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 Scarlet Pumpernickel Title.jpg
The title card of The Scarlet Pumpernickel.
Directed by Charles M. Jones
Produced by Edward Selzer
(uncredited)
Story by Michael Maltese
Voices by Mel Blanc
Bea Benaderet
(uncredited)
Music by Carl Stalling
Animation by Phil Monroe
Ben Washam
Lloyd Vaughan
Ken Harris
Layouts by Robert Gribbroek
Backgrounds by Peter Alvarado
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
The Vitaphone Corporation
Release date(s) March 4, 1950 (USA)
Color process Technicolor
Running time 7 minutes, 2 seconds
Language English

The Scarlet Pumpernickel is a animated Warner Bros. Looney Tunes theatrical cartoon short released in 1950, directed by Chuck Jones and written by Michael Maltese.

In 1994 it was voted #31 of the 50 Greatest Cartoons of all time by members of the animation field.[1]

Plot[edit]

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, in pursuit of Scarlet, 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 and what happens at the end. Daffy, as the scriptwriter, either having only thought of the beginning and middle of the story or lost the rest of his script underneath a huge pile of pages, and being pressured by the enthusiastic "J.L.", overdoes the ending as an unlikely series of random and accelerating natural disasters, including a broken dam, an erupting volcano, and 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, as if representing the Scarlet Pumpernickel committing suicide, commenting, "It's getting so you have to kill yourself to sell a story around here".

See Censorship for more details about the ending.

Production details[edit]

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).[2] 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.[2]

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.

Censorship[edit]

  • Most telecasts of this cartoon, particularly on Cartoon Network, the former WB! Network, ABC, Nickelodeon and local airings of The Merrie Melodies Show, remove the scene at the end where Daffy acts out the Scarlet Pumpernickel's suicide with an actual pistol. While Cartoon Network (during their "50 Greatest Cartoons of All Time" marathon and on all post 2012 cuts) and the WB ended the short after Daffy exclaims "Is that all?!" (thus cutting out the suicide reference altogether, though Cartoon Network once had a version of the cartoon where the suicide was edited by showing a frozen shot of the kreplach, then after Daffy's "Is that all?!" jump back to Daffy rising from the floor to say, "It's getting so you have to kill yourself to sell a script around here."), ABC, Merrie Melodies and Nickelodeon allowed the suicide ending to remain, but deleted the visual of Daffy shooting himself in the head by showing a repeat shot of the hallway outside of the office (from the opening of the short) as the gun goes off.

Availability[edit]

The Scarlet Pumpernickel is available, uncensored, digitally restored and uncut on Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 1, Disc 2. It is also available on The Essential Daffy Duck.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Beck, Jerry (ed.) (1994). The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals. Atlanta: Turner Publishing.
  2. ^ a b Barrier, Michael. Audio commentary for The Scarlet Pumpernickel on disc two of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 1.

External links[edit]