music hath charms. But the cord of an electric radio will only extend so far, so Daffy tries his hand at the trombone, the bagpipes, and finally singing, until laryngutus nearly does him in. Nevertheless, he succeeds in getting the beast back into his cage, and fights the beast bodily over the last stray dollar of the reward. A potpourri of oldies is featured: “Sweet Georgia Brown”, “It’s Magic”, “You Oughta Be in Pictures”, “L’amour, Toujours, L’amour”, “I’m Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover”, “The Campbells are Coming”, “Carolina In the Morning”, “When Irish Eyes are Smiling”, “Moonlight Bay”, and “The Gold Diggers’ Song”.
Show Biz Bugs (11/2/57) – Bugs and Daffy are a double act on the vaudeville stage. Daffy complains about his billing, and then finds white tile in his “dressing room” – the sign on the door reverses to read “Men”. Bugs draws plaudits for his performance – Daffy, only the chirp of crickets. Bugs shows Daffy up at every turn, until Daffy finally uses the act he’s been saving for a special occasion – a recycled bit from “Curtain Razor”, as he self-destructs in a devil costume after drinking explosives. The crowd loves it, and wants an encore. “I know, I know”, says Daffy’s ghost – “But I can only do it once.” Songs: a tap-dancing specialty act set to Vincent Youmans’ “Tea For Two”. This was an old music right for Warner, originating from the 1924 musical, No No Nanette. The musical was adapted by Warners to the silver screen in 1930 (now lost). Then portions of its score, including this number, made their way into a Doris Day picture using the song as its title (embed below). The song was originally recorded by the Benson Orchestra of Chicago for Victor, Carl Fenton for Brunswick, The Knickerbockers on Columbia, and as a vocal record by Helen Clark and Lewis James on Victor. It became a standard rather quickly, and in later years would be recorded by Red Nichols on Brunswick, Fats Waller in a piano solo on Victor, Fred Feibel as a Hammond organ solo on Columbia, and other versions too numerous to mention. Returning songs include “I’m Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover”, “Jeepers Creepers”, and the inevitable “Those Endearing Young Charms” for the oft-repeated exploding note gag.
Robin Hood Daffy (3/8/58) – Daffy is trying to convince Friar Tuck (Porky Pig, played without stutter) that he is really Robin Hood. But his feats of derring-do turn out to be derring-don’t, crashing into trees, having his duckbill folded repeatedly, and winding up dunked in ponds or streams. Porky isn’t buying it one bit – and ultimately the “amusing clown” concedes “Oh, never mind. I’kll join you. Shake hands with Friar Duck.” Songs: an original for Daffy, which I’ll call “Trip It Up and Down”, which soon devolves into the kind of cartoon action it’s title would imply, and “Barbara Allen”, an English folk song traceable back to the Elizabethan days of the 16th century, and discovered in the Appalachians by British folk song collector Francis James Child, who went into the mountains looking for the oldest songs he could find. Recorded in the 1920’s and 1930’s by Bradley Kincaid on Gennett, who had to sing the song nearly every week on the WLS Barn Dance.
Now Hare This (5/31/58) – Bugs is being chased by “Uncle Big Bad” wolf, and uses his ears to demonstrate his inner sense of radar while being pursued. The only way the wolf succeeds in having a rabbit for dinner is to invite Bugs as a guest to the dinner table. An original number, “The Carrots That Bloom In the Springtime”, is sung by Bugs.
Baton Bunny (1/10/59) – Bugs conducts the Warner Symphony Orchestra in Von Suppe’s “Morning, Noon and Night in Vienna”. His actions are inspired by the music, including staging almost a full dress Western to a martial theme from the score. His conducting efforts are interfered with, however, by a pesky fly, whom Bugs takes after with cymbals and other instrunents, eventually destroying the entire performing orchestra. After all this, Bugs finds his audience has deserted him – with the exception of the fly himself, who is the only one remaining to applaud, and to whom Bugs gives his final bows. “Morning, Noon, and Night” was of course a popular staple for other studios previously, including Max Fleischer in a Betty Boop of the same title featuring Rubinoff and his Orchestra, and Walter Lantz (Dick Lundy’s Kiddie Koncert.) Early commercial recordings included a band concert style version by Sousa’s Band on Vicor from approximately 1902, an accoustical version by the Victor Concert Orchestra, circa 1916, an accoustical by the American Concert Orchestra on Edison Diamond Disc fron the early 1920’s, and electrical versions on HMV by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Sir Thomas Beecham and the London Philharmonic Orchestra on British Columbia records, and by the Berlin State Opera House Orchestra on Parlophone.
Nelly’s Folly (12/30/61) – Jay Ward-ish fable about a singing giraffe, whose recording and Broadway career hits the skids when her involvement in a love-triangle alienates her public. (Today, nobody might mind it.) The film gives singer Gloria Wood a real opportunity to exercise her vocal “chops”. Gloria gets screen credit (which is oddly denied to a baritone who joins her at the end of the cartoon – is this the same singer heard on “One Froggy Evening”?) Songs: “Then You’ll Remember Me”, an aria from the operetta, “The Bohemian Girl” by Balfe. It was recorded by John McCormack on Victor, George Hamlin on Victor, Charles D’Almaine (violin solo) on very early Victor, Harry McDonough on Victor, Ruby Helder (billed as “the female baritone) on Columbia, Harold Wilde on British Zonophone, Henry Scott on Cameo, Charles Harrison on Operaphone, and electrically by the J.H. Squire Celeste Octet on British Columbia. Other songs making repeat appearances include “Voices of Spring” and “I’m the Flower of Gower Gulch” (a slight rewrite of the original from “Drip Along Daffy”), “Aloha Oe”, “Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean”, “Auld Lang Syne” (with new lyric as a singing commercial), and an original which is depicted by an album cover entitled “Nellie’s Blues”.
Now Hear This (4/20/63) – How do you describe this? The most abstract cartoon Warner ever turned out. One can only wonder what kind of feedback this got from exhibitora and cash custoers, many who probably couldn’t figure the thing out. A stuffy British gentlemaan discards his green ear trumpet in favor of a red one, which augments his hearing to a distracting degree. Treg Brown gets a real workout on the soundtrack. The red trumpet turns out to be the horn of a devil seen in the opening credits bereft of a horn. “Rule Brittania”, a signature theme associated with anything British, though never quite rising to the level of a national anthem (much like “America the Beautiful” in the states), is used as a scoring theme for the Britsisher. Early recordings include Alan Turner on Canadian HMV Victor circa 1909, also imported to the U.S., Arthur Laycock on British Columbia, Dame Clara Butt on British Columbia, with much later recordings by bands such as the Band of the Grenardier Guards on both British Columbia and British Decca/London, and the B.B.C. Symphony Orchestra on HMV. Here’s an excerpt:
Dumb Patrol (1/18/64) – WWI pilot Bugs Bunny takes the place of Porky Pig on a perilous aerial mission (“He has a wife and six piglets”). Baron Sam Von Spamm engages him in dogfight tactics, ultimately crashing into an ammunition dump. “I’ve hear of Hell’s Angels”, says Bugs, “But I never though I’d see one”. as Sam’s ghost ascends into the clouds in a devil costume. The film anticipates some of the set pieces and atmosphere that would become stock in trade for Charles M. Schulz a few years later. Songs: “There’s a Long, Long Trail”, a sentimental WWI standard, recorded in a best-seller by John McCormack on Victor Red Seal, Herbert Stuart and Billy Burton on Columbia, Oscar Seagle on Columbia Exclusive Artist, James Reed and J.F. Harrison on Victor black label, Henry Burr on Emerson, and a rare version by the Aeolian Concert Band on Aedlian Vocalion in multicolor “bloodshot” shellac. The song was revived in the 40’s by the Sons of the Pioneers on Decca (below). Also appearing in the film was “Mademoiselle from Armentieres (Hinky Dinky Parley Voo).”
Hawaiian Aye Aye (6/28/64) – By now Bill Lava was well entrenched. The inevitable Sylvester and Tweety chase, in the land of the pineapple and swaying palms. Songs: “Hula Lou”, originally a 1924 pop song, set to the chord changes of “Aloha Oe”. Recorded by Sophie Tucker on Okeh, Verbnon Dalhart on Pathe/Perfect, Dolly Kay, a vaudeville belter on Columbia, accompanied by the Georgians (a hot jazz band), the California Ramblers on Columbia, Billy Jones (of the Happiness Boys) on Regal, Isham Jones on Brunswick, The Troubadours (a house orchestra directed by Hugo Frey) on Victor, Isabelle Patricola on Vocalion Red Record, Bailey’s Lucky Seven on Gennett, Casino Dance Orchestra (another house band alterately billed as Nathan Glantz) on Perfect, Margaret Young (Margaret Whiting’s aunt) on Brunswick, and a country version from 1927 by the Carolina Tar Heels on electrical Victor.
Bunny and Claude (11/9/68), a late post-Termite Terrace entry parodying Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway’s Bonnie and Clyde featured an original number, “The Ballad of Bunny and Claude (We Rob Carrot Patches)”, performed by Billy Strange, who had been a country singer in the early 50’s, but by this time had become better known for a series of instrumental albums featuring his guitar playing for GNP Crescendo.
When Warner would do cartoons again in the 90’s and -oughts, they would occasionally remember an old song or two. Tiny Toon Adventures’ “TT Music Television”, includes an exotic Casablanca-Maltese Falcon style spoof music video, set to the old Four Lads hit, “Istanbul”, originally recorded on Columbia, but in this instance performed in a double-tempo version by They Might Be Giants, a group Warner music was pushing at the time. One episode of Batman: the Animated Series, “Harlequinade”, gives Arleen Sorkin the chance to sing “Say That We’re Sweethearts Again”, introduced by Virginia O’ Brien in MGM’s “Meet the People” (1944), and recorded with good sales by Dorothy Shay on Columbia. An episode of Justice League Unlimited, “This Little Piggy” makes use of “Am I Blue?”. in a twist ending with Batman forced to sing the song in a nightclub run by Circe. An episode of The Batman, “Two of a Kind”. featured the Joker singing Hank Williams’ “Settin’ the Woods On Fire” (originally recorded on MGM Records). How Warner acquired the rights to this Acuff-Rose publication remains a mystery. And a surprise “instrumental” from Batman: The Aninated Series, where Arleen Sorkin cracks up the members of the recording session by playing a funeral rendition of “Amazing Grace” (then a well known chart hit for the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards on RCA) for “The Man Who Killed Batman”, on kazoo!
Th-th-th-that’s enough, folks!