Western Animation: The Scarlet Pumpernickel
"Mayhap perchance, foppish that I am, I might be The Scarlet Pumpernickel?""The Scarlet Pumpernickel"
is a 1950 Merrie Melodies
short, directed by Chuck Jones
and featuring Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Sylvester the Cat, and "Melissa" (a female duck), with cameos by Elmer Fudd and the Mama Bear from Jones's Three Bears Trilogy. Purporting to be Daffy's own film concept (which he is attempting to pitch to "J.L."note
), the short is a parody of a typical Swashbuckler
— including, of course, The Scarlet Pimpernel
to Warners' own swashbuckling hero Errol Flynn
and much lampshading
of the conventions of the genre.
Tropes Employed Include:
- Anthropomorphic Shift: Sylvester, usually a Talking Animal, is fully anthropomorphic as the Grand Duke. Almost the complete opposite of Chuck Jones' other uses of Sylvester.
- Aristocrats Are Evil: The Lord High Chamberlain and the Grand Duke.
- Anachronism Stew: The setting seems to range anywhere from the late 15th Century (judging by Melissa's hennin) to the mid 20th Century (judging from the Lord High Chamberlain's bizarre hair dryer and Scarlet's use of a parachute), with perhaps some preference for about the 1680s or so.
- Antiquated Linguistics: As in the page quote, in which the "noble visitor" (Daffy) uses two separate archaicisms for "maybe," and the page image, wherein "the Grand Duke" (Sylvester) calls him "sirrah" — a term of address for social inferiors in the 17th century or thereabouts.
- Aside Glance: From Daffy, as Milord High Chamberlain and the Grand Duke laugh at the idea of a Daffish Fop being The Scarlet Pumpernickel.
- Beard of Evil: Marks Porky as the evil Lord High Chamberlain. Apparently detachable.
- Black Comedy Rape: As when a tom-cat Funny Animal (Sylvester the Cat) is creeping up in prime Dastardly Whiplash style (complete with Evil Laugh) on a shrinking duck Damsel in Distress (Melissa the Duck).
- Bowdlerise: 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 it 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 (whether or not this was a mistake is unknown. It makes for a great effect either way).
- Cartoon Network once edited out the suicide gag by irising out after Daffy asks "Is that all?" when the cartoon aired as part of the channel's "50 Greatest Cartoons of All Time" marathon. 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.
- On a July 13, 2012 installment of Cartoon Network's Looney Tunes Show (not the sitcom; the collection of actual Looney Tunes shorts from the 1930s to the 1960s), the cartoon was re-edited. The suicide part was still cut, but it was cut the same way it was on the channel's "50 Greatest Cartoons of All Time" marathon (read: it ends after Daffy says, "Is that all?!"), only instead of an iris-out, it's a fade-out. As of 2014, this is the version that airs whenever Cartoon Network airs its Looney Tunes block.
- The Cameo: Lots of 'em. Henery Hawk is the LHC's messenger boy, Mama Bear is Melissa's lady in waiting, and Elmer Fudd is a lowly innkeeper.
- The Cavalry Arrives Late: "The cavalry rode to the rescue! ...but they were a little too late."
- Comedic Hero
- Duel to the Death: "Ha-ha! Ya ain't got a chance! I'm the hero of this picture, and you know what happens to the villain!"
- Early Installment Weirdness: To Chuck Jones' pop-culture hero series for Daffy Duck. There are bookends with Daffy telling the main story, Porky is the villain rather than a Hyper Competent Sidekick and Daffy is semi-competent in his hero getup, stopped only due to writing difficulties during the finale.
- Flynning: As punctuated by the Gratuitous French "fencing terms"note the duellists employ, and the dramatic cast shadows typical of Michael Curtiz's Warner Bros. . Swashbucklers.
- Fully Dressed Cartoon Animal: Except for Porky, the whole cast.
- Furry Confusion: The horses are never portrayed as anthropomorphic in any way, unfortunately.
- Gainax Ending: Losing his train of thought, Daffy gives his movie a convoluted ending, complete with a bursting dam, cavalry charge, erupting volcano, skyrocketing inflation of food prices, and the hero (and Daffy) shooting himself in the head.
- The edited version that aired on Cartoon Network during the "50 Greatest Cartoons of All Time" marathon (and a recent airing in 2012) is more along the lines of No Ending, thanks to the gun-to-the-head suicide part getting cut.
- Girl in the Tower: The Lady Melissa.
- Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: The Lord High Chamberlain's churchwarden pipe perhaps counts as "scene-setting smoking."
- The Highwayman: The Scarlet Pumpernickel's occupation.
- I Have You Now, My Pretty: Sylvester in its fullest form when cornering Melissa.
- Land in the Saddle: Daffy misses the horse, causing him to muse that "this never happens to Errol Flynn".
- The second time, he uses a parachute: "Here's a wrinkle Errol never thought of!"
- Mood Whiplash: "Firtht, I am happy, for I am to marry the fair Meliththa! Then, I am furiouth, becauthe I dethpithe the Thcarlet P-p-pumpernickel!"
- Narration Echo: Daffy Duck narrates, "The Lord High Chamberlain was simply furious."
Lord High Chamberlain (Porky Pig): I'm simply furious!
Narrator: But Milady Melissa was simply delighted.
Melissa: I'm simply delighted!
- Neutral Female: Played for laughs. When Scarlet and the Grand Duke duel near the end, Melissa cowers by the wall shrieking "Eee! Ei! Oh!" as the rapiers clash.
- Nothing Left to Do but Die: "There was nothing left for the Scarlet Pumpernickel to do but blow his brains out, which he does."
- Once Upon a Time: "Great opening, huh?"
- The Other Darrin: This is one of the few cartoons made while Arthur Q. Bryan was alive, where Elmer Fudd is voiced by someone else. Elmer's one line is done by Mel Blanc, for cost reasons.
- Pain-Powered Leap: Daffy scales the castle walls with the help of Ye Little Olympic Jumper - a pin to the hindquarters.
- Pen Name: Daffy "Dumass" Duck
- Puppy-Dog Eyes: Used by Daffy to convince "J.L." to give him a dramatic part.
- Sarcastic Confession: Provides the page quote. Said by the Pumpernickel while disguised as a fop, which provokes derisive laughter from the Grand Duke and the Lord High Chamberlain (with Scarlet given an Aside Glance).
- Secret Identity: The "weary young traveler" is, in reality, The Scarlet Pumpernickel.
- Seen-It-All Suicide: Though it is actually J.L. who has seen it all, and Daffy who commits the suicide.
It's getting so you have to kill yourself to sell a story nowadays.
- And, as with all seen-it-all suicides (or any kind of suicide) on Looney Tunes, don't expect to see this on American TV uncut and uncensored note . You're better off getting it uncut on video, DVD, or Internet.
- Actually subverted, since the bullet hole is in his hat afterwards. Still, American TV is very touchy when it comes to using Suicide as Comedy.
- Shout-Out: To Shakespeare: Twice misquoted by Daffy — "Vanity, thy name is woman!"note and "Parting is such sweet stuff."note
- Standard Snippet: Several, as is typical of a Carl Stalling score, including "Hooray for Hollywood" to set the scene at the studio; the Boccherini minuet to show that we are in The Cavalier Years; Ben Jonson's "Song: To Celia for the love scene; Suppé's Banditenstreiche during the chase scenes; and, of course, Richard Wagner's bridal chorus during the wedding.
- That Makes Me Feel Angry: The Grand Duke after getting the Lord High Chamberlain's letter. See Mood Whiplash above for the quote.
- Wedding Smashers: The Scarlet Pumpernickel crashes Melissa and the Grand Duke's wedding and "saves" her.
- Yiddish as a Second Language: Notably invoked by both "Scarlet" and "The Grand Duke" — "So what's to save?" and "So what's to know?", respectively. Also, when the price of food-stuffs skyrockets, the food-stuff illustrating the trend is Kreplach.