Lillian Roth sings the title song; also animated sequences.

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A farmer grows candy canes from sugar cubes, delighting local fauna. Lillian Roth (live-action) sings the title song with a Bouncing Ball. Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

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Animation | Short | Music

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26 August 1932 (USA)  »

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Connections

Edited into Betty Boop Confidential (1995) See more »

Soundtracks

Down Among the Sugar Cane
Music by Cecil Mack and Chris Smith (1908)
Lyrics by Dan Avery and Charles Hart (as Avery & Hart)
Sung twice by Lillian Roth
Also sung with the bouncing ball
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"Oodles of kisses"? Wow, they don't write lyrics like that anymore . . .
14 February 2010 | by (Westchester County, NY) – See all my reviews

Here's another one of those diverting sing-along-with-the-Bouncing-Ball epics from the Fleischer Studio, and like most of the others it's both charmingly weird and weirdly charming. Our hostess is the Inimitable Lillian Roth (as she is billed) who brings an infectious, gleeful energy to the proceedings.

My first viewing of this cartoon was memorable: in the early 1980s I enrolled in a course on the history of animated films at the New School in NYC, taught by the one and only Leonard Maltin. It was a great class! Every Tuesday night we'd gather in a lecture hall and watch a dozen or so cartoons, and of course Professor Maltin would supply lots of historical background and context. What's not to like? Anyway, one evening he asked if any of us were familiar with a song called "Down Among the Sugar Cane." When no one answered yes he continued: "Trust me, by the time this cartoon is over you'll know every word by heart." And needless to say, he was right.

Lillian Roth kicks off the show singing a chorus of the title tune before a painted backdrop of a Southern plantation. Next we're treated to a series of typically surreal Flesicher-style blackout gags, set on a plantation where sugar cane is grown. A farmer plants "sugar cane seeds" that resemble sugar cubes, and moments later candy canes sprout from the ground. Beavers chop down the canes by licking them at the base, and when the canes hit the ground they shatter and turn back into cubes. The beavers then carry the harvest of sugar off to their youngsters (the baby beavers wear bonnets, naturally), who celebrate with a harvest dance. Next, the field attracts a bumble bee, who chops a candy cane with an ax, extricates a single cube, and carries it off to the queen of his hive. She seems impressed, and agrees to accompany him to the sugar cane field. She's careful to bring her roller-skates, perhaps so we won't assume anything unwholesome is going to occur.

Back to Miss Roth in live action. She performs the song and invites viewers to join in and sing with her, following that ever popular bouncing ball. The lyrics are memorable: "There'll be oodles of kisses, more than I can explain/When I'm walking talking with my sweetness, down among the sugar cane." (In Leonard Maltin's classroom we all joined in and sang. I can't vouch for the quality, aesthetically speaking, but we sang.) During the final chorus animation returns with amusing images of the situations in the song's lyrics, and it all wraps up with a cute, saucy closing gag.

These Fleischer sing-a-longs are a real treat: funny, nostalgic and tuneful. And I can attest, they're especially fun when viewed with a good-humored crowd willing to participate.


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