|The Scarlet Pumpernickel|
The title card of The Scarlet Pumpernickel, depicting the scene of the Lord High Chamberlain's castle.
|Directed by||Charles M. Jones|
|Produced by||Edward Selzer (uncredited)|
|Story by||Michael Maltese|
|Music by||Carl Stalling|
|Layouts by||Robert Gribbroek|
|Backgrounds by||Peter Alvarado|
The Scarlet Pumpernickel is a 1950 Warner Bros. Looney Tunes theatrical cartoon short, directed by Chuck Jones and written by Michael Maltese. The cartoon was released on March 4, 1950, and features Daffy Duck, along with a number of Looney Tunes stars. The title is a play on the 1905 novel The Scarlet Pimpernel.
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 Warner Bros.' chief Jack L. Warner – whom he addresses, as most people did, as "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 2,000 pages (movie scripts much in excess of 100 pages were usually rejected as too long back in those days).
In this script, in 1903 England, a clumsy young highwayman named the Scarlet Pumpernickel (Daffy) constantly outsmarts the Lord High Chamberlain's (Porky Pig) men, to the Chamberlain's fury and the delight of the Fair Lady Melissa. 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-desperad-d-d-d-d-that masked stinker!" The Chamberlain gets a brilliant plan and decides to marry Melissa to the Grand Duke (Sylvester) in an attempt to lure the Scarlet Pumpernickel to town and then kill him.
As planned, the Scarlet Pumpernickel is drawn to town to interrupt the wedding. He arrives disguised as a noble to research and develop his plan for rescuing Melissa. Storming the wedding ceremony through the use of a "Ye Little Olympic Highjumper" (a pin and a jab in the posterior) as she is walking up the aisle, he is instantly successful as Melissa tears herself from the Chamberlain's arms and runs from the chapel, dragging Scarlet with her and shouting, "Help, Scarlet! Save me!" Scarlet responds, as an aside, "So what's to save?" Scarlet takes her back to the inn where he is staying, and leaves briefly. The Grand Duke, in pursuit of Scarlet, stops for respite at the inn and spots Melissa on the staircase. As he corners her, Scarlet swings in. 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., completely ad-libs the ending as an unlikely series of random and accelerating natural disasters; a thunderstorm breaking a dam, a cavalry charge through the resulting flood, an erupting volcano, and skyrocketing food prices (notably kreplach), to which J.L. asks, "Is that all?" At his wit's end, Daffy exclaims in defeat, "There was nothing for the Scarlet Pumpernickel to do, but blow his brains out, which he did." Daffy then grabs a gun and 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".
Animation historian Greg Ford writes, "It's the 'real-life' Daffy, as seen in the cartoon's wraparound plot of the studio script meeting, that best clues us in to what separates this film from the spate of animated genre parodies currently being churned out. Most modern-day satires trade on anachronism, and the hero and the audience end up complicit in their smug superiority to the antiquated vehicle. But what's funny about The Scarlet Pumpernickel is the tremendous investment its hero puts into his costumed character, and the vast chasm that yawns between Daffy's inflated perception of himself and the highly flawed little black duck that he really is."
- Mel Blanc as Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Sylvester, Elmer Fudd, and J.L.
- Bea Benaderet as Melissa Duck (uncredited)
This Looney Tunes short has an 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).
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.
The Scarlet Pumpernickel is available, uncensored, digitally restored and uncut on Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 1. It is also available on The Essential Daffy Duck DVD, the Carrotblanca VHS and the Looney Tunes Collectors Edition: Running Amuck VHS from Columbia House. It is also available on DVD and Blu-Ray in the Looney Tunes Platinum Collection: Volume 1.
- Beck, Jerry (1991). I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat: Fifty Years of Sylvester and Tweety. New York: Henry Holt and Co. p. 101. ISBN 0-8050-1644-9.
- Beck, Jerry; Friedwald, Will (1989). Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies: A Complete Illustrated Guide to the Warner Bros. Cartoons. Henry Holt and Co. p. 208. ISBN 0-8050-0894-2.
- Lenburg, Jeff (1999). The Encyclopedia of Animated Cartoons. Checkmark Books. pp. 70–72. ISBN 0-8160-3831-7. Retrieved 6 June 2020.
- Beck, Jerry (ed.) (1994). The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals. Atlanta: Turner Publishing.
- Beck, Jerry, ed. (2020). The 100 Greatest Looney Tunes Cartoons. Insight Editions. p. 167. ISBN 978-1-64722-137-9.
- Barrier, Michael. Audio commentary for The Scarlet Pumpernickel on disc two of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 1.
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