The oldest reference to the melody I am referring to I found is Looney Tunes' 1937 short I Wanna Be a Sailor (Archive link at 1:05).
However, the music to this short is quoting other works (like Gioacchino Rossini's William Tell Overture). Unlike other quotes however, the sailor tune is not mentioned in the Wikipedia article or other resources about the short I found.
- Is this a melody by Carl W. Stalling?
- If so, was it written for this short?
- If not, where is it from?
In case that helps, another reference to this melody from around the same time is in the song Always True to You (in My Fashion) from the 1948 musical Kiss Me, Kate. (At least the reference is present in the recording of the musical I own, which is one with the 1987 Royal Shakespeare Company cast. There is more than one version of this musical afaik.)