Monday, 26 August 2013

Jolly Fish, Eels and Octopus

“Shuffle Off to Buffalo” wasn’t exactly being played on radio stations when I was a kid in the ‘60s. I learned about it by hearing it on cartoons. Same with “Blues in the Night” and piles of other popular songs from the ‘30s and earlier. In some cases, I still don’t know the titles.

Milton Knight is one of many helpful people on the internet, as he’s gone to the trouble of identifying some of the tunes Gene Rodemich put in the background of the Van Beuren cartoons of the early ‘30s. “Redskin Blues” includes “Business in F” by Archie Bleyer, later to be fired by Arthur Godfrey. “Corn-Fed Cal” by Tom Neely and Peter Dixon is in the dancing farm implement/boardwalk-as-xylophone part of “Barnyard Bunk.” Jimmy Dale’s “Rhythm” opens “Hook and Ladder Hokum”. “Hummin’ to Myself” is heard behind “Plane Dumb” after Tom and Jerry land in the ocean. “Play That Hot Guitar” is used in the climax of “Pencil Mania.” The song on the police radio in “Magic Mummy” is a real tune; “(The) Cop on the Beat, the Man in the Moon and Me” was written by Al Goodhart, Al Hoffman and J.P. Murray in 1932. And Milt’s identified Bernice Petkere’s “By a Rippling Stream (Waiting For You)” as the song that takes up the first three-quarters of “Jolly Fish,” with “There’s Oceans of Love By the Beautiful Sea” filling the remainder of the cartoon.

“Jolly Fish” is fun in spots, and there’s always something worthwhile in the black-and-white Van Beuren cartoons. I like the carefree eels happily gyrating to a piano version of “By a Rippling Stream” because they’re having jolly fun.

And I’ve got to admire whoever animated the octopus playing the piano. All those fingers and keys.

The attention of piano-pounding ‘pus (and the nearby swaying eels and fish) is grabbed by an off-camera swordfish. The octopus swims off in fright, with the gloves he was wearing quickly finishing the tune before swimming after him.

John Foster and George Stallings get the only credits (besides Rodemich), so I can’t tell you about the animators or the background artist. Speaking of Rodemich’s scores, Milt points out “Mean Music” gets a nice airing in “Pots and Pans,” which opens with a tune called “Cupid on the Cake.” And Bonnie Poe livens up part of “Piano Tooners” with her rendition of Jimmy McHugh’s “Doin’ the New Low-Down” from the Broadway revue “Blackbirds of 1928.”

Here’s a nice version of “Jolly Fish” that came from the two-disc Tom and Jerry set put out by Thunderbean. The collection has been beautifully and carefully restored and anyone interested in early ‘30s animation or cartoons with goofy dancing eels should buy the DVD.


  1. Watching "Pots and Pans" for the first time I assumed the tune was "Bean Music," and so suited a cartoon set in a diner.

  2. Thanks for the mention! Learned the title of the "Rippling Stream" song from a Radio Dismuke broadcast. 1930s pop music 24 hrs a day: ("Bean" music...*Laugh!*)

  3. How many legs does that [censored] thing have? That's no octopus, that's a twelve-opus!