Bowery Bugs

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Bowery Bugs
Merrie Melodies (Bugs Bunny) series
Bowery Bugs screenshot.png
Everybody's turning into rabbits!
Directed by Arthur Davis
Produced by Edward Selzer (unc.)
Story by Lloyd Turner, William Scott
Voices by Mel Blanc
Billy Bletcher (unc.)
Music by Carl Stalling
Animation by Emery Hawkins
J.C Melendez
Basil Davidovich
Don Williams
Layouts by Don Smith
Backgrounds by Philip DeGuard
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date(s) June 4, 1949
Color process Technicolor
Running time 7 mins
Language English

Bowery Bugs is a Bugs Bunny cartoon directed by Arthur Davis, written by Lloyd Turner and Bill Scott, and released in mid-1949 as part of the Merrie Melodies series.[1] It stars Bugs Bunny (voiced by Mel Blanc, who also voices the other men in the pool hall) and Steve Brody (voiced here by Billy Bletcher), who was based on the real-life Brooklyn bookmaker Steve Brodie who claimed to have jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge.

Historical background[edit]

Steve Brodie was a native of the Lower East Side. He first came to the attention of the local press as a teenager in 1879, when he was reportedly an influential figure among fellow newsboys and bootblackers. By 1886, he was a professional gambler who had fallen unto debt. In 1885, daredevil Robert Emmet Odlum jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge, and was killed doing so. Brodie took a dare to successfully jump off the Bridge. [2]

On the morning of July 23, 1886, Brodie took position on the railings of the bridge. Meanwhile his friends boarded a rowboat to test the waters below. The jump was originally set for 10:00 am, but was called off because of a strong tide. Brody returned c. 2:00 pm and reportedly rode in the back of a wagon until jumping off. He reportedly first took off his hat and shoes, and then fell from a height of c. 100 yards. There were accounts by eyewitnesses and extensive news reports, but his jump is still in doubt. The prevailing theory among historians is that a life-size dummy fell in his place. [2]

Brodie capitalized on his reputation as a vaudeville performer. He died in 1901, possibly from diabetes. His reputation survived him and inspired the film The Bowery (1933). The subsequent cartoon short cast Bugs as the motivator behind the famous jump. [2]

Plot[edit]

Bugs Bunny is standing at the base of the famous Brooklyn Bridge, (about 1/2 mile from the southern end of the actual street called the Bowery), telling an old man a story, in carnival-barker style, about how and why Steve Brody jumped off the bridge in July 1886 in the form of pictures: Brody had a terrific run of bad luck. He decided he needed a good luck charm - ideally, a rabbit's foot - and the place he hoped to find it was in the country forest.

At this point the story is animated. Brody cycles to Flatbush and finds Bugs' house. Brody holding a knife, pulls Bugs (singing "All That Glitters Is Not Gold") out of a hole. Brody tells Bugs that he needs a good luck charm and that "he is it". Bugs responds by explaining why rabbits feet are not lucky. Bugs directs Brody to "Swami Rabbitima". Brody decides to chance it on condition he'll come back for Bugs if it doesn't work.

The Swami (Bugs in disguise) asks Brody if he wants his palm read. When he says yes, Bugs paints his right palm the color red. Then Bugs asks if he wants him to read the bumps on his head. Brody says he has none, so Bugs takes a hammer and makes bumps. Brody, angry at Bugs starts to chase him but Bugs starts dealing out playing cards for cartomancy. He tells Brody that he has a meeting coming up with a man wearing a carnation (also Bugs in disguise), who will be his lucky mascot at gambling.

Brody's luck does not change, though - Bugs plays craps, he shoots a 7 but it turns up snake-eyes. Next he plays a slot machine and receives a mere three—literal--lemons for his trouble). After being kicked out of the gambling establishment by a gorilla bouncer, he heads back to Swami. Bugs asks Brody when he was born, but Brody doesn't remember. Bugs then spins a zodiac wheel then when it lands on the sign of the wolf. He tells Brody that he is lucky with love. However, flirting with a "lady" (also Bugs in disguise) only nets him a multiple bonking by a policeman for being a "masher". When Brody returns to the Swami and clarifies why he wants his luck to change ("So I can get me hands on some dough!), Bugs tells him to go to 29 River Street, home of "Grandma's Happy Home Bakery", where a baker (Bugs yet again) gladly provides him "a mess of dough", in which he bakes Brody into a pie.

Unmasking the baker as Bugs, Brody retraces his steps to unmask Bugs' previous disguises, leading Brody to believe "Everybody's a rabbit!". When Brody looks into what he thinks is a mirror (but is actually a window) and sees Bugs looking back at him, he thinks he has turned into a rabbit and snaps, hopping down the street, hysterically shouting "What's up, doc?!".

Seeing a police officer, apparently staring contemplatively at the river from the Brooklyn Bridge, Brody begs (to his back) for help. Turning, the officer reveals himself to be Bugs, demanding (in a thick Irish accent) "What's all this about rabbits, Doc?". Finally driven mad, Brody leaps into the East River apparently as suicide. The scene freezes of Brody jumping off to a poster seen behind Bugs.

Bugs' story ends there, and the impressed old man says: "That's enough, son! I'll buy it!" and hands Bugs some money.

Production details[edit]

Censorship[edit]

  • On ABC, two scenes involving head beatings were shortened:
    • When Bugs (dressed as the swami) asks Brody if he'd like to read the bumps on his head, Brody protests that he has no bumps on his head, Bugs originally hit Brody six times. On ABC, the beatings were cut down to one.
    • When Brody is sent out to charm a woman (Bugs in drag) and the "woman" cries for the police, Brody was originally beaten by a cop's nightstick 11 times. On ABC, the beatings were drastically shortened to one and a half (with the rest cut with a fake black out into the next scene).

Availability[edit]

This cartoon is available (uncut, uncensored, and digitally remastered) on disc one of the third volume in the Looney Tunes Golden Collection DVD series.

Sources[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ This was the only cartoon animated and released in 1949.
  2. ^ a b c Ferrara (2011), p. 72-75
Preceded by
High Diving Hare
Bugs Bunny Cartoons
1949
Succeeded by
Long-Haired Hare