Screen Songs

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Screen Songs is the name of a series of animated cartoons produced by the Fleischer Studios and distributed by Paramount Pictures between 1929 and 1938. They were revived by Famous Studios in 1945.

History[edit]

The Screen Songs are a continuation of the earlier Fleischer series Song Car-Tunes. They are sing-along shorts featuring the famous "bouncing ball", a sort of precursor to modern karaoke videos. They often featured popular melodies of the day. The early Song Car-Tunes were among the earliest sound films, produced two years before The Jazz Singer. They were largely unknown at the time because their release was limited to the chain of 36 theaters operated by The Red Seal Pictures Company, which was equipped with the early Lee DeForest Phonofilm sound reproduction equipment. The Red Seal theater chain—formed by the Fleischers, DeForest, Edwin Miles Fadiman, and Hugo Riesenfeld—went from the East Coast to Columbus, Ohio.

Between May 1924 and September 1926, the Fleischers released 36 Song Car-Tunes series, with 19 using the Phonofilm sound-on-film process. The films included Oh Mabel, Come Take a Trip in My Airship, Darling Nelly Gray, Has Anybody Here Seen Kelly?, and By the Light of the Silvery Moon. Beginning with My Old Kentucky Home (1926), the cartoons featured the "follow the bouncing ball" gimmick, that lead the audience singing along with the film. The other 17 films in the Song Car-Tunes series were silent, designed to be shown with live music in movie theaters.

The Fleischers were ahead of the sound revolution, and just missed the actual change when Red Seal Pictures filed for bankruptcy in the fall of 1926.

Releases after Red Seal Pictures[edit]

The Internet Movie Database lists these Fleischer animation films as being released by Weiss Brothers-Artclass Pictures in 1926 and 1927.[1] This suggests the Fleischers turned to Weiss Brothers to release these films—some sound, some silent—from the Song Car-Tunes series after the Fleischers ended their Red Seal Pictures partnership with DeForest. In 1928, a few of the silent Song Car-Tunes may have been rereleased with sound by Weiss Brothers.

New contract with Paramount Pictures[edit]

The Fleischers signed a new contract with Paramount Pictures in late 1928. Beginning in February 1929, the song cartoons returned under a new name, Screen Songs, using the Western Electric sound-on-film process. The first was The Sidewalks of New York (East Side, West Side) released on 5 February 1929. In the 1930s, the shorts began to feature such musical guest stars as Lillian Roth, Ethel Merman, Cab Calloway, Rudy Vallee, the Mills Brothers, the Boswell Sisters, and others. The series, which eventually focused on many of the "big bands" of "The Swing Era" continued until 1938.

In 1945, Famous Studios, successors to the Fleischers, revived the Screen Songs as an all animated series in color. The earliest color Screen Song released as part of the Noveltoons series, When G.I. Johnny Comes Home, was released on February 2, 1945.

Legal status[edit]

All Fleischer and Famous Screen Songs released prior to October 1950 were sold to U.M.&M. T.V. Corp. in 1956 for television syndication. These shorts have changed hands in the decades since due to a series of corporate acquisitions involving what would eventually become the revived Republic Pictures, and the 2006 corporate split of Viacom (which became the parent of Paramount Pictures in 1994, and later acquired Republic in 1999) into two separate companies. Today the theatrical rights to the Screen Songs are once again owned by Paramount (via what is now Melange Pictures, a division of Viacom, Paramount's parent company), home video rights are owned by Viacom/Paramount licensee Olive Films, which has yet to announce any sort of home video reissue—and the television rights are the responsibility of Trifecta Entertainment & Media. However, the majority of the "Screen Songs" are in the public domain, and are available on various discount public domain cartoon videos and DVDs. The Screen Songs released between October 1950 and the final release in 1951 were sold to Harvey Comics, and are now owned by DreamWorks Classics (formerly Classic Media), due to purchase from DreamWorks Animation.

The only exception to the above was Let's Sing with Popeye. This particular film was purchased by Official Films in the 1950s and re-released to the home movie market. While this cartoon stars the character Popeye it is unknown if it was included in the sale of the Popeye cartoons to Associated Artists Productions. It is possible that a.a.p. was supposed to receive this film, but never did, or that they did not do anything with the film at all, since it re-used animation from the original Popeye the Sailor short released 14 July 1933. Whatever the case may be, it fell into the public domain as would be expected when its ownership is unknown. This film was released as a special feature on the first volume of Warner Bros. Popeye DVD series, but it was the same public domain print that has been in circulation.[citation needed] Additionally, it was never given a real general release—rather, it was shown as part of a Saturday morning matinee Popeye club—and searches in the Library of Congress Copyright Catalog turn up no results for the film, suggesting that a copyright was never registered.

Filmography[edit]

Fleischer Studios[edit]

Film Characters / Musicians Original release date
The Sidewalks of New York February 5, 1929
Yankee Doodle Boy March 1, 1929
Old Black Joe April 5, 1929
Ye Olde Melodies May 3, 1929
Daisy Bell May 31, 1929
Mother, Pin a Rose on Me July 6, 1929
Chinatown, My Chinatown One-shot Chinese characters August 2, 1929
Dixie August 17, 1929
Goodbye My Lady Love August 31, 1929
My Pony Boy September 13, 1929
Smiles One-shot human quartet September 27, 1929
Oh, You Beautiful Doll Tommy and Mariah Cat October 14, 1929
After the Ball Charles K. Harris and Fitz the dog November 8, 1929
Put on Your Old Grey Bonnet One-shot animal characters November 22, 1929
I've Got Rings on My Fingers One-shot animal characters and (human) Irish cop December 17, 1929
Bedelia Bimbo January 3, 1930
In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree One-shot bear characters January 18, 1930
I'm Afraid to Come Home in the Dark Bimbo February 1, 1930
The Prisoner's Song Bimbo and prisoners March 1, 1930
I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles One-shot mouse characters March 15, 1930
La Paloma Bimbo April 12, 1930
Yes! We Have No Bananas One-shot animal characters April 26, 1930
Come Take a Trip in My Airship Mariah Cat (here called "Kitty") April 26, 1930
In the Good Old Summer Time One-shot animal characters June 6, 1930
A Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight One-shot mouse characters August 1, 1930
The Glow-Worm August 23, 1930
The Stein Song One-shot animal characters September 6, 1930
Strike Up the Band One-shot dog sailors September 27, 1930
My Gal Sal Bimbo October 18, 1930
Mariutch Bimbo (in Italian lead role) November 15, 1930
On a Sunday Afternoon One-shot dog characters and (briefly) Bimbo November 29, 1930
Row, Row, Row Bimbo (in villainous lead role) and (somewhat inconsistent) Betty Boop prototype December 20, 1930
Please Go 'Way and Let Me Sleep Bimbo and (briefly) Betty Boop prototype January 10, 1931
By the Beautiful Sea One-shot mouse characters January 24, 1931
I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now Tommy and Mariah Cat February 14, 1931
I'd Climb the Highest Mountain Bimbo March 7, 1931
Somebody Stole My Gal Bimbo March 20, 1931
Any Little Girl That's a Nice Little Girl Tommy Cat and Betty Boop prototype April 18, 1931
Alexander's Ragtime Band Bimbo May 9, 1931
And the Green Grass Grew All Around One-shot bug characters May 30, 1931
My Wife's Gone to the Country Bimbo and (briefly) Betty Boop May 31, 1931
That Old Gang of Mine Mariah and (briefly) Tommy Cat July 11, 1931
Betty Co-ed Rudy Vallee, Betty Boop prototype August 1, 1931
Mr. Gallagher and Mr. Shean Gallagher and Shean August 29, 1931
You're Driving Me Crazy One-shot jungle animal characters September 19, 1931
Little Annie Rooney Bimbo (in "Joe" role of song) October 10, 1931
Kitty from Kansas City Rudy Vallee, Betty Boop October 31, 1931
By the Light of the Silvery Moon Eddie Cantor, Bimbo and (briefly) Betty Boop November 14, 1931
My Baby Just Cares for Me Eddie Cantor, Bimbo (monkeylike design) December 5, 1931
Russian Lullaby Arthur Tracy, Aloysius December 26, 1931
Sweet Jennie Lee Jean Harlow, one-shot animal characters January 9, 1932
Show Me the Way to Go Home Eddie Cantor, one-shot animal characters January 30, 1932
When the Red, Red Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin' Along Joan Crawford, one-shot bird characters February 19, 1932
Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie The Round Towners Quartet, Betty Boop and Bimbo March 4, 1932
Just One More Chance Betty Boop April 1, 1932
Oh! How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning Les Reis and Artie Dunn, Betty Boop April 22, 1932
Shine On Harvest Moon Alice Joy, one-shot animal characters May 6, 1932
Let Me Call You Sweetheart Ethel Merman, Betty Boop May 20, 1932
I Ain't Got Nobody The Mills Brothers, one-shot animal characters June 17, 1932
You Try Somebody Else Ethel Merman, Betty Boop July 29, 1932
Rudy Vallee Melodies Rudy Vallee, Betty Boop August 5, 1932
Down Among the Sugar Cane Lillian Roth, one-shot animal characters August 26, 1932
Just a Gigolo Irene Bordoni, Betty Boop September 9, 1932
School Days Gus Edwards, one-shot animal characters September 30, 1932
Romantic Melodies Arthur Tracy, Betty Boop and Bimbo October 21, 1932
When It's Sleepy Time Down South The Boswell Sisters, one-shot animal characters November 11, 1932
Sing a Song James Melton, one-shot animal characters December 2, 1932
Time on My Hands Ethel Merman, Betty Boop December 23, 1932
Dinah Mills Brothers, one-shot animal characters January 13, 1933
Ain't She Sweet? Lillian Roth, Tommy and Mariah Cat February 3, 1933
Reaching for the Moon Arthur Tracy, one-shot space alien characters February 23, 1933
Aloha Oe Royal Samoans, one-shot jungle animal characters March 17, 1933
Popular Melodies Arthur Jarrett, Betty Boop April 7, 1933
The Peanut Vendor Armida, one-shot animal characters April 28, 1933
Song Shopping Ethel Merman and Johnny Green, one-shot animal characters May 19, 1933
Boilesk The Watson Sisters, one-shot animal characters June 9, 1933
Sing, Sisters, Sing Three X Sisters, one-shot animal characters June 3, 1933
Down by the Old Mill Stream The Eton Boys, one-shot animal characters July 21, 1933
Stoopnocracy Stoopnagle and Budd, one-shot animal characters August 18, 1933
When Yuba Plays the Rumba on the Tuba The Mills Brothers September 15, 1933
Boo Boo Theme Song Funnyboners October 13, 1933
I Like Mountain Music The Eton Boys November 10, 1933
Sing, Babies, Sing Baby Rose Marie December 15, 1933
Keeps Rainin' All the Time Gertrude Niesen January 12, 1934
Let's All Sing Like the Birdies Sing Les Reis and Artie Dunn, one-shot cat and bird characters February 9, 1934
Tune Up and Sing Lanny Ross March 9, 1934
Lazy Bones Borrah Minnevitch and His Harmonica Rascals April 13, 1934
This Little Piggie Went to Market Singin' Sam May 25, 1934
She Reminds Me of You The Eton Boys June 22, 1934
Love Thy Neighbor Mary Small July 20, 1934
Let's Sing with Popeye Popeye (Billy Costello) Produced for Saturday morning matinee "Popeye Club".
Later re-released by Official Films in the 1950s.
I Wished on the Moon Abe Lyman and his Orchestra, Wiffle Piffle September 20, 1935
It's Easy to Remember Richard Himber and his Orchestra November 29, 1935
No Other One Hal Kemp and His Orchestra/Skinnay Ennis, Wiffle Piffle January 24, 1936
I Feel Like a Feather in the Breeze Jack Denny and his Orchestra, Wiffle Piffle March 27, 1936
I Don't Want to Make History Vincent Lopez and his Orchestra, Wiffle Piffle May 22, 1936
The Hills of Wyomin The Westerners / Curt Massey July 31, 1936
I Can't Escape from You Billie Bailey / Joe Reichman and His Orchestra September 25, 1936
Talking Through My Heart Dick Stabile and his Orchestra, Wiffle Piffle November 27, 1936
Never Should Have Told You Nat Brandwynne and His Orchestra, Wiffle Piffle January 29, 1937
Twilight on the Trail The Westerners / Louise Massey March 26, 1937
Please Keep Me in Your Dreams Barbara Blake / Henry King and his Orchestra May 28, 1937
You Came to My Rescue Shep Fields and His Rippling Rhythm Orchestra July 30, 1937
Whispers in the Dark June Robbins / Gus Arnheim and his Orchestra September 24, 1937
Magic on Broadway Jay Freeman November 26, 1937
You Took the Words Right Out of My Heart January 28, 1938
Thanks for the Memory March 25, 1938
You Leave Me Breathless May 27, 1938
Beside a Moonlit Stream (final B&W Screen Song) Eddie Cantor July 29, 1938

Famous Studios[edit]

Film Theme Song Director Animators Story by Original release date
The Circus Comes to Clown Circus "The Man on the Flying Trapeze" I. Sparber Tom Johnson and Frank Endres Bill Turner and Larz Bourne December 26, 1947
Base Brawl Baseball "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" Seymour Kneitel Dave Tendlar and Tom Golden Larz Bourne and Bill Turner January 23, 1948
Little Brown Jug Cider "Little Brown Jug" Seymour Kneitel Orestes Calpini, Morey Reden, and Bill Hudson Bill Turner and Larry Riley February 20, 1948
The Golden State California "California, Here I Come" Seymour Kneitel Dave Tendlar and Bill Hudson Larz Bourne and Larry Riley March 12, 1948
Winter Draws On Bird Migration "Alabamy Bound" Seymour Kneitel Al Eugster and Irving Spector Larz Bourne and Bill Turner March 19, 1948
Sing or Swim Beach "By the Beautiful Sea" Seymour Kneitel Al Eugster and Irving Spector I. Klein and Larry Riley June 16, 1948
Camptown Races Blackface Acts "Camptown Races" Seymour Kneitel Al Eugster and Irving Spector Bill Turner and Larry Riley July 30, 1948
The Lone Star State Texas "Deep in the Heart of Texas" I. Sparber Dave Tendlar and Morey Reden Larz Bourne August 20, 1948
Readin', Ritin' and Rhythmetic School "School Daze" Seymour Kneitel Al Eugster and Bill Hudson I. Klein October 22, 1948
The Funshine State Florida "Tallahassee" Seymour Kneitel Dave Tendlar and Morey Reden Larz Bourne January 7, 1949
The Emerald Isle Ireland "McNamara's Band" Seymour Kneitel Al Eugster and Bill Hudson I. Klein February 25, 1949
Comin' Round the Mountain Hillbillies "She'll Be Comin' 'Round the Mountain I. Sparber Tom Johnson and Frank Endres Bill Turner March 11, 1949
The Stork Market Newborn Babies "Pretty Baby" Seymour Kneitel Al Eugster and Wm. B. Pattengill Bill Turner and Larry Riley April 8, 1949
Spring Song Spring "Spring Song" I. Sparber Myron Waldman and Larry Silverman I. Klein June 3, 1949
The Ski's the Limit Switzerland "I Miss My Swiss, My Swiss Miss Misses Me" I. Sparber Dave Tendlar and Tom Golden Bill Turner and Larry Riley June 24, 1949
Toys Will Be Toys Toys "Oh, You Beautiful Doll" Seymour Kneitel Myron Waldman and Gordon Whittier I. Klein July 29, 1949
Farm Foolery Winter Harvest "Shine On, Harvest Moon" Seymour Kneitel Al Eugster and Bill Hudson Larz Bourne August 5, 1949
Our Funny Finny Friends Fish "Three Little Fishies" Seymour Kneitel Al Eugster and Bill Hudson Larz Bourne and Larry Riley August 26, 1949
Marriage Wows Wedding "For Me and My Gal" I. Sparber Myron Waldman and Gordon Whittier Bill Turner and Larry Riley September 16, 1949
The Big Flame Up Firefighting "There'll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight" I. Sparber Dave Tendlar and Martin Taras I. Klein September 30, 1949
Strolling Thru the Park 1890s Parks "While Strolling through the Park One Day" Seymour Kneitel Myron Waldman and Larry Silverman I. Klein November 4, 1949
The Big Drip Noah's Ark "It Ain't Gonna Rain No Mo'" I. Sparber Myron Waldman and Nick Tafuri Larz Bourne and Larry Riley November 25, 1949
Snow Foolin' Christmas "Jingle Bells" I. Sparber Myron Waldman and Gordon Whittier I. Klein December 16, 1949
Blue Hawaii Hawaii "Blue Hawaii" Seymour Kneitel Al Eugster and Wm. B. Pattengill Larz Bourne January 13, 1950
Detouring Thru Maine Maine "The Main Stein Song" Seymour Kneitel Al Eugster and Bill Hudson February 17, 1950
Short'nin' Bread Baked Goods "Shortnin' Bread" I. Sparber Myron Waldman and Gordon Whittier Larz Bourne and Larry Riley March 24, 1950
Win, Place and Showboat Mississippi Riverboat "Waiting for the Robert E. Lee" I. Sparber Al Eugster and Wm. B. Pattengill Larz Bourne and Larry Riley April 28, 1950
Jingle Jangle Jungle Africa "Civilization (Bongo Bongo Bongo)" Seymour Kneitel Myron Waldman and Larry Silverman Joe Stultz and Larry Riley May 19, 1949
Heap Hep Injuns Native Americans "My Pony Boy" I. Sparber Tom Johnson and George Rufle Larz Bourne June 30, 1950
Gobs of Fun Sailors "Strike Up the Band (Here Comes a Sailor)" I. Sparber Al Eugster and Irving Spector Larry Riley and Joe Stultz July 28, 1950
Helter Swelter Summer "In the Good Old Summer Time" Seymour Kneitel Al Eugster and Wm. B. Pattengill Larz Bourne and Larry Riley August 25, 1950
Boos in the Nite Halloween "Pack Up Your Troubles" I. Sparber Myron Waldman and Nick Tafuri Joe Stultz and Larry Riley September 22, 1950
Fiesta Time Mexico ""El Rancho Grande" Seymour Kneitel Myron Waldman and Larry Silverman I. Klein October 20, 1950
Fresh Yeggs Prisons "Give My Regards to Broadway" Seymour Kneitel Myron Waldman and Nick Tafuri Larz Bourne November 17, 1950
Tweet Music Birds "Let's All Sing Like the Birdies Sing" I. Sparber Al Eugster and George Rufle Joe Stultz February 9, 1951
Drippy Mississippi Mississippi River "M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I" Seymour Kneitel Myron Waldman and Gordon Whittier Larz Bourne April 13, 1951
Miners Forty Niners Miners "Oh My Darling, Clementine" I. Sparber Myron Waldman and Larry Silverman I. Klein May 18, 1951
Sing Again of Michigan Michigan "I Want to Go Back to Michigan Down on the Farm" I. Sparber Al Eugster and George Rufle Larz Bourne June 29, 1951

References[edit]

  • Leslie Cabarga, The Fleischer Story (Da Capo Press, 1988)
  • Leonard Maltin, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons (Penguin Books, 1980, revised edition 1987)

See also[edit]