Sunday, December 27, 2009

Marvin Kaplan — The “Intellectual Close Friend”

Arnold Stang’s death has brought about the question about how many of the main voice actors are left from Top Cat. After all, all four main cast members of The Flintstones, which debuted the year before, are now gone.

Top Cat, out of plot necessity, had a much larger regular cast than any Hanna-Barbera show to that time; what kind of alley would it be with only one cat and a sidekick like in a Yogi Bear cartoon? Fortunately, several of T.C.’s gang are still with us—Marvin Kaplan, John Stephenson and, as Earl Kress reminds me, nightclub comic Leo de Lyon.

As a sidebar, all three had a connection with “I Love Lucy,” whose opening animation was done by Hanna and Barbera. Stephenson, according to Bart Andrews’ book on the show, was an announcer on it, de Lyon appeared on stage with Desi Arnaz in 1949 and Kaplan was signed by Desilu in 1963 for two sitcom pilots: one with Ethel Merman called “Maggie Brown” and “Hooray for Hollywood.”

I really like listening to Marvin Kaplan. Maybe I have an affinity for those New York accents from watching Warners cartoons as a kid. Kaplan’s longest role was probably his worst, on Alice, featuring one-note characters, a couple of overused catchphrases and the usual camera close-up “serious” moment that was requisite at the same spot in the plot of every episode of every ‘70s sitcom. Quite a fall for someone who played in Uncle Vanya on stage. I suppose one might consider a cartoon a bit of a career drop, but Top Cat had a tremendous voice cast, the first batch of really great music by Hoyt Curtin and, occasionally, inspired bits of dialogue.

It seems casting Kaplan as the usually well-grounded Choo Choo was a bit of stereotyping. I had no idea that he was a high school teacher at the same time he was in some pretty high-profile movies. But that’s what this syndicated column of December 2, 1962 reveals:


Comic’s Dual Life: He Teaches, Too
By ERSKINE JOHNSON
Hollywood Correspondent
Newspaper Enterprise Assn.

HOLLYWOOD (NEA)—Marvin Kaplan laughs off a double life with a stock answer when he introduces himself for the day in the Los Angeles city school system. The question is stock, too, from some always-curious student.
“Haven’t we seen you in movies or on television?”
When the question comes, Kaplan’s round cherubic face goes preposterously sad. He removes a pair of thick-as-bottle glass hornrims without which he says “I can’t even see the eye chart.” He wipes them with a handkerchief and as he says:
”I guess you all think I look like a certain actor. Well, I must admit I’ve been mistaken for Rock Hudson for years.”
It’s a sure-fire laugh—and getting laughs is Marvin Kaplan’s life in show business. In the classroom, where he leads another life, he knows exactly how far he can go. After that, he’s all academic business.
A movie and television funny-man, Kaplan just completed an all-star comedy, “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” and another part in Jerry Lewis’ latest film, “The Nutty Professor.” For four years, Kaplan played the role of Alfred Prinzmetal, the poet, in the weekly television series, “Meet Millie.” He’s now the voice of Chu Chu [sic] in ABC’s “Top Cat” series.
BETWEEN ASSIGNMENTS some actors go fishing and others play golf and still others make headlines like Richard Burton. Kaplan, who trained for an academic career, teaches school. As a substitute for the last five years, he has taught 3,000 high school classes in the L.A. school system. He devotes about six month a year to the job about which he says:
“Why I teach is a hard question to answer without sounding corny, but I guess you’d have to call it a matter of good citizenship. Some actors dabble in politics, some do benefits. I teach. It beats driving yourself crazy with idleness between assignments and the kids are a great audience.”
Kaplan’s classes have ranged all the way from biology (“which I flunked in school”) to senior problems (“like smoking. Only all the students smoke and I don’t.”)
WHETHER RECOGNIZED or not, Kaplan’s wit and dramatic flair help him at his desk, where he says “the teachers of America win Academy Awards every day for audience-holding performances.”
To a would-be cut-up in a classroom, Kaplan flipped: “You have a sense of humor like an acid thrower.”
To an unruly lad in another classroom, he said: “You can’t be replaced but you can be tortured.”
To a drama class fumbling with “Julius Caesar,” he flipped: “I came to bury this class, not to teach it.”
Via laughs, he wins attention and respect. His assignments take him from tough “Asphalt Jungle”-type neighbourhoods to exclusive residential areas like Brentwood where “he” had a laugh. A mother whose child had been rude to the regular teacher introduced herself to Kaplan at a PTA meeting. After apologizing, she said about the boy: “I can’t understand why he was so ill-mannered. He’s always a perfect gentleman to the servants at home.”
Casting directors, naturally, never think of Marvin Kaplan for a teacher role. He played a beatnik in Lewis’ “The Nutty Professor,” has played only one school teachers in a “Dobie Gillis” television show.

“Yowp,” I know you’re saying, “Where’s the inside gossip? The drunken car accidents? The sexual sleaze? The swearing at the paparazzi? The meltdowns and rehab?”

Well, let’s see. Inside gossip. Hmmm. Okay, how about this: Kaplan inherited his grandfather’s pickle and sauerkraut factory in New York in the ‘50s. He actually sold sauerkraut before becoming an actor. Yeah, I know, not much. And we’ll leave the sauerkraut story for another time. About the only gossip—and it’s tame compared to what you find today on blogs written by people emulating Charles Pierce as Bette Davis—comes from one long-time wire service (and radio) columnist for papers of March 24, 1978:


Repairman eccentric off screen
By Vernon Scott
HOLLYWOOD (UPI)—Marvin Kaplan, who plays Henry, the telephone repairman on the “Alice” series, is considerably more eccentric off-screen than the nutty character he plays on the CBS show.
Kaplan was divorced recently after three years of marriage.
He apparently was the victim of the “too little, too late” syndrome. A lifelong bachelor, Kaplan marched to the altar for the first time at the age of 46. His bride, 47, also was marrying for the first time.
“It didn’t work out,” Kaplan says, apparently unfazed by the experience. “We both were so set in our ways it was ridiculous. We didn’t have any children.
“Now I’m going to write a book titled, ‘Listen, If You've Waited This Long.’”
Kaplan is a happy-go-lucky man who says he and his wife first met as schoolmates in a Brooklyn high school. They lost touch with one another for many years until he bumped into her in Indianapolis where she was a college professor.
“She expected me to be the same person she knew in Brooklyn,” Kaplan says. “I expected her to have changed. Both of us were wrong.”
Kaplan kept the couples’ two-bedroom Burbank home after the divorce. He had owned it for many years before his marriage. His wife took the furniture because it belonged to her for years before they exchanged vows.
Home is a modest California ranch-style stucco with very little furniture. It is also something less than a showcase.
“My house always looks as if it’s just been robbed,” says Kaplan. “It’s a mess. I’m not the best housekeeper and my wife was meticulously neat.”
Immediately after the 1971 earthquake a neighbor knocked on Kaplan’s door to see what damage his house had suffered. Kaplan says there was virtually no damage, but the neighbor took one look at the mess inside and assumed the house had been all but destroyed.
Kaplan said he is not entirely at fault for the constant disarray of his home. He had the same cleaning lady for 30 years and said in recent years she came to work in a wheel chair. But she disappeared recently without a trace.

If Marvin Kaplan has had a bad review, I have yet to read it. He got good ink from Bosley Crowther in the New York Times for his role in The Reformer and the Redhead which he shot 60 years ago. He got a few spotlight stories in Top Cat, but the best cartoon he was in didn’t involve drawings. It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World is one long cartoon. It has over-the-top characters (the usually camera-hogging Uncle Miltie appears positively tame next to the unsinkable Ethel Merman), a crazy chase scene dispensing gags along the way, and even cartoon voices (Kaplan, Stang, Stan Freberg, Jim Backus, Edward Everett Horton and Terry-Thomas. And Jimmy Durante and Phil Silvers, once removed).

But, as the song says, if the most effectual Top Cat is going to have an intellectual close friend, none could possibly be better than the enjoyable Marvin Kaplan.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Final (?) Note About Arnold Stang

A couple of months ago I promised to reprint a news story about Arnold Stang and, with his passing a few days ago, now may be as good a time as many to pass it on.

The Hanna-Barbera PR machine was well-oiled by the time Top Cat was heading toward its debut. Unlike any of the previous series, where Joe and Bill did the talking to reporters, the star himself was enlisted to push his new cartoon show in media interviews. Maybe it was because of Stang’s name recognition.

Here’s the interview I promised, un-bylined in this version, from a couple of months before the show aired. You can see that the voice cast still wasn’t quite settled; I don’t think Bea Benaderet did anything on the show; Jean Vander Pyl did.


TV Toppers: Is He Man or Mouse?
NEW YORK, June 13 (UPI) —The usual question, “Are you man or mouse?” won’t do for Arnold Stang.
In his case, you have to ask, “Are you man, cat or mouse?”
And he just might have trouble giving a snap answer.
The complication in the career of the slight, begoggled performer arises from the fact that besides being constantly employed as comedian Arnold Stang, in person, or as an actor creating a human character for stage, screen or TV, he has become prominent in the animated cartoon field.
STANG HAS been the voice for “Herman the Mouse,” a series of filmed shorts widely used in theaters and on TV programs, and now he has the important assignment of voicing the title role in “Top Cat,” a half-hour weekly animated series made especially for television that will be a new entry on the ABC network schedule next fall.
“Actually, I received no billing from the ‘Herman the Mouse’ series,” Stang explained, “and now, of course, I’ll make no more of them.
“However, everyone who saw one of those shorts knew, right away I did them. On account of the voice.
“They recognized it.
“But I’m not using the ‘Stang voice’ for the ‘Top Cat’ series. I won’t sound like me. When we first started making them, the question came up as to whether I shouldn’t voice T.C.—that's the way the cat is usually referred to—in my natural manner, but I talked them out of it. I don’t think my natural tone quite fits the character of T.C.”
“TOP CAT” IS another major cartoon creation by the Hanna-Barbera Firm in Hollywood that made a splash this season with “The Flintstones” on ABC, the first “adult” animation series especially created for television.
“Top Cat” also is intended to be a bit above the “kiddie level,” with a certain sophistication.
T.C. is a big-city vagrant with a leadership quality that binds assorted felines to him.
They get involved in stories which might just as well be played by humans. A policeman will be the only regular human character of the show.
“Some of the other well-known actors providing voices for the show,” Stang said, “are Maurice Gosfield—you know, the Doberman of Phil Silvers’ old series; Allen Jenkins, who talks for the cop; Leo de Lyon, who speaks for a beatnik-type cat, and Bea Benaderette [sic], who also does one of the voices on ‘The Flintstones.’
“We have a dozen of the episodes completed, and I have to go right back to work this week.
“We record on tape from script in a studio, and the technicians blend the lines with the animation frames.
“I came back here for a few days to close up my home in New Rochelle and move the family out to Bel Air, where we bought a house.
“I’VE BEEN commuting so much in recent years between New York and Hollywood, as more and more of the television work centered there, that about the only way. I could expect to have much time with my wife and two children was to set up our home out there.”
Cat lovers will want to know whether Stang really likes cats.
“Well,” he replied cautiously, “let’s say I’m very fond of this cat character.”

Something just doesn’t seem right with the interview, though. The show is about a conning cat that uses Bilko-like flattery, has Bilko’s sidekick (Gosfield) and was written at times by a Bilko writer (Barry Blitzer)—but the studio wanted him to sound like Stang and not Bilko? Call me a little sceptical.

Top Cat debuted on Wednesday, September 27, 1961. The Big Cartoon Database says ‘Hawaii—Here We Come’ was the first show. But that’s not what the TV listings of the day say. You see to your left a TV ad which suggests the first show was really ‘The $1,000,000 Derby.’ In fact, a couple of newspapers in their “week ahead” TV listings the previous weekend give that cartoon in their plot summary. But on the day of the show, the papers changed their minds. Here’s a typical summary:

7:30—2 Top Cat: (Premiere) New half-hour animated cartoon series about the adventures of a band of felines in Manhattan. Tonight: "Top Cat Falls in Love" — Benny the Ball has his tonsils out but, after one glimpse at the nurse, smitten T.C. is stricken with a rare ailment to keep him hospitalized.

That, according to BCDB, was supposed to be the seventh episode. So which one aired? It’s tough to say. The Chicago Tribune’s Larry Wolters had this review the following morning:

Top Cat, also known as Ali Khat or alley cat, is a happy addition to all of TV's animated cartoon characters TV's animated cartoon characters. He gets mixed up with some pretty mixed up characters including "a compact horse" which he manages to run in a derby. Arabelle, the nag, came in second—she stopped to have her picture taken.

Whether Wolters actually saw the show the night of the debut or received an advance copy and wrote his column from that, I don’t know. But nowhere can I find evidence that ‘Hawaii—Here We Come’ aired first.

Incidentally, Jack Gould of the New York Times panned the show the following morning. He was the guy who called The Flintstones “an inked disaster” the day after its premiere. After moaning about how Steve Allen’s new show was too slapstick—yes, he panned Steve Allen, too—he wrote:


‘Top Cat’ in Debut
Following Mr. Allen's mishap on Channel 7 was another one: a cartoon series called "Top Cat." The central animal is an unattractive-Tommy-run feline and his bewhiskered minions are a dreary lot. Their adventures last night were dull enough to have been performed by humans.

And the Tribune capped the debut with this note in Herb Lyon’s column two days later on September 29th:

Silliest promotional stunt yet: ABC-TV publicized its new cartoon series Top Cat by sending TV critics, columnists, etc., jumbo sized garbage cans, with the lids done up in blue ribbons. Anybody need a JSGC? I can’t get past it to my typewriter!

Ah, but we’re getting away from the topic of Arnold Stang. Suffice it so say, he entertained many people in different media—radio, feature films, television, cartoons—for decades. Fortunately, his work is still around for us to enjoy even though he has gone.

Top Cat is a little beyond the time limit that this blog is supposed to focus on, but I’ll pass on one more set of clippings soon about Stang’s funny mate from Brooklyn, Marvin Kaplan.

Huckleberry Hound — The Tough Little Termite

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Ken Muse; Layout – Ed Benedict; Backgrounds – Bob Gentle; Story Sketches – Charlie Shows and Dan Gordon; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Cast: Huckleberry Hound – Daws Butler, Termite – Don Messick.
Released: March 26, 1959.
Plot: Huck takes on termite that’s infested his happy home.

“Did you ever have one of them days, you know, when everything seemed to go wrong?” That’s what Huckleberry Hound asks the TV audience at the end of the cartoon. And since we all have, we can sympathise with poor Huck as he loses everything—all because he wants to get rid of a bothersome insect from his home.

But it’s not just any bothersome insect. It’s a termite. Sure, Porky Pig took on a termite in The Pest Who Came to Dinner (1948) with an ending that was apparently adapted by Woody Woodpecker when he battled Termites From Mars (1952). But this termite has some personality. He’s a ham. And he sings a little song. Since he’s an insect, he can only buzz, so Don Messick has him going up and down the scale, cheerfully singing “Buzz-a, buzz-a, buzz.” It’s just so silly, it makes the cartoon a winning one, even though Huck gets unmercifully picked on during the whole time.

Ed Benedict designed the termite with a little zig-zag mouth. He also designed the opening shot of Huck relaxing outside his suburban home. There’s no neighbourhood, just the front of Huck’s place with a solid colour background. Even the tree next door is floating in light rose-coloured space. “This is a happy little story of a happy little house and its happy little owner,” lies the narrator as the ending is far from happy for Huckleberry Hound. But we don’t know that yet, as the narrator adds Huck doesn’t have a care in the world “except one teensy-weensy little one.” That’s the cue for the “buzz-a buzz-a” song. Huck puts his ear to a wooden support column. “Hmm. Sounds like termites. Only way to get rid of them is fight them,” Huck says to himself, forgetting he took on a mosquito in Skeeter Trouble only a few weeks earlier and lost.

Benedict must have loved goofy contraptions. He designed that TV set-fan-stove thing that Huck used in Rustler Hustler Huck. Here, he constructs a TV-tractor-toolbox-detector or, as Huck calls it, “a do-it-yourself termite kit.” The hound puts a stethoscope to the column and hears chomping from the H-B sound effects library. Putting the TV, er, termitoscope, against the column reveals the presence of a termite. And the picture’s in colour! Not bad for 1959. Ken Muse uses six drawings on ones for the termite’s chewing.


The termite notices he’s been caught on camera and hams it up. Here are a couple of poses. They’re really cute. Huck agrees. “He’s a cutie, alrighty. If you happen to like termites.”


Huck saws the part of the column with the termite in it and drops it in the garbage. Now, for whatever reason (oh, right, because it’s the plot), the termite eats the block of wood and a stick in the garbage can. We don’t see any gnawing. That involves intricate animation. Instead, the wood just disappears with what I think is sawdust falling from it. The sawdust seems to evaporate into thin air. The narrator returns to remind us we’re seeing a happy and a “happy owner without a care in the world.” That’s the termite’s cue to chew up a chair Huck is resting on. “You know, something? I think that termite’s back,” Huck matter-of-factly remarks before thudding to the ground.

Huck gets out his stethoscope and hears the termite chomping inside a support column on the porch. “So long, termite,” he says as he pumps the column full of green poison. The termite was prepared. And he heckles him in a four-drawing cycle on ones, which we’ve slowed down for you below.


An attempt to drown the termite by drilling a hole in the column and pumping water through a funnel doesn’t work. The water comes out a bunch of termite holes. “Well, if he aint dead, he’s clean,” philosophises Huck, who peers in the hole to see the termite drying himself off with a towel. The termite takes exception to it, then resumes singing and drying off.


We see the camera shake and the sound of chopping. Huck is cutting down the support beam. Now the little critter follows that old cartoon law—termites eat anything and everything made of wood. First, it chomps and dissolves the axe-handle and the axe-head drops on Huck’s head. Then, it creates a hole in the house. Huck sticks some dynamite in the hole and, in the process, the flower bed above him mysteriously moves back and forth. Don’t blame the termite, blame the animation checker.


The termite chews another hole in the house and emerges with a firecracker, which he leaves next to Huck and walks back through the hole, singing his little buzz song. First the firecracker goes off with a bang, the blast knocking Huck into the flower bed, which crashes to the ground. Oh, yes, the dynamite is still going. Huck’s attempt to blow out the fuse fails, as it always does in cartoons. And where’d the hole go that the termite chewed in the house?


The ‘sanding’ sound used to approximate wood being devoured is heard again, and Huck rushes to the window to look inside. The termite destroys his piano (hey, what happened to the ivory keys and the metal wires?). Huck doesn’t object, but when the termite starts on his “telly-vision set,” then the bug has gone too far. Huck grabs it and puts it on the front lawn. No matter. The termite is inside the set and finishes the job. “Oh, well,” shrugs Huck. “It wasn’t working anyhow.”


The start of Jack Shaindlin’s On the Run signals the climax of the cartoon. And once again, Hanna and Barbera cop an idea from ex-MGM stablemate Tex Avery—someone tries to escape their pursuer but the pursuer is always there. Like with Avery’s wolf in Dumb Hounded (1943), the modes of escape get bigger and bigger for Huck but to no avail. Unfortunately, there isn’t the quickening pace and music of the Avery cartoons which (with the growingly outrageous takes) add to the gag. First, the termite chomps around Huck’s outline against the door. Huck tries to get away in a car but the termite eats that, too (it’s a woody station wagon). To the airport Huck goes and jumps in a small plane. But the termite is there again, devouring everything including the propeller. “Shucks,” says a startled Huck to the camera. “I thought termites only ett wood.” Afraid not, Huck. Cartoon law says otherwise.


Down drops Huck and, as cartoon law also has it, the termite catches up him. “If I gotta go, at least I’m taking that termite with me,” chuckles Huck. Afraid not again. The termite sprouts a parachute and as Huck plummets and the termite sings his happy buzz song as he floats to earth and the camera fades.


If air dates are an indication, this is the final Huckleberry Hound cartoon that Charlie Shows worked on before waving goodbye like our one-shot termite. Huck survived his drop from the sky to begin the 1959-60 season with Warren Foster writing most of his material. Foster made Huck a little stupider at times (Huck’s Hack, Cop and Saucer) but kept him happy-go-lucky, even buoyant, much like he was in Lion-Hearted Huck.

A couple of background songs get a repeat in the cartoon besides On the Run. Geordie Hormel’s Light Eerie makes two appearances (once with Clementine overtop of it) and twice we hear a circus-sounding cue of Lou De Francesco’s from the Sam Fox library.


0:00 - Huck/Clementine sub main title theme (Curtin)
0:26 - TC-436 SHINING DAY (Loose-Seely) – Huck rests on porch, hears termite.
0:52 - ZR-49 LIGHT EERIE (Hormel) – Huck listens to column, spots termite on TV set.
1:15-1:19 Clementine (trad.)
1:44 - TC-301 ZANY WALTZ (Loose-Seely) – “He’s a cutie,” Huck deposits sawed wood in garbage.
2:15 - LAF-2-12 ON THE RUN (Shaindlin) – Termite eats wood in garbage can.
2:26 - TC-202 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Termite buzzes, Huck lounging.
2:42 - SF-10 SKI(ING?) GALOP (De Francesco) – Termite eats chair.
2:57 - ZR-49 LIGHT EERIE (Hormel) – spray can and towelling scenes.
4:34 - SF-10 SKI(ING?) GALOP (De Francesco) – Termite eats axe handle, dynamite scene, termite eats piano and TV.
5:57 - LAF-2-12 ON THE RUN (Shaindlin) – Termite cuts around Huck again door, eats car, airplane, floats down singing with parachute as Huck falls.
7:10 - Huck sub end title theme (Curtin).

Friday, December 25, 2009

Capitol Hi-Q — Cartoon Music For Huck and Yogi

Life is full of surprises. When I bought Leonard Maltin’s Of Mice and Magic and then happened upon a copy of Friedwald and Beck’s The Warner Brothers Cartoons, I had no idea anyone else had the same interest in who made those funny old cartoons. And when the internet piped itself (at first from a BBS at 300 baud) into the Yowp residence, I discovered there are people—lots of them, it turns out—who have an interest in commercial and industrial film music from the 1950s into the ‘60s.

The library music industry exploded with television. Most producers couldn’t afford to hire composers or union musicians. So they turned to less expensive stock music libraries. Anyone could use them who paid the fee. That’s why you can hear the same stock music in old cartoons, commercials and sitcoms.

One of the biggest libraries in North America was the Capitol Hi-Q library. It was divided into five categories—“D” for “dramatic,” “L” for “light”, “M” for “melodic,” “S” for “short” and “X” for “extra,” where cues were placed that didn’t fit anywhere else, eg. international, ethnic and Christmas music. Capitol got cues from other libraries for Hi-Q, so you’ll find stuff from the C & B, Sam Fox, EMI Photoplay and even KPM libraries. New music was added. Some was subtracted, so cues that were in one year were replaced with different ones in future releases.

You’ve read the names of some the composers on this blog—Bill Loose, John Seely (who had written for Sam Fox), Phil Green (EMI), Harry Bluestone and Emil Cadkin (C and B), Geordie Hormel (Zephyr) and Spencer Moore. Later entries were co-written by Loose, Cadkin and Jack Cookerly (OK). There are ‘D’ series cues from others—Jack Meakin, Joseph Cacciola and even Nelson Riddle. And there are a variety of composers who wrote for Sam Fox (Cacciola included) whose cues can be heard.

But there’s one composer—well known at the time—who never received a stick of credit because of the common practice of the day of someone slapping their name on someone else’s music—by legal or illegal means. Such a thing happened with the Hi-Q library. So let’s give you some history, thanks again to a surprise on the internet.

Paul Mandell wrote an insightful chapter on the history of stock music for the book ‘Performing Arts: Broadcasting,’ published by the U.S. Library of Congress in 2002. It’s available in snippets on Google Books. I won’t put the whole thing here, but I’ve snipped together the snippets about the topic at hand.


The Capitol Hi-Q Library
Long before Capitol records moved into its spaceage tower off Hollywood and Vine, it serviced radio stations through its broadcast division with transcriptions of rights-free music recorded in Europe. The service went out of business in 1951.
In 1952, production chief Ken Nelson and library manager John Seely created the Capitol Q Series by leasing the Mutel library from David Chudnow and distributing it on 175 double-sided 78 rpm vinyl records. Q supplied music for radio shows Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, True Detectives, and bumper music for television station breaks. Contractually, however, Capitol was forbidden to track Q as background music for television.
In 1955, Capitol decided to create its own music library and approached Nelson Riddle to write it. Riddle was busy with his groundbreaking arrangements for Frank Sinatra, so Capitol hired Bill Loose, a pop composer-arranger with a good melodic sense. In January 1956, Loose turned in an astounding 5,500 pages of sheet music. The sessions were recorded by Phil Green's orchestra in London and brought back to Hollywood. John Seely cataloged it by mood and packaged it on 110 reels of quarter-inch tape and fifty-five corresponding audition discs. The twenty-two-hour package was christened Capitol Hi-Q, a reference to the new buzz on high fidelity. The entire library was made licensable to film and television producers for as little as 350 dollars.
A major part of Hi-Q was Theme Craft, a name invented by Seely to house powerful mood music by David Rose. “Bill Loose and I paid Rose a bunch of cash,” said Seely. “He had to sell it rights-free and composer-free. It was all on reels of quarter-inch tape. We spent 100 dollars a minute for it. Everybody thought we were crazy, but I insisted that it was worth it. Then Bill agreed to write as much as David did and we put our names on the entire package.”
Rose’s music packed a wallop. TC 2 (“Heavy Chase”) was an ear-splitting horror theme with cascading trombones and sizzling clusters. His “Dreaming Ghost” and “Sparkling Ghost” cues (TC 16-24) with ethereal strings, gossamer harps, and otherworldly woodwinds were used for underwater tension in Sea Hunt.
Theme Craft cues by Bill Loose caught on as signature themes. A light comedy piece with a xylophone “nose twitch” became the theme for Dennis the Menace. TC 430 (“Happy Day”) became the theme for The Donna Reed Show. Loose’s cowriter Jack Cookerly recalled, “We wrote a bunch of cues we jokingly called ‘Music to Wash Windows By.’ We called them ‘domestics’ and the industry really ate them up! The Donna Reed people picked that particular theme; it wasn't written for the series at all! Irving Friedman of Screen Gems made the deal to restrict its use. It could be tracked into an industrial film, but not for broadcast.”
Capitol became the largest distributor of canned television music in America. A 1965 memo to Hi-Q subscribers listed twenty-two supplementary libraries with over two hundred hours of music. There were packages by Fred Steiner, Mahlon Merrick, Jack Meakin, Phil Green, Nick Carras, and outer space music by Ib Glindemann. Also distributed were the KPM, TRF, Synchro, and Omar libraries, Les Baxter’s pop themes and Latin rhythms, and the C-B library written by Emil Cadkin and Harry Bluestone. Producers no longer had to woo independent packagers—they got their music from Capitol and reported the usage on forms supplied with the tape reels.
Some hotshots of Capitol were able to grab performance royalties by bankrolling music packages. George Hormel, a pianist related to the Hormel meatpacking empire, laid claim to Hi-Q music which he financed but did not write. Spencer Moore was another. Composer Nick Carras recalled the scene: “Moore made his money by bringing his investors to Capitol and putting his name on our music. It got to be kind of a joke! We were young and green. I didn’t even know what a cue sheet was! Often you’d see cues listing Spencer Moore and George Hormel as authors in the Hi-Q catalog. Some people in the business might say ‘That looks legitimate.’ It all depended what side of the fence you were on.”

One thing omitted in Mandell’s chapter can be found in a Billboard magazine story, dated November 19, 1955:

Capitol this week acquired a library of music cues from composer-conductor Henry Russell for film use in television. Capitol continues to expand its cue library, one of the largest serving the needs of industrial and TV film producers.

Russell’s stock music ended up on a number of late 1950s TV shows and the Warner’s cartoon Hip Hip Hurry. But I have yet to come across his name in my admittedly-incomplete search of the Hi-Q library. It could be his cues were later replaced with newer material, which happened to a number of the reels/discs, including material by Gene Poddany.

Now, let’s get to the music. Click on the title to play.

The first batch of cues is from reels L-1 and 2. ‘TC’ stands for ‘Theme Craft.’ It would appear these are among the cues ghost-written by David Rose. ‘Pixie Comedy,’ the two ‘Zany Comedy’ cues and ‘Eccentric Comedy’ should instantly bring to mind the early antics of Yogi Bear. ‘Light Movement’ is a great Western cue that will make you think of Quick Draw McGraw. And ‘Rural’ should be recognisable as the theme to the Knockout Mouse cartoon in the Pixie and Dixie short Cousin Tex. Devoted reader Errol points out that Red Skelton used that one his TV show; his musical director was David Rose.

TC-200 WISTFUL COMEDY
TC-203 WISTFUL COMEDY
TC-204A WISTFUL COMEDY
TC-308 WISTFUL COMEDY
TC-302 WALTZ
TC-201 PIXIE COMEDY
TC-202 ECCENTRIC COMEDY
TC-303 ZANY COMEDY
TC-301 ZANY WALTZ
TC-300 ECCENTRIC COMEDY
TC-205 LIGHT MOVEMENT
TC-42 RURAL

Next are Theme Craft cues written by Loose and Seely. ‘Fox Trot’ was used on Ruff and Reddy. ‘Domestic’ is also known as ‘Shining Day’, ‘Light Movement’ is also ‘Holly Day’ and ‘Light Activity’ (TC-437) has the alternate name of ‘Shopping Day.’ There are on reel L-40 along with the Donna Reed theme.

They’re followed by three of the ‘Domestics’ that Jack Cookerly (who is still alive, I understand) mentioned in the history above. ‘C’ is for ‘Capitol’ and these were penned by Bill Loose for reels L-7 and 8.


TC-304A FOX TROT
TC-436 DOMESTIC (SHINING DAY)
TC-437 LIGHT ACTIVITY (SHOPPING DAY)
TC-432 LIGHT MOVEMENT (HOLLY DAY)
C-3 DOMESTIC CHILDREN
C-6 DOMESTIC CHILDREN
C-14 DOMESTIC LIGHT

Finally, there are odds and ends from different reels. The first three are Sam Fox cues. SF-10 may also be known as ‘Ski Galop’ or ‘Skiing Galop’ (I’m still trying to confirm the first word) and is by Lou De Francesco, an Italian whose work on films went back to 1923 with Victor Herbert. Wish him a happy 121st birthday on Boxing Day. He scored the Movietone Adventures for 20th Century Fox in the mid-40s. SF-14 is by David Buttolph, a chorister and operatic who played in Europe in the 1920s, returned to New York to work in radio before going to Hollywood in 1933 to score for movies. Finally, there’s the old chestnet ‘Winter Tales’ by Alphons Czibulka. It was later arranged as ‘Hearts and Flowers’ by Theo Tobani, showing that borrowing music and slapping your name on it isn’t a 20th century concept. The solo stand-up piano version is by Victor Lamont, who did the same kind of tinkly arrangements on other 19th century melodies for Sam Fox. This can be found on Huckleberry Hound Meets Wee Willie.

TC-22 is one of a number of cues with “Ghost” names in reel L-39. With irony, let us note it was ghost-written for Loose and Seely by David Rose.

C-19 by Bill Loose (all cues labelled ‘C’ were composed by him) came from reel L-9 and is one of a number of similar sounding cues. It opens Huckleberry Hound’s Cop and Saucer.

The last four were also composed by Rose for the Hi-Q ‘D’ series, which is famous among some collectors as the home of the soundtrack for ‘Night of the Living Dead’ (1969). The first three are from reel D-20, the last from D-8. TC-215A was on Ruff and Reddy only. Finally, TC-221A can be heard on Yogi’s High Fly Guy. There are cues without the ‘A’; are all slower-tempo versions.


SF-10 LIGHT MOVEMENT (SKIING GALOP?)
SF-14 THE COCKEYED COLONEL
SF-? WINTER TALES
TC-22 SUBLIME GHOST
C-19 LIGHT ACTIVITY
TC-215A CHASE-MEDIUM
TC-219A CHASE-MEDIUM
TC-217A CHASE-MEDIUM
TC-221A HEAVY AGITATO

Eventually, out of necessity, Hi-Q had to evolve in the 1960s, simply because of the state of the music business in general. The sound was changing in the world of pop music, thanks to the end of big bands and the rise of rock. The Hi-Q music sounded old fashioned. New, less orchestrated music was added (under various pseudonyms) by Ib Glindemann and Ole Georg, who took over from Bill Loose at Capitol in 1964. Eventually, Capitol divested itself of all the pre-Georg era music and the library became known today as ‘Ole Georg Music’. And television changed, too. Producers had the money or inclination to hire composers for programme-specific themes and/or bumpers. Hanna-Barbera was among them, asking Hoyt Curtin to write his own library of incidental music; first for Loopy De Loop in 1959, then The Flintstones (1960), the Snagglepuss and Yakky Doodle elements of the Yogi show (first aired in 1961) and then for all remaining new cartoons.

One final note: Capitol distributed music that was not in Hi-Q but used in Hanna-Barbera cartoons. Most of it is Jack Shaindlin’s material in the Langlois Filmusic Library. Raoul Kraushaar clipped together old movie music for his Omar Library; Huck and Yogi used at least one cue from that service and my wild guess it’s the creepy one with the wah-wah muted trumpets that was in at least one TV show that credited Kraushaar for its music. The ASCAP database says there was a Clarence Wheeler cue called ‘Woodwind Capers’ used in Huck and Yogi cartoons which I can’t track down. And a Vancouver native named Edgar Eugene “Eddie” Lund wrote a pile of Polynesian/Hawaiian cues for a library that ASCAP says were in Snooper and Blabber, likely for Hula-Hula Hullabaloo (1960).

Some of Hoyt Curtin’s work is really great, but Snooper, Quick Draw and the others seem to be missing something when you hear the generic Curtin cues instead of the Hi-Q work of Bill Loose, Phil Green—and the man who sold away the rights to his music, David Rose.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Arnold Stang, Top Cat, Dead

I should pass on word via the AP wire that the very funny Arnold Stang has passed away at age 91.

This blog deals in old Hanna-Barbera cartoons, but that’s not the only place where Stang made his mark. Not by a long shot.HERE is great interview he did on an Old Time Radio show about his career on the air in the ‘40s. Stang-ophile Kliph tells you about his career and stuff you may not have known HERE.

Mark Evanier is a great fan of both Kaplan and Stang from It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. He worked with Arnold. Click HERE for Mark’s story.

Stang’s first job in animation was at the Famous (later Paramount) Studio in New York, where he did the bulk of his radio work. His first job at Hanna-Barbera in 1961, not only as Top Cat but as a wolf in the 1961 Loopy De Loop cartoon Kooky Loopy. But there was a cartoon role that Stang didn’t get in 1962. Comic strip artist Mort Walker told Jason Whiton in his autobiographical Conversations:


They [Paramount] wanted to get Arnold Stang to do the voice of Beetle Bailey. And I said Arnold Stang is Brooklyn, Beetle Bailey is Tom Sawyer. He’s got a soft drawl. So they didn’t hire Arnold Stang, but they hired Howard Morris. And Howard Morris did an imitation of Arnold Stang!

Stang may have been Herman the Mouse for Famous Studios and Top Cat for Hanna-Barbera, but he'll be tops to me from his work with Henry Morgan starting in 1946 and then with Milton Berle on radio and later television. As an actor, he was just about perfect. His voice was perfect for radio—distinctive with marvellous inflections. The same applies for cartoon voice-over work. And for children’s records, too; who doesn’t remember Stang in “Shloimy the Subway Train” and “The Happy Hippo” (1953), spinning on a Coral 78? His face was perfect for television—an instant, unforgettable character the moment you laid eyes on him. In the 1940’s Stang described himself as “a scared chipmunk who forgot to come out of the rain.”

As you know, cartoon actors in the Golden Age of Television came from radio. Stang was among them. So it shouldn’t be surprising that two future Hanna-Barbera stars who didn’t work together on cartoons worked together in radio, even though Stang spent much of his career in the east. He was 23 and had graduated from children’s shows to playing the teenaged Seymour in The Goldbergs by late 1940 when this story appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette of October 26, 1941:


Put Arnold Stang down as the radio best bet of the year . . . kid was discovered by Director Don Bernard when Bernard hired him to do the commercial on CBS’s Meet Mr. Meek program. In a voice cracking between soprano and bass, Arnold wowed the Meek cast with his reading.
When Bernard decided such a comedy reading would hurt the Meek commercial, he substituted another youngster and ordered Meek scriptwriters to think up a role for Arnold. Stang becomes a permanent member of the Meek program on Oct. 29.

Mr. Meek had a top cast including a chap named Teddy Bergman, who preferred the stage name that you know him as—Alan Reed.

If you ever wonder what Stang thought about not being a big TV star, say in the Uncle Miltie category, he told the Ottawa Citizen in a 1955 interview:


“The work is wonderful...It’s creative and interesting and the pay is fine. I always have plenty of time for my wife and kids and once a week I get together with Hal March for a card game and bull session.
“But the poor top bananas never lead lives like that. Sure, they make lots of money but they have all the worries.
“If anything goes wrong on a show, they [the stars] get the blame. Me, I just do my job, enjoy myself and never have to take stomach pills. I wouldn’t be a top banana at any price. The extra fame isn’t worth the headaches it brings.”

During the interview, he supplied his own visual proof of the benefits of fame without the headaches. He was mobbed by teenaged fans at Rockefeller Center.

Arnold Stang really was unique. And he’ll be missed by fans of great comic acting, cartoon lovers included.

The Story of the Men Behind the Music Behind the Stories

Hoyt Curtin’s name will be forever linked to the music of the Hanna-Barbera cartoons, thanks to some singable theme songs and burned-in-the-mind underscores for Jonny Quest, The Jetsons, Top Cat and The Flintstones. But before Curtin created the background music for cartoons starting with the Loopy De Loop theatrical series in 1959, Hanna-Barbera antics were filled with stock music from the Capitol Hi-Q library. Curtin never wrote for it. The two biggest names are associated with it are Bill Loose and John Seely.

There’ll be a post on the library itself coming. To keep it from getting unwieldy and lengthy, I’m going to do a separate biographical post on Loose and Seely. All this information is cobbled together from the web and it’s probably more than you wanted to know about them.

JOHN SEELY
Seely may the better known of the pair solely because of his credit on six Warner Brothers cartoons. During a musicians strike, Warners assembled scores from snippets of material in the Hi-Q library and instead of giving individual composer credits, simply credited Seely. As a result, other internet sites have wrongly decided to arbitrarily assign Seely sole credit to other cartoons which feature the Hi-Q library. The fact is little of the music in the Warners cartoons was by Seely; the bulk was composed by Phil Green. However, Seely was manager of Capitol’s Film Music Library Service at the time the cartoons were made. Credit goes to the top, you know.

Seely died in 2004 and the Oakland Tribune published a pretty full obituary:


Composer known for TV tunes dies Oakland native John Seely
OAKLAND -- John Seely's name may not strike a chord, but if you've watched TV over the last 50 years, one of his compositions might.
The noted pianist and composer, who worked on themes and background music for "Dennis the Menace," "The Donna Reed Show" and Looney Tunes, died April 23 at the Lake Park Retirement Residence in Oakland. He was 80.
The Oakland native's work is part of the permanent record at the Museum of TV and Radio.
Mr. Seely was born Aug. 23, 1923, as Seely John Gilfilen, family members said. He graduated from Piedmont High School in 1941 and served in the Army during World War II, said daughter Dori Seely Wuepper of the Seattle area.
He earned a bachelor's degree in communications at the University of Southern California in 1949 and got a job at Capitol Records, where he became head of the prerecorded background music department.
With partner Bill Loose, Mr. Seely provided themes and background music for Warner Brothers cartoons starring Bugs Bunny, Roadrunner, Sylvester and Tweety and others. They also wrote music for "Davey and Goliath," "The Texan," "Frontier Doctor" and "Insight."
Mr. Seely's family grew to three daughters with wife Merry Seely. From 1965 to 1968, the couple joined a Catholic lay missionary organization and lived in Kenya. Although the couple divorced, they remained close, his daughter said.
In the early 1970s, Mr. Seely moved back to Oakland and volunteered with Project Safety Net, Goodwill Bags and Stagebridge. He also taught at Westlake Junior High School.
"He was an incredibly accomplished musician with a very particular talent -- which was being able to create a sound score for live performances," said Stuart Kandell, director of Stagebridge, who worked with Mr. Seely since the late 1980s. "He had a huge, huge heart, and he loved working with children. He still really loved performing."
Another vital part was helping others.
"He looked for ways to be a good person. My dad took these kids, who were struggling with family life," his daughter said. "He taught them computer and music skills, made sure they went to school and had a trade. He was a real mentor."
"He opened his heart for a lot of different people," said Frank Huang of Santa Clara. Huang met Mr. Seely as a student 15 years ago.
"There's a group of us who've became his friends over the years," Huang said. "We see him as a very giving person, an important part of our lives."
Along with daughter Dori, Mr. Seely is survived by daughters Pati- Ann Misskelley of Michigan and Kathleen Beeler of Reno, Nev.; and eight grandchildren. Merry Seely preceded him in death in 2001.

Seely’s parents were Hermon Maxwell Gilfilen and Dorothy Seely; her ancesters came to America in 1630. They were married in 1922 and divorced by 1926. Both remarried. His mother was a coloratura soprano (her second husband was artist and amateur baritone Leonard D’Ooge) and his sister Dorothy sang as well.

BILL LOOSE
The world of commercial music composition seems to be filled with extremely talented people who travel from job to and job and take what they can find. Loose was among them, with a stop as an executive at the time the first Hanna-Barbera cartoons were being created.

Loose’s obit in the Los Angeles Times of February 26, 1991 is brief:

William Loose, the Emmy-winning composer-arranger whose music was heard in such TV series as “Your Hit Parade,” “The Untouchables,” “Dennis the Menace” and “The Donna Reed Show,” died Friday. He was 80. Loose suffered a heart attack and died in a Burbank hospital.
A musical arranger for radio stations in the Midwest, he arranged for the U. S. Army Air Force Orchestra in New York during World War II and afterward began scoring for TV. He wrote with John Seely the “Happy Days” theme for the Reed show. He won his Emmy for “In the Shadow of Vesuvius,” a National Geographic Special broadcast on PBS in the 1987-88 season. Jack Tillar collaborated on that score.

William George Loose was born in Michigan on June 5, 1910. The 1930 census shows he was living in Dawes, Nebraska. By 1938, he was in the Dusty Rhoades band and married to Opal Cowell, a Nebraska native (she was a composer who died in 1961). Loose enlisted in the U.S. Air Corps in 1942 and his draft card said he had four years of college and was married. The Western Michigan College of Education shows a William George Loose attending in 1932, and a clarinettist. I haven’t a clue if it’s the same guy.

After the war, Loose’s career went in two simultaneous directions. He did what a number of musicians did at the time—formed an orchestra in the waning days of the big bands. His boys recorded instrumentals for Capitol starting in 1954 and backed such artists as Jo Stafford and Gordon MacRae, Gisele MacKenzie and later Dale Darling (1958 on Roulette) and Eartha Kitt (1961 on MGM). Loose arranged for no less than Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin on their Reprise album ‘Guys and Dolls’ (1963). He was evidently well enough known, as his orchestra headlined a couple of editions of the radio show ‘Here’s to Veterans.’

But he was also writing music and several melodies in conjunction with John Seely appeared in the Sam Fox library. Seely then gave him a new job. Billboard magazine of February 11, 1956 reports Seely hired him to be in charge of Capitol’s studio operations on the West Coast, which is the time the Hi-Q Library was in development. Loose stayed at Capitol until 1964 when Ole Georg, the label’s former A&R producer in Copenhagen, took over from him. Variety reported on March 17th that Loose had been hired at Decca as the head of A and R.

In the meantime, Loose continued writing and publishing music, solo and with various partners, including Jack Cookerly (who was Hoyt Curtin’s keyboardist) and Emil Cadkin. He came up with a new-ish theme in 1969 for the game show Hollywood Squares by reworking the old one written by Jimmy Haskell. Syd Dale hired him to write material for his Amphonic library. He conducted the Hollyridge Strings (for Capitol) and the Hollywood Symphonette. In 1975, he produced some records for the Good Music Company, which supplied low-key, uncomplicated instrumentals of pop and rock songs for “easy listening” radio stations.

Loose also found himself writing scores at both ends of the movie spectrum. On one hand, he was responsible for setting the mood for the heart-warming adventures of “Whiskers” in the family documentary Cougar Country (1970). On the other, he scored a bunch of X-rated and soft-core porn movies. Perhaps his experience with sexiness went back to the days when he was Kitt’s pianist at the El Mocambo on the Sunset Strip in the early ‘50s. Anyway, he soon became the composer of choice for the somewhat infamous Russ Meyer, creating musical romps for such epics as Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, Cherry; Harry and Raquel! (both 1970); Supervixens (1975) and Up! (1976) and for lesser auteurs of the genre in The Adult Version of Jeckyll and Hide; The Erotic Adventures of Zorro (both 1972) and The Swinging Cheerleaders (1974). Yes, the same guy who brought you the happy theme to ever-so-wholesome The Donna Reed Show. Well, that’s show biz.

He accepted other low-budget movie jobs, too; you can find a list at the IMDB. One of them was for Alaska Productions’ Joniko and the Kush Ta Ta (1969), whose co-composer was Hanna-Barbera’s Hoyt Curtin. It was the only time they actually worked together.

After Loose’s death on February 22, 1991, there were several court battles over his compositions which apparently had been in the Hi-Q library. We’ve already mentioned one on the blog between co-writer Emil Cadkin and the Loose family. You can read about another one here where widow Irma Loose (his second wife) won a $2 million jury award.

Loose apparently enjoyed boating. He was an active member of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach, California and in 1964 was living on Balboa Island. In the ’50s, they had a place at 4560 Carpenter Avenue, variously described as being in North Hollywood and Studio City. He and Irma were both registered Democrats at the time.

Since we’re now talking recreational activities, houses and politics, it’s probably a good time to bring this post to a close. Suffice it to say, Loose and Seely put together the library which contained stock music heard on many TV shows and cartoons of the mid-to-late 1950s. In a post soon, we’ll tell you how it happened. Oh, and we’ll have music galore, most of which should be familiar to fans of Huck and Yogi.

But since you have been so patient, Santa Yowp will reward you with a couple of Hi-Q cues. They may not sound familiar, as they were never used in Hanna-Barbera cartoons, but there’s always the chance they were in some ‘50s TV Show. The first is TC-40 Metropolitan, an atypical urban bustle piece of the era by Loose and Seely. The second is a solo composition by Loose called C-12 Domestic Lite, also known on some record labels as Fashion Fox Trot, which has a very Donna Reed Show quality. I have tried using embedded players but the coding was displayed differently in Explorer and Firefox, so you’ll have to click on the title and let your audio player do the work.


TC-40 METROPOLITAN
C-12 DOMESTIC LITE

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Snooper and Blabber — Prince of a Fella’

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbara.
Credits: Animation – Lew Marshall, Layouts – Paul Sommer, Backgrounds – Vera Hanson, Story - Mike Maltese, Story Director – Alex Lovy, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervisor – Howard Hanson.
Cast: Queen, Grandma, Mama Bear, Snow White – Jean Vander Pyl; Snooper, Blabber, Mirror, Wolf, Prince – Daws Butler; Papa Bear, Baby Bear – Don Messick.
Released: November 5, 1960.
Plot: Snooper and Blabber are hired by the wicked queen to bring her Snow White, but decide to let her go with the prince to live happily ever after.

Yowp says: my apologies for the tiny and lousy yellow-green screen grabs. These are from the only version I can find. “Boo” to WHV for not releasing the Quick Draw Show cartoons, like this, on DVD.

Toss together some celebrity voices, some mashed up fairy tales, a TV show and a goofy ending and you get another fine effort from Mike Maltese. Almost all of the above can be found in Warners cartoons going back to Little Red Walking Hood (1937) but the familiar setting is hammered into shape a little differently to come out as one of the best Snooper and Blabber cartoons.

We start with the camera closing in on a background drawing of a castle with a narrator intoning “Once upon a time, in a faraway castle, lived a very wicked queen, who was also very beautiful.” That’s all we need to figure out this is the tale of Snow White. The difference this time is the queen sounds like Bette Davis (whose last animated appearance was in 1946’s Hollywood Daffy written by someone whose name rhymes with Qualtese). She doesn’t look like Bette Davis, though. The queen’s got a swirl in her hair like Wilma Flintstone, which is appropriate seeing both are voiced by Jean Vander Pyl. Her magic mirror has the voice of Fibber Fox, who advises the queen if she wants to find Snow White to make her ugly, she should hire a private eye.


Cut to an office door and a ringing phone. “Snooper Detective Agency. We solve the caper for that green paper,” answers Snoop, who is promised a bucket of assorted rubies if he finds Snow White and brings her to the castle in Wickedonia. Snooper informs Blabber “It’s a 1207” and the two jump in their car and head to the woods, where “the book” says Snow has a hideout. Evidently the detective business is paying well, for Snoop has an up-to-date car, having rid himself of that late ‘50s job with the huge fins.


We now veer away from the story of Snow White to the tale of Little Red Riding Hood, for it turns out the detectives have arrived at Grandma’s House. But before we get to that tale, we veer into a Dragnet spoof as Snooper asks Granny “a few law-abiding questions.” “I’m just a poor old lady who bothers no one,” Grandma assures him. “Yes, m’am,” replies Snoop. He asks if she knows Snow White. “No, but I did know a Miss Cinderella once. She was kind of an odd-ball. Used to wear one shoe.” The interrogation is interrupted by a red-riding-hood-wearing wolf that sounds like Frank Fontaine and doesn’t know Snow White, either. “Yes, m’am,” replies Snoop to the wolf, making the Jack Webb standard-issue response a running gag. The detectives leave the fairy tale to play out to its inevitable conclusion and jump in the car to hunt for clues.

But first, they drive right into another fairy tale, as three bears are walking toward their home, with Papa Bear hoping the porridge has cooled off. “I don’t understand it,” says Mama Bear. “You never used to complain about my cooking before.” Vander Pyl uses a dumbish, bottom-of-the-throat voice for her. Baby Bear is one of those know-it-all, wimpy kids who urges them not to argue in front of strangers. “It gives the impression of untogetherness.” Snooper asks about Snow White and Mama points off-stage to a home. “It used to be rented by seven little midgets,” she informs the private eyes.

The next scene is in a cottage with Snooper and Blabber talking with Snow White, who sounds just like Katherine Hepburn, a seeming staple of Warners cartoons of the late 30s, like Little Red Walking Hood. Sure, this cartoon came out a generation later, but kids would have been watching old theatricals at the time out so a Hepburn voice would have been common. “I’m waiting for my Prince Charming to come for me when the calla lilies bloom again.”

I must confess when I saw this cartoon as one of those kids in the ‘60s, I thought ‘calla lilies’ was some silly, Maltese-coined word. And then years and years later, I was stunned when I watched Stage Door (1937) on TV and saw Hepburn in the two scenes musing about calla lilies. I had no idea that’s where the reference came from, and that they really were flowers. See what you learn watching cartoons?

Snooper tells Snow he’s turning her over to the Queen. “No, not the queen! She’s wicked and she means to harm me,” emotes Snow. Snoop has a change of heart and promises he and Blabber will stay with her until her prince comes. Snow promises them both a calla lily—“if the dang things ever bloom,” as she looks disgustedly off-stage (at the reticent flowers, we presume).

Meanwhile, back at the castle, the mirror rats out Snooper and Blabber, so the queen promises to go to the cottage with a poisoned apple to make Snow as ugly as a toad. Meanwhile, on the road stand Snooper and Blabber (I thought they were supposed to stay with Snow White?). Charging up to them on a charger is a knight with Daws Butler’s Phil Silvers voice, adding “Whoa! Durn you, whoa!” to the horse like Yosemite Sam (Sahara Hare, Roman Legion Hare, Knighty Knight Bugs, et al) to add to the familiarity. He has “come to fetch Snow White to live apply ever hafter, I mean happy ever after. Ooh, these clichés!” Snow White runs out, remarks about how he’s arrived before the calla lilies bloomed, and off they ride on the horse. Snoop wishes them a happy wedding, and Blab adds “Don’t take any wooden rice.”

Their farewell wishes are stopped by the arrival of the queen, who hands Snooper a “royal apple.” Snoop takes a bite and feels “slap hoppy.” He suddenly turns into a frog, as Blab observes. And we observe it too but, if you look drawing by drawing, it’s not a smooth transition.





But Blab doesn’t want to take him home “because I’ll get warts on my hands.” Instead, he decides to eat part of the apple, too, so they “can go home together without embarrassment to either one of us.” Blab’s transformation looks a little better.





They now engage in a little hop cycle in front of the moving background as the cartoon fades.

Snooper’s catchphrase: “Halt in the name of the Private Eye (fill in blank)” is not used in this short.

The cartoon makes big use of Phil Green’s cues from the ‘S’ (short) series of the Hi-Q library, with a bit of Jack Shaindlin from the Langlois Filmusic library tossed in. “GR” names are the originals from EMI Photoplay, the “PG” ones are from the Capitol Hi-Q re-issues because I don’t have the EMI discs for reference.


0:00 - Snooper and Blabber Main Title theme (Curtin).
0:04 - PG-171 PERIOD FANFARE (Green) – Opening shot of castle.
0:12 - GR-85 THE BRAVEST WOODEN SOLDIER BRIDGE No. 1 (Green) – Queen asks question of mirror.
0:21 - unknown flute and oboe bridge (Green) – Queen and mirror dialogue.
0:51 - GR-93 DRESSED TO KILL (Green) – Phone call to Snooper.
1:27 - GR-78 CUSTARD PIE CAPERS BRIDGE No 1 (Green) – Snooper and Blabber in car.
1:39 - GR-333 BUSTLING BRIDGE (Green) – Snooper knocks on door, Grandma tells them to come in.
2:03 - C-C-F# comedy open (?) – Grandma interrogation, wolf enters, Snooper and Blabber drive away.
3:07 - GR-87 SKELETON IN THE CUPBOARD (Green) – Bears walking, Snooper questions bears.
3:54 - GR-248 STREETS OF THE CITY (Green) – Snooper and Blabber talk to Snow White.
4:35 - unknown flute and oboe bridge (Green) – Mirror talks to Queen, Queen pulls out apple.
4:52 - GR-248 STREETS OF THE CITY (Green) – Prince Charming arrives, rides off with Snow White.
5:45 - related to ‘Excitement Under Dialogue’ (Shaindlin) – Queen gives apple to Snooper, Snooper turns into frog.
6:29 - GR-75 POPCORN SHORT BRIDGE No 1 (Green) – Blab munches on apple. Becomes frog.
6:43 - GR-79 CUSTARD PIE CAPERS BRIDGE No 2 (Green) – “Let’s get hoppin’.”
6:50 - Snooper and Blabber End Title Theme (Curtin).