2017 Swashathon: The Scarlet Pumpernickel (1950)

Directed by Chuck Jones this Looney Tunes short is another that takes place on the Warner Brothers backlot. Daffy has a meeting in faceless studio head J.L.’s office (clearly modeled after Jack L. Warner). Part of Daffy’s desire in this outlandish pitch is to break out of what he sees as typecasting and play the role of a swashbuckling hero.


Perhaps one of the more interesting aspects of this short is how it deals with the concept of casting. In the framing mechanism Daffy is pitching a film to break out of the type-cast mold he feels he’s stuck in. Within the pitched story the Warner crew cast from their stable of stars to create a swashbuckling, animated version of The Scarlet Pimpernel called The Scarlet Pumpernickel.

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Daffy plays Daffy Dumas Duck, Porky Pig plays Lord High Chamberlain, Mama Bear plays a handmaiden, Henery Hawk plays a pageboy, Sylvester plays a Lord and groom-to-be, Elmer Fudd plays an innkeeper; and an obese horse not unlike the one in What’s Opera, Doc? also makes an appearance.

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This short is also a showcase for the music of Michael Maltese who is frequently the unsung hero behind the scenes of the Looney Tunes shorts.

thescarletpumpernickel (14)

Aside from some visual flair like hanging off the underside of a cliff, a flood, the Pumpernickel using a parachute; it’s an absurd plot only animation could really pull off in such a short amount of time. As the commentary track on the DVD observes it packs in all the conventions of a swashbuckler with comedic effect, complete with jokes about Errol Flynn. Also, on the Golden Collection’s commentary track I learned that this was more of a showcase for Mel Blanc than usual as he voiced Elmer Fudd in this short as well though he usually didn’t.

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This is also one of the Looney Tunes shorts which has been the target of retroactive censorship and re-edits on TV. The short ends with Daffy putting a gun to his head, as his story ends with the Scarlet Pumpernickel killing himself. Daffy shoots, falls to the ground, then looks up (the bullet went through his beret) and says “It’s getting so you have to kill yourself to sell a story around here.” Edits dropped frames where the gun fired and cut straight to him on the ground. In my estimation it’s a useless edit as the implication is still there. Yes, the reality of suicide is more present in today’s world. However, the fact remains that art of the past cannot and should not be constantly altered to fit ever-changing mores and realities. They are what they are and are reflective of a time. It’s up to each successive generation to know better as the collective consciousness grows.


As such, there’s not a moral to be learned from this short, it’s funny with jokes for audiences young and old, for people who just like animation or old Hollywood; but it’s not a morality play and an excellent quick parody of a genre.

Swashathon: Robin Hood Daffy (1958)


This is my contribution for the Swashathon hosted by Movies Silently.

Robin Hood Daffy (1958)

Robin Hood Daffy (1958, Warner Bros.)

This was another blogathon where I thought I would not have a title to contribute. Part of it had to do with the fact that Swashbuckling is such a niche that I didn’t think I’d have much to contribute as it’s not one I can claim any level of expertise in. I could’ve offered up for Kim but that would require a re-watch and it didn’t jibe with my schedule. That’s when on a double-check (triple-check? quadruple-check?) I noticed that Robin Hood Daffy was there and I just had to write about it. Any chance to discuss the Looney Tunes is a good one.

I know this short very well, as I know many, so it prompted me to look up the precise definition of swashbuckling as my understanding over-emphisized sword-play and I knew Daffy’s Robin Hood never had a sword.

The definition reads as follows:
1 a swaggering swordsman, soldier, or adventurer; daredevil.

Robin Hood Daffy (1958, Warner Bros.)

So there it fits.

As for the Looney rendering of the tale of Robin Hood there are some things that are worth noting without giving a blow-by-blow of a short that runs fewer than seven minutes.

Perhaps first and most importantly is the notion of cartoon casting. And by this I do not mean voice actors. For once Warner had Mel Blanc in the fold they knew they had a good thing and he was one-man show. What I mean is match the existing characters in a stable of cartoon talent as the parts in an adaptation, matching the correct types. Daffy as a hapless Robin and Porky as a jolly and sarcastic Tuck is perfect and offers a brilliant send-up of the Robin Hood tropes and story.

Another commonality this shares with other great Looney Tunes is the direction of Chuck Jones. Jones being one I so admired he was the first director whose writing I read, in Chuck Reducks.

Robin Hood Daffy (1958, Warner Bros.)

This short is also a reflection of my understanding of film progressing, or maybe it’s more proper to say it is an astute example of children’s innate ability to grasp adaptation and different renditions of similar material. What I mean is that Disney’s Robin Hood was at the time likely my favorite movie, and remains my favorite Disney film. They represent two drastically different approaches to the anthropomorphizing of the Robin Hood characters, in two different film forms, but use the same medium (animation). I loved them both growing up, much in the same way as I enjoyed the goofy 1966 Batman TV series as well as the 1989 Tim Burton film, and the new school. I later saw the Errol Flynn-starring Robin Hood in High School.

The gags are spectacular, and some are among my all time favorites such as Daffy’s minstrel song, “Ho, ho, very funny. Haha, it is to laugh”, “Yoicks! And away!”, and more.

The work is elevated to the level of genius in set-up (Tuck/Porky doesn’t believe Daffy is Hood). And then the payoff at the end. It so perfectly befits them both and should be known to children and film buffs everywhere if it isn’t already.