Today’s edition of Saluting Silly Songs was born when I began thinking about certain current events, specifically those surrounding a couple of instances of satire. One example is the tragic situation connected to the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, but it’s an earlier controversy about a movie — The Interview — that more closely relates to the subject of today’s post. It occurred to me that the comedy about North Korea and its dictatorial regime has a kinship of sorts with a film (and a song) that was very popular in World War II.
British composer Oliver Wallace actually wrote “Der Fuehrer’s Face” for a Walt Disney cartoon of the same name that was made in 1942, but even before the film appeared in theaters the following January the song was already making a splash. Country singer Johnny Bond had the earliest recording, but the song’s popularity took a big jump when Spike Jones and his guys made a hit record and a short comical film. When the Disney cartoon (which was originally titled Donald Duck in Nutzi Land) made its way into theaters it proved to be a popular attraction too.
Of course, satire had been around a long time by then and wartime propaganda films (for both sides) were nothing new, but even as audiences laughed they probably felt a sense of unease. After all, they were facing a very uncertain future at the time, and the characters being lampooned were real dangers to their way of life — although at least they didn’t have to worry about Hitler hacking into their websites.
You can see segments of the Disney cartoon (which won an Oscar – the only Donald Duck cartoon to do so) in the video below, interspersed with the Spike Jones film. To see the entire original cartoon, you can click HERE.