Saturday, September 18, 2010

Irving Berlin 'Snow White' Songbooks

One of the ways in which 1938 audiences could prolong the Snow White enchantment after their cinema experience was through music. Sheet music back then is analogous to what mp3 downloads are today. If you liked a tune from the film, you'd buy the form of a songbook. Then you could learn to play and sing it yourself. And the Frank Churchill and Larry Morey songs sold like hotcakes.

Sheet music was usually produced for vocal and piano accompaniment, but there were also chord notations for guitar, ukulele and banjo too. In the US, the selections were first sold individually, 3-4 pages per songbook (not including covers); The front featured the song title at the top with an illustration below of Snow White singing and dwarfs on instruments. The back would often have a few bars from other musical numbers available for purchase.

"One Song" front and back covers.

Pages 2-5, the sheet music.

The songs were initially published by Irving Berlin, Inc. who controlled the rights to the material. Later the Bourne Music Company took over, and they still own them to this day.

Other sheet music available in the series was cataloged on the cover at the lower left. Depending on what printing you have, the lineup changes. This particular volume lists twelve tunes--the original nine from the film, the two deleted numbers, and an unrecorded piece called, "Rub-A-Dub-Dub".

In a later printing of "One Song", the back cover features sample bars from two of the other titles.

On the front, eight songs are listed from the film (no "Dig-A-Dig-Dig"), plus an unrecorded piece called "Snow White".

Stamped inside is an ASCAP logo not seen in the earlier "One Song" book.


In the 1938 Snow White pressbook (p.18), an advertisement for the songbooks mentions that five numbers will be published by Irving Berlin. Yet in the photo, the last book looks as though it has twelve songs listed on the cover. Clearly plans were in the works to release more songbooks.

The song titled "Snow White" made it into the 1944 pressbook (p.4) along with eight others.

The "Snow White" songbook front cover. The back cover has three sample tunes.


Two examples of "I'm Wishing" with slightly different lists of songs; back cover same as above.


"With a Smile and a Song". Advertisement for Mickey Mouse/Silly Symphony songs on back.

Another "With a Smile and a Song", this one is imprinted with the ASCAP logo on an inside page.

Still another with the three sample songs on rear cover.

Additional images courtesy of the Kevin Hicks Collection.


"Whistle While You Work". Same back cover as above.


Two of "Someday My Prince Will Come" with different back covers.

Plus a later printing published by Bourne.






"The Dwarf's Yodel Song".

Special thanks to the Michael Filippello Collection for providing most of these images.

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