While Wall Street was laying its proverbial egg, things were humming at the Van Beuren Studio. After all, they still had a quota of one cartoon every two weeks, so they had to keep putting out these “sugar-coated Pills of Wisdom”. Carl Eduoarde was keeping up the musical end of the cartoons, with scores that were reasonably peppy. And he appears to have learned from his experiences trying to conduct the score of “Steamboat Willie”, and gotten past the rough spots. Van Beuren had lost its mainstay animator Paul Terry, but was still putting out a consistent product. One suspects the “suits” at Pathe Exchanges, Inc. were satisfied.
Tuning In (11/7/29) – The various barnyard animals bring Farmer Al a table-model radio with a loudspeaker. After bringing in the usual blasty whangdoodle noises that early radios were prone to when not properly tuned to a station, Al manages to pull in a Hawaiian number, and then the coverage of a bullfight. From the Farmer’s reaction, you’d think he was observing television and not just listening to a radio. After listening to the spirited bullfight music, Al decides to “fight” one of the local cows, which leaves the bovine befuddled, and summoning a local bull to take over for her. From the way the bulls on both the radio and in Al’s barnyard fight, they could have used them on Wall Street at the time – their objective seeming to be to uplift the matador rather than gore him. Songs: “Lonely Troubadour”, a then-current pop song, recorded by Rudy Vallee for Victor, Ted Lewis for Columbia, Ed Lloyd (aka Ted Wallace and his Campus Boys) for Okeh, B.A. Rolfe and his Lucky Strike Dance Orchestra on Edison Needle-Cut, Ted Bartell and his Orchestra on Harmony et al. Meyer Davis on Brunswick, and Buster Benson and his Band on Jewel, Plaza, et al. Also, the Toreador Song from Carmen.
The Night Club (12/1/29) – A cop is escorting a jailbird to an unseen location, probably with bars, walls, and a rock pile. But they both wind up at a barnyard noght club, which seems to be a lively place. Glasses full of foaming amber liquid are being delivered to tables. A fight breaks out, and the cop busts in, announcing “You’re p-p-p-pinched.” All the customers are loaded into the Paddy Wagon. Songs: “La Donna E Mobile” from Rigoletto, part of the standard tenor repertoire. One of the first arias to get widely recorded, because it is short enough to fit in one side of a ten-inch record. Caruso recorded it at least three times. It was still receiving treatment as a single in the 1960’s by Richard Tucker on Columbia. Also included, “The Curse of an Aching Heart”, sung by a (surprisingly) sober quartet. The song was from 1913, and was recorded by counter-tenor Will Oakland on Victor. It was revived and swung by Fats Waller on Victor in 1936 (below). Much later, it was swung again by Turk Murphy on Good Time Jazz. Other songs include “Valse Chaloupee” (the Apache dance), and “Hail, Hail, the Gang’s All Here”
A Close Call (12/1/29) – A melodrama, with a cat tyring to be the most villainous villain that ever villed. He kidnaps a Minnie Mouse wanna-be, and brings her to his sawmill, tying her to the end of an exceptionally long log. A Mickey wanna-be, assisted by a troop of mounted police, performs a last-minute rescue, saving the Minnie from a splitting headache. Songs: “The Whistler and His Dog”, composed by Arthur Pryor, and recorded by Pryor’s Band both acoustically and electrically for Victor. Prince’s Band covered it on Columbia. Edison gave it to a studio orchestra billed as the New York Military Band. The Emerson Military Band performed an 8″ version on that label. English recordings included the Zonophone Concert Band on said label, and H.M. Welsh Guards on Broadcast 8-inch. Milt Herth performed a Hammond organ adaptation on Decca. Roger Pryor, son of Arthur, released a version on Vocalion. There was also a Mercury version for their children’s series, possibly performed by Hugo Peretti, who would later direct orchestras for Roulette and RCA Victor.
The Iron Man (1/4/30) – Mostly a vehicle for Farmer Al, who somehow gets hold of a box containing a robot. The robot seems to have ability to control his size – growing and growing until his head goes boom, then shrinking back to normal size. He and the farmer, for no apparent reason, perform a synchronized dance. Song: “Maria Mari’”, an Italian song often used as a marker for anything of such ethnicity. Recordings were issued by Titta Ruffo on acoustic HMV and possibly Victor, Antonio Scotti on Victor, and Rosa Ponselle on Columbia. Jack Beck’s Orchestra performed a 1919 version on Okeh. Fererra and Franchini performed a Hawaiian Guitar version on Okeh circa 1928, A vocal version appeared around 1930 by the Comedy Harmonists (aka the Comedian Harmonists) on Electrola. Gino Bordin appeared on French Polydor in the 1930’s. Beniamino Gigli revived it on HMV. Tony Pastor performed a swing band version on Bluebird. An instrumental version appeared by Jean Lensen on English Columbia. Lou Monte would revive it in the 45 rpm era on RCA Victor.
Ship Ahoy (1/7/30) – Farmer Al and some of his cats and mice are sailing on a schooner. Al has an encounter with a goat who bites off the seat of his pants. (Like any cartoon goat, is in an omnivore.) Foster’s inevitable skunks chase Farmer Al up the mast, where the topheavy weight of the crew cause the ship to sink, with Al still swimming away from the skunks. Songs: “She Is More To Be Pitied That Censured”, an 1898 ballad that often gets put into Gay 90’s anthologies. No contemporary recordings have been located, but revivals included Jimmie Rodgers on Montgomery Ward, Mac and Bob on Conqueror, Richard Brooks and Reuben Puckett on Brunswick, Beatrice Kay as am LP cut for Tops. The Stanley Brother for King in 1958, and Julie Andrews on Columbia for her “Don’t Go In The Lion’s Cage Tonight” LP (below). Repeat appearances also for “There’ll Be a Hot Time In the Old Town Tonight”, “Light Cavalry Overture”, and “Poet and Peasant Overture”.
Singing Saps (2/7/30) – This one features both Farmer Al and the two mice who had raised Disney’s ire for their obvious resemblance to — you know who. Eventually, the cartoon becomes a melodrama, with the Mickey clone tied to the railroad tracks. He manages to escape by twisting the track so he doesn’t get run over – Eventually, he rescues his damsel, leading to the altar, and the moral, “Faint heart never won fair maid.” Songs: “Dear Old Girl”, a 1903 ballad, recorded at the time by Richard Jose, a counter-tenor or male alto on Victor. Also recorded by Harry MacDonough and the Haydn Quartet on Victor in 1908. The Columbia Quartette (aka the Peerless Quartet) issued a version for Columbia circa 1910. In 1926, it was also covered by Maurice J. Dunsky on Victor. In the 1930’s Bing Crosby cut a version for Decca (below). He would later perform it on the Kraft Music Hall with the Charioteers. Frank Novak and his Rootin’ Tootin’ Boys issued another version on Vocalion. Al Joson performed it for Decca in 1947. Arthur Godfrey and the Mariners got it for Columbia in 1950. Also included in the cartoon is “Ain’t She Sweet”.
Sky Skippers (2/14/30) receives only honorable mention for use of some melodies new to Van Beuren, but not new to this column, due to coverage of them at other studios. More hijinks up in the air, including a pig who gains altitude from being inflated. Farmer Al winds up at the controls of a plane, but loses both wings and rudders, takes the fall and ends up seeing stars. Songs: “Come, Josephine in My Flying Machine”, “Mendelssohn’s Spring Song”, and “Auld Lang Syne”.
Good Old Schooldays (3/7/30) – A day in a country school, with all-animal student body. No gags stand out, but there is peppy music trying to carry the cartoon along. Songs: “School Days”, “M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I”, “That’s My Weakness Now”, and a newcomer to these soundtracks, “America (My County, Tis’ of Thee)”. Sousa’s Band recorded it for Victor arounf 1906. Clarence Whitehill recorded a Victor Red Seal in the 1920’s. A blue-seal Victor was also issued by Reinald Werrenrath. The Boston Pops issued a single much later that remained in catalog long enough to become a Gold Standard RCA Victor. The melody, of course, was lifted from “God Save the King”. Columbia issued it here under that tittle in the 1910’s, possibly from a British master, as Columbia Band. Alan Turner (baritone) issued a Victor version domestically here using such lyric. Other British versions abound, including the Band of H.M. Grenadier Guards on British Columbia.
Foolish Follies (3/7/30) – A revue with an all-animal cast, with the pseudo-Mockey leading the pit orchestra. This may have been one of the cartoons that caused Walt to say “Let’s get litigious.” Songs: “Lulu Lou”, a pop song with nonsense lyrics from 1926, recorded for Columbia by Harry Reser’s Syncopaters (possibly its only recording). Remaining score is all old favorites.
Next Time: More 1930.