The Scarlet Pumpernickel
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|The Scarlet Pumpernickel|
|Looney Tunes (Daffy Duck/Porky Pig/Sylvester/Henery Hawk/Elmer Fudd/Melissa Duck) series|
The title card of The Scarlet Pumpernickel.
|Directed by||Charles M. Jones|
|Produced by||Eddie Selzer (uncredited)|
|Story by||Michael Maltese|
|Voices by||Mel Blanc (all except Melissa Duck)
Bea Benaderet (Melissa Duck, uncredited)
|Music by||Carl Stalling|
|Animation by||Phil Monroe
|Layouts by||Robert Gribbroek|
|Backgrounds by||Peter Alvarado|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures
The Vitaphone Corporation
|Release date(s)||March 4, 1950 (USA)|
|Running time||7 minutes, 2 seconds|
The Scarlet Pumpernickel is a 1949 animated Warner Bros. Looney Tunes theatrical cartoon short released in 1950 (reissued as a Blue Ribbon Merrie Melodie in the beginning, with the original Looney Tunes ending title sequence), directed by Chuck Jones and written by Michael Maltese.
The cartoon is a story-within-a-story. Daffy Duck is fed up with comedy and wants to try a dramatic act instead. He offers a script to the Warner Brothers executive "J.L.", called The Scarlet Pumpernickel, which he wrote himself (under the name "Daffy Dumas Duck.")
As Daffy reads the script to J.L., the cartoon cuts away to various scenes and then back to J.L.'s office. Each time, Daffy announces a page number. By the cartoon's end, the script has exceeded 2 thousand pages (movie scripts much in excess of 100 pages were usually rejected as too long back in those days).
In this script, the clumsy Scarlet Pumpernickel (Daffy) must save the Fair Lady Melissa from being married to a man she does not love, the Grand Duke (Sylvester) under the Lord High Chamberlain's (Porky Pig) orders. Melissa loves Scarlet, but her happy mood is extinguished in a heartbeat when the Chamberlain orders her to "Keep away from that masked band-d-d-d-d-a-desperand-d-d-d-d-that masked stinker!". The Chamberlain gets a brilliant plan and decides to marry Melissa to the Grand Duke in exchange for killing the Scarlet Pumpernickel.
As planned, the Scarlet Pumpernickel is drawn to town to interrupt the wedding. He arrives disguised as a noble and uses the disguise to research and develop his plan for rescuing Melissa. Storming the wedding ceremony as she is walking up the aisle, he is instantly successful as Melissa tears herself from her father's arms and runs from the chapel, dragging Scarlet with her ("So what's to save?"). Scarlet takes her back to the inn where he was staying, and leaves briefly. The Grand Duke stops for respite at the inn and spots Melissa on the staircase. He chases her and is bearing down upon her when Scarlet swings in. Notably in this segment of the plot there is a running gag in which Daffy compares his own daring stunts with those of Errol Flynn.
The Grand Duke and the Scarlet Pumpernickel engage in an intense duel, but no conclusive ending is given as to who ultimately wins the battle. Daffy, as the scriptwriter, having only thought of the beginning and middle of the story, and being pressured by the enthusiastic "J.L.", overdoes the ending as an unlikely series of random and accelerating natural disasters, including skyrocketing food prices (most notably "kreplach"), to which surprisingly, J.L. asks, "is that all?" At his wit's end, Daffy shoots through his hat in exhaustion, commenting, "It's getting so you have to kill yourself to sell a story around here".
See Censorship for more details about the ending.
This is notable among Looney Tunes shorts for its unusually large cast of "star" characters (which, in addition to Daffy, Porky, and Sylvester, includes Elmer Fudd, Henery Hawk and Mama Bear from Jones' Three Bears series). The only well-known characters to not star in this cartoon (among those that had been in cartoons already) were Bugs Bunny, Foghorn Leghorn, Tweety Bird and Yosemite Sam (Foghorn was exclusive to Robert McKimson, the latter two were used mainly by Friz Freleng). It was also the only cartoon directed by Chuck Jones in which he used Sylvester in a speaking role.
Mel Blanc voices Elmer Fudd, who plays the role of an innkeeper here. Elmer was originally voiced by Arthur Q. Bryan, but since the character had only one line of dialogue, Mel Blanc was told to go ahead and imitate Bryan's voice for the character. Blanc did not like imitating, however, believing it to be stealing from another actor.
Although the title (invoking a type of bread instead of a flower) is a pun on The Scarlet Pimpernel, the Pumpernickel is given a portrayal closer to that of Robin Hood: in one scene, after Daffy fails to perform a stunt, he mutters, "That's funny - that never happens to Errol Flynn," and his costumed appearance is more like Zorro, with cape, mask and sword, none of which the Pimpernel used. His alter ego, the "Nobleman disguise," is, however, more in line with wealthy English fop Sir Percy Blakeney of the Pimpernel fame.
The ending of the cartoon after Daffy pitches the scene in which the price of food skyrockets (where Daffy acts out the suicide of The Scarlet Pumpernickel) is almost always edited on television, but in different ways.
- On ABC and the syndicated run of The Merrie Melodies Show, there is a frozen shot of the outside of the office at the point where Daffy shoots himself in the head so that the viewer doesn't see him actually doing this, then cuts back to the interior of the office where Daffy says, "It's getting so you have to kill yourself to sell a story around here" before passing out again.
- On Nickelodeon, the scene is edited similarly to ABC's and the Merrie Melodies Show edit, but superimposed over the suicide gunshot visual is a repeat shot of the outside of the office, shown in reverse.
- Cartoon Network once edited out the suicide gag by irising out at the end of the cartoon after Daffy asks "Is that all?" when the cartoon aired as part of the channel's "50 Greatest Cartoons of All Time" marathon. This was also how the cartoon was shown on the now-defunct WB! channel. Every other print after that edited the scene by freezing on the shot of the kreplach costing $1000 and once Daffy says, "Is that all?", it jumps to Daffy's "It's getting so you have to kill yourself to sell a story around here" line that ends the short, making it obvious to even the most naive viewer that something was edited.
- A new version of the cartoon that aired on July 13, 2012, now has the suicide gag edited with a fade to black after Daffy yells, "Is that all?!" (similar to the way the cartoon was edited when shown on the channel's "50 Greatest Cartoons of All Time" marathon).
- Beck, Jerry (ed.) (1994). The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals. Atlanta: Turner Publishing.
- Barrier, Michael. Audio commentary for The Scarlet Pumpernickel on disc two of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 1.
- Michael Barrier. Audio commentary for The Scarlet Pumpernickel on disc two of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 1.