Weekend Tune: Cab & Boop

30 Sep

In 1933, four years before Walt Disney released “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, his first full-length animated feature, the Fleischer brothers created an entirely different animated version of Snow White, starring Betty Boop.

Instead of “Someday My Prince Will Come”, the Fleischers’ version featured a song that could never possibly find its way into a Disney film: “St. James Infirmary Blues”, a much-recorded folk/blues classic, first made famous by Louis Armstrong, featuring lyrics that… well… could never possibly find their way into a Disney film, dealing as they do with death, disease, drinking and debauchery. (For an impressively complete account of the history and significance of St. James Infirmary Blues, check out this fascinating blog, almost entirely dedicated to this one song).

In the Betty Boop film, the song is sung by the legendary Cab Calloway, who also – via rotoscoping – lent some of his patented dance steps to Koko the Clown, the character who sings it.

The Fleischer cartoon bears no resemblance whatsoever to the more famous feature-length “Snow White”. It’s only about seven minutes long and it’s way more Dali than Disney. You could call it psychedelic, if it hadn’t been made some 35 years before that adjective became popular.

Here’s Cab Calloway’s “performance” of St. James Infirmary Blues from the Fleischers’ Snow White:

You can see the entire film (voted the 19th greatest cartoon of all time in a 1994 poll of animators) here. Two more psychedelic-before-their-time Betty Boop ‘toons featuring Cab Calloway tunes are viewable and downloadable here and here. And another one featuring Louis Armstrong is here. (That last one hasn’t aged as well as the others, featuring as it does Satchmo in the guise of an African cannibal…)

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One Response to “Weekend Tune: Cab & Boop”

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  1. And speaking of cartoons… « NO NOTES - November 28, 2007

    […] of animators it was voted the 19th best cartoon ever. Pretty cool. But the real payoff is that the echenblog post also mentions several other Max Fleischer cartoons featuring jazz […]

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