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Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: April 7, 1933
Stars: Arthur Jarrett, Betty Boop
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Popular Melodies © Max Fleischer‘Popular Melodies’ is a Screen Song devoted to singer Arthur Jarrett, a crooner who is all but forgotten today. Surprisingly enough, the so-called popular tunes he sings aren’t well-known either, except for Betty’s theme song with which the cartoon ends.

The animation part of this cartoon features a painter who tries to paint with a number of noisy children playing around. When his painting is ruined by one of the brats, he decides to drive to the countryside, but the children join them. There he paints a walking tree and a moving rock, which transforms into singer Arthur Jarrett. Jarrett sings a three songs. During the second song he draws a picture of Betty, who joins him in her own theme song.

Then we cut back to the painter and the children. Oddly, the song is not continued, only its instrumental music. This scene is remarkably because of its animation of figures in white on black, unseen since Emile Cohl’s films. These figures soon flee the painter’s canvas, resulting in a rather scary finale, with the spooky shapes walking and dancing through the countryside. Stange enough, the cartoon ends with a devil wishing the children “pleasant dreams, and good night”. Because of this finale ‘Popular Melodies’ is one of the most interesting of all Screen Songs, even if its star and his first two songs are utterly forgettable. It was also the last of six Screen Songs to feature Betty Boop.

Watch ‘Popular Melodies’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Popular Melodies’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: September 9, 1932
Stars: Betty Boop, Irène Bordoni
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Just a Gigolo © Max FleischerIn the opening scenes of this Screen Song we watch Betty Boop working at a cabaret nightclub as a tobacco seller.

Betty introduces singer Irène Bordoni who sings the title song, first in French, then in English. At the second chorus the live action audience takes over, and during the third chorus we watch a very short animated sequence about a womanizing cat. The cabaret scene has a jazzy score based on Cab Calloway’s ‘The Scat Song’ from earlier that year, after which Bordoni’s sentimental 1928 song rather pales. Thus, after the opening scenes the cartoon unfortunately plunges into dullness.

Watch ‘Just a Gigolo’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Just a Gigolo’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

Sleepy Time Down South © Max FleischerDirector: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: November 11, 1932
Stars: The Boswell Sisters
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

‘Sleepy Time Down South’ is a Screen Song featuring the Boswell Sisters, the most famous close harmony trio of its time, but later eclipsed by the similar Andrews Sisters.

The animated part of the short tells about a cat, who’s in the fire brigade, and who with his fellow firemen rushes to a burning house. This part contains nice cartoon versions of the three sisters singing help. When they get rescued they throw down the piano first, which falls apart, but which the three sisters reassemble in an instant. Cut to the live action Boswell Sisters, with lead singer Connee Boswell starting the title song ‘When It’s Sleepy Time Down South’, which had been a hit for Louis Armstrong in 1931. In the end the animation returns, and the three sisters lend their voices to three flames following the cat.

Because of the sisters’ subtle harmonies the song is very hard to sing along, so one wonders whether the cartoon was a success in the theaters. Yet, the combination of the Fleischer’s imaginative images and the Boswell Sisters’ intoxicating performance makes ‘Sleepy Time South’ a joy to watch.

Watch ‘Sleepy Time Down South’ yourself and tell me what you think:

http://www.criticalcommons.org/Members/sammondn/clips/when-its-sleepy-time-down-south-1932

‘Sleepy Time Down South’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: August 5, 1932
Stars: Betty Boop, Rudy Vallee
Rating: ★★½
Review:

Rudy Vallee Melodies © Max Fleischer‘Rudy Vallee Melodies’ is a Screen Song with Rudy Vallee singing no less than three different songs: the sentimental ballads ‘Deep Night’ and ‘A Little Kiss Each Morning’, and the lively college song ‘Stein Song’.

This Screen Song is interesting for its particularly long cartoon introduction: there’s a party at Betty Boop’s large mansion, where she serves punch to her guests. There’s a bunny who plays the piano by ear (literally). He plays ‘Silver Threads Among the Gold’ on the piano, but when Betty proposes to accompany someone on the piano, none of her guests dares to sing. Not even Perceval, a clear homosexual stereotype, who says ‘count me out’, before being knocked down and counted out, literally.

Luckily for Betty Boop, Rudy Vallee helps her out from the sheet music. He performs his three songs, with images of a river, loving couples and a football match, respectively. After these songs, Betty and the gang thank him, and all the guests leave. The cartoon ends with Vallee singing ‘Goodnight Sweetheart’ to Betty in her bedroom.

Because of its long intro, ‘Rudy Vallee Melodies’ almost feels like a Betty Boop cartoon, and indeed it was later colored and released as such, without the Rudy Vallee parts.

Watch ‘Rudy Vallee Melodies’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Rudy Vallee Melodies’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: July 29, 1932
Stars: Betty Boop, Ethel Merman
Rating:
Review:

You Try Somebody Else © Max Fleischer‘You Try Somebody Else’ is a screen song with Ethel Merman featuring the rather sentimental title song.

The cartoon opens with a cat being released from prison. He immediately sneaks into a house, emptying a fridge and almost eating a fish, the fish’s wife and his children. But then the owner enters, who turns out to be Betty Boop with a shotgun.

Soon the cat is back in prison again, where he reads the newspaper, with the picture of Ethel Merman in it, who immediately starts singing. The second chorus is accompanied by several prison gags, culminating in a jailbreak. In the end we watch four escaped convicts singing the song in a streetcar, all on electric chairs…

‘You try Somebody Else’ is a typical, yet mediocre Screen Song. Despite Betty Boop’s short cameo in the introduction, the second chorus is the most interesting part to watch, with its combination of silly and morbid gags.

Watch ‘You try Somebody Else’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘You try Somebody Else’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: August 26, 1932
Stars: Lilian Roth
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Down Among the Sugar Cane © Max FleischerIn this Screen Song Lillian Roth sings the entertaining and jazzy title song in a lively performance.

The animated introduction is not particularly interesting, and even a little boring. It focuses on an old man planting (candy) sugar canes, which is then visited by beavers and by a bee, who invites his queen for a walk among the canes. Enter Lillian Roth.

The animation re-enters at the second chorus, and this part is much more interesting to watch than the introduction: in this sequence the animation quite literally illustrates the lyrics, with enjoyable results. In this respect ‘Down Among the Sugar Cane’ is one of the more satisfying Screen Songs.

Watch ‘Down Among the Sugar Cane’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Down Among the Sugar Cane’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: May 20, 1932
Stars: Ethel Merman, Betty Boop, Bimbo
Rating:
Review:

Let me Call you Sweetheart © Max Fleischer‘Let Me Call You Sweetheart’ is a Screen Song featuring Ethel Merman singing the 1911 hit song.

The cartoon opens with Betty Boop being a baby sitter in a park where Bimbo is a park warden. Bimbo doesn’t try to hide his lust, panting in front of our female hero. To be with Betty, Bimbo kicks off the baby-carriage. The baby falls into the water, steals a hot dog and plays with a fountain. When he returns to the loving couple, it’s night already. Enter Ethel Merman. At the end cartoon there’s some strange sequence with a chicken hatching three eggs, and the chicks being followed by a cat.

Unfortunately, this scene cannot rescue the short, and the cartoon remains completely forgettable.

Watch ‘Let me Call you Sweetheart’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Let me Call you Sweetheart’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: April 22, 1932
Stars: Les Reis, Artie Dunn, Betty Boop
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Oh! How I hate to Get up in the Morning © Max FleischerIn this Screen Song Les Reis and Artie Dunn, a.k.a. The Wandering Minstrels, make their screen debut to sing the World War I title song by Irving Berlin.

The cartoon sequence contains many military gags, while Betty Boop introduces the bouncing ball. The most interesting part of this mediocre cartoon is the morning scene, in which we watch trees, a cannon, and even fire and smoke waking up.

Betty Boop already had her picture featured in ‘Any Little Girl that’s a Nice Little Girl‘, and Kitty from Kansas City in the Screen Song of the same name could also have been her, but it’s this cartoon that marks Betty Boop’s first appearance in a Screen Song, underlining her popularity in 1932. She would appear in six more Screen Songs, the last being ‘Popular Melodies‘ from 1933.

Watch ‘Oh! How I hate to Get up in the Morning’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Oh! How I hate to Get up in the Morning’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date:
 November 7, 1931
Stars: Betty Boop, Rudy Vallee
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Kitty from Kansas City © Max Fleischer‘Kitty from Kansas City’ is a Screen Song in which Rudy Valley sings his famous hit from 1930 about his dumb girlfriend Kitty.

This short starts with Kitty (whom we can recognize as Betty Boop) waiting for the train, until she’s picked up by a mail hook. Enter Rudy Vallee in bowler hat and with old-fashioned mustache, singing the title tune, accompanied by the bouncing ball. The cartoon ends with a particular fat Kitty involved in random events.

‘Kitty from Kansas City’ is important for two reasons: it’s the first cartoon in which Betty Boop is completely human, and second, it introduces a new story element, which was to be used frequently in the years to come: that of an old man fancying her. This time it’s an old station master.

Watch ‘Kitty from Kansas City’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Kitty from Kansas City’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

 

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date:
 April 16, 1931
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

Any Little Girl That's A Nice Little Girl © Max Fleischer‘Any Little Girl That’s A Nice Little Girl’ is a Screen Song about a cat who’s dating several girls at the same time.

First we watch him dating his girls through the telephone, then he goes through a bunch of photographs and chooses to visits hot Lulu Belle. When he tries to sneak out, Lulu Belle hits him with the couch. Enter the Screen Song, which is accompanied with images of e.g. a naked woman in a bath(!) and a picture of Betty Boop, who otherwise does not appear in this cartoon.

Only the first scene features lip-synch, and the scene with Lulu Belle also features an excerpt from the 1929 hit song ‘What Wouldn’t I Do for That Man’, popularized by Annette Hanshaw and Ruth Etting. This excerpt is much more interesting than the 1910 vaudeville title song. The last chorus features some nice interplay between the words and the animated characters, typical for the Screen Songs of this era.

Watch ‘Any Little Girl That’s A Nice Little Girl’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘Any Little Girl That’s A Nice Little Girl’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

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