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Cab Calloway’s 100th Birthday

[photo of Cab Calloway] Merry Christmas, everybody. I’m in Detroit eating lamb, but I needed to take some time out to commemorate a very important date. Were Cab Calloway still alive, he would be 100 today. So here are some Christmas presents for you all: a series of Cab videos, spanning 1932–1990.

And now, a special bonus for making it this far: the 1944 edition of Calloway’s The Hepster’s Dictionary, in HTML format.

Finally, some YouTube links:

More Stoopnagle & Budd

[Screenshot of Col. Stoopnagle in “Cavalcade of Stuff”] When I last wrote about Stoopnagle & Budd, I mentioned that a Fleischer cartoon they appeared in, Stoopnocracy, had disappeared. I’m pleased to report that this is not the case. A kind benefactor (who would like to remain anonymous), after reading the post, sent me a copy of it. Most of it is typical Fleischer of the time (which is to say, brilliant as always), with humor reminiscent of the Talkartoon Crazy Town. Stoopnagle & Budd are towards the end in an inserted live-action scene; I had hoped they’d be rotoscoped like Fleischer’s guest stars usually were, but no dice. The scene is great, though. Stoopnagle shows off various labor-saving inventions and gives Budd a cigar which makes the smoker sing like Bing Crosby. Budd sings the Leo Robin/Ralph Rainger composition “Please”, which was featured in Paramount’s The Big Broadcast the previous year (and had also been used in the Fleischers’ Snow-White). We also get to sing along with “Minnie the Moocher” (which also was in The Big Broadcast, incidentally); funny to see the little bouncing ball on lyrics about cocaine and heroin abuse.

But that’s not all! My correspondent has also provided me with three other Stoopnagle films, which I’m happy to share here. The earliest is a scene from the first installment of Rambling ’Round Radio Row, a series that showed popular radio starts in their native habitat. The team performs what looks to be an actual radio show; if not, it almost certainly is the same material.

[Poster for “Stoopnocracy”] Next we have The Inventors, which actually has something of a plot. Stoopnagle & Budd get invited to a girls’ school and give a lecture on the Bulgarian Upquirp, and end up building a Stoopenstein Monster.

Finally there is Cavalcade of Stuff #1, which was Stoopnagle’s first film work after splitting up with Budd. This was supposed to be the first in a series of 12, although I don’t know if the others were ever made (IMDB has nothing about any of them). This might also be parts #1 & #2 combined, judging from this description on the Stoopnagle fan site.

Between this and the International House scene in the last post, we’re pretty close to having all of their film work available. IMDB lists one other film from 1947, Aren’t We All, and the Stoopnagle site has screenshots from a Chrysler training film called Second Guessers Incorporated, which is also not on IMDB. If anyone knows where to track these down, please let us know.

Below are links to the four films, as before in DivX AVI format. Please note that the quality on all of these (except Radio Row) is extremely poor: Stoopnocracy is a 16mm bootleg, Cavalcade is a several-generation down VHS copy, and The Inventors is an amateur kinescope. If anyone finds better copies of these, again, drop me a note or comment here.

Special thanks to Mr. X!

Stoopnagle & Budd

[publicity photo of Col. Stoopnagle & Budd] The story goes that the comedy team of Colonel Stoopnagle & Budd started in 1932, when a thunderstorm knocked out the NBC network feed to their Buffalo affiliate. Faced with dead air, the station grabbed two of their staff writers, F. Chase Taylor and Wilbur Hulick, threw them in front of a microphone, and told them to improvise. The duo instantly made up the characters of “Colonel Lemuel Q. Stoopnagle”, an eccentric ex-Navy inventor famous for his invention of upside-down lighthouses for submarines, and his bemused interviewer/straight man, “Budd”, and ad-libbed for the next two hours. They were an instant local hit, and soon moved on to national prominence.

Like many too-cute tales from the days of classic radio, that story’s probably not true, but it’s “too good to check”, as the old newspaper saying goes. However they started, Stoopnagle & Budd soon became immensely popular, at one point being the second-highest paid comedy team in radio (the first was Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll, “Amos ‘n’ Andy”). Despite their popularity, their offbeat humor made sponsors nervous and they had difficulty keeping them on their various NBC and CBS shows (which they turned into a running joke). They broke up due to personal differences in 1938. Stoopnagle went on to be a frequent radio guest star and author of humorous articles for magazines like The Saturday Evening Post. He became especially known for rewritten fairy tales using printed malapropisms known as “Spoonerisms” (e.g., Beeping Sleauty and Prinderella and the Cince). Budd returned to Buffalo and obscurity.

['How to Draw a Circle', by Col. Stoopnagle]

Despite the team’s popularity back in the day, they are forgotten today, largely because very little of their work survives. Of their many radio shows, I only know of four that still exist: a 1935 episode of their unsponsored CBS show, a brief snippet of another show which I’m guessing is also from 1935, and two episodes of Town Hall Tonight from a period in 1936 when Stoopnagle & Budd substituted for the show’s regular host, Fred Allen.

[poster for 'Stoopnocracy'] They also appeared in four films: an installment of the short subject series Rambling ‘Round Radio Row, which I’m not sure survives; International House, a classic Paramount all-star comedy; The Inventors, a Paramount short which is on VHS, but only as part of this expensive six-tape set (if somebody wants to buy it for me, I’ll gladly post the Stoopnagle bit here); and, most intriguingly, Stoopnocracy, a Fleischer cartoon which tragically seems to have disappeared.

I’ve posted here a DivX AVI of their appearance in International House, and MP3s of the aforementioned 1935 show and show segment as well as one of their Town Hall Tonight appearances. Be sure to at least check out the first two links.

Unsurprisingly, there’s not too much online about them; this site has ambitions of being the definitive Stoopnagle site, but it’s far from being finished. Some good images and text, though. Also, here are some of Stoopnagle’s Spoonerisms.

(Update April 4, 2007: Stoopnocracy found! See here for details.)

Disco Killed the Radio Star

Recently there was a post on BoingBoing about a Bollywood video cover of I Wanna Hold Your Hand, and it reminded me of one of my favorite Bollywood finds — a videotape that I got from an Indian grocery I lived near. The catchy “Disco Disco” label first caught my eye, but the contents turned out to be better than I could have imagined: a compilation of solidly 80’s era Bollywood music videos. No plot developments, no Hindi dialogue I can’t understand; nothing but wall-to-wall music videos with guys dressed like forgotten Jacksons brothers singing in front of giant light-up Rubik’s cubes. Yesssss!

Buried in this kitschy mess was the video below. It’s a cut from the movie Disco Dancer (the title clip of which starts out the tape) but they don’t give the title for this song, so I’m calling it “Disco Killed The Radio Star” since it’s basically a take on The Buggles’ “Video Killed The Radio Star”. This is — well, not a cover, exactly — but the distinctive piano and “Oh-wah-oh” backup singing makes it the cheap, copyright-free “Hey, that reminds me of”–version of the song. And considering the root ersatzness of the Bollywood aesthetic, that make it even better.