I recently went on a classic animation binge, watching a collection of old Mickey Mouse cartoons, followed by a bunch of Felix shorts. One thing that struck me as odd was how all the cartoons from the '20s and '30s seem to use the same songs over and over, particularly “Turkey in the Straw” and this . . . other song. The song in question sounds vaguely Middle Eastern, and in the cartoons it usually accompanies something exotic or foreign-seeming, like a snake charmer or a turban-clad man riding an elephant. Everyone’s probably heard this tune, and when I was a kid (early '80s), we even had lyrics for it: "There’s a place in France where the naked ladies dance; there’s a hole in the wall where the men can see it all; but the men don’t care, 'cause they choose their underwear . . . . "
So, what is the real title of this song? Who wrote it? Why was it used so extensively in old cartoons? And how long have kids had their own lyrics for the song?