This week’s installment of Foghorn February adds a th-ertain th-lobbering tomcat into the mix!
Crowing Pains marks the second appearance of the loud-mouthed barnyard rooster, known as Foghorn Leghorn. Jack Clifford’s Sheriff character might’ve served as an influence on the rooster’s voice and mannerisms, but Kenny Delmar’s Southern windbag Senator Claghorn became a more significant source after he first appeared on Fred Allen’s radio show on October 7, 1945. The dialogue track for this cartoon occurred eight weeks after Delmar’s debut on November 24; by then, Foghorn’s dialogue now consisted of an amalgamation of the Sheriff and Claghorn’s attributes. Claghorn often affixed sentences with “that is,” and uttered “That’s a joke, son!” which are noticeably absent from the earlier Walky Talky Hawky. Kenny Delmar would later lend his Southern vocal delivery for the voice of “The Hunter,” used in Total Television’s King Leonardo and His Short Subjects (1960-63). Here is a clip from Claghorn’s first appearance:
The rooster’s voice and mannerisms in Crowing Pains now have a taxing effect on audiences, much like the diminutive “blabbermouth” characters used in different Warners cartoons, such as Gabby Goose, Little Blabbermouse, and the later incarnation of Sniffles the Mouse. Given Claghorn’s immense popularity on airwaves by the time of the cartoon’s July 1947 release, the pompous spouting from the rooster in scene 5 (brilliantly animated by Manny Gould) seems wholly justifiable. And, at this point in Warners cartoons, supporting characters hadn’t silenced any featured bigmouths in the way the tomcat does in this cartoon.
Crowing Pains also marks McKimson’s first usage of the slobbering tomcat, which we all know as Sylvester. The character debuted in Friz Freleng’s Life with Feathers (1945), and later appeared in two other cartoons, Peck Up Your Troubles (Freleng/1945), and Bob Clampett’s Kitty Kornered (1946). Mel Blanc based the lisping voice around his character, also named Sylvester, which he performed on The Judy Canova Show, even before the feline debuted on screen. However, the tomcat hadn’t been named that until Chuck Jones’ Scaredy Cat (1948). In addition, Warners characters from other series wouldn’t appear in the barnyard with the rooster, until much later, when Daffy Duck interferes with the rooster and dog’s rivalry in The High and the Flighty (1956).
In Freleng’s Tweetie Pie (1947), he was paired with the titular yellow canary, which generated a series of cartoons after that film received an Academy Award. The directors seemed to realize the comedic potential of Sylvester, since Tweetie Pie and this cartoon were in production close to each other. Tweetie had two dialogue recordings in early July 1945, about four months before McKimson’s cartoon. Another dialogue recording for Crowing Pains occurred on December 1, with Robert C. Bruce (the narrator in some of Tex Avery’s travelogue parodies at Warners) providing the dog’s only line of dialogue. Evidently, Mel Blanc was away in New York from November 26 until December 16 — possibly for his work on various radio broadcasts — which may explain Bruce’s insertion into the film.
Izzy Ellis, a former Iwerks artist and animator for many of the black-and-white Looney Tunes, has a loose drawing/animation style in contrast to the other animators. Ellis animates Sylvester attempting to escape from Henery, encased in an eggshell outfit, in scene 17. As Henery catches up to him after trying to hide, Sylvester inexplicably splits into multiplies of himself before running off. Ellis also handles the hysterical sequence in scene 19, when the dog evicts Sylvester from his doghouse, but not before stomping and kicking him in the process.
The lack of credit for Anatolle Kirsanoff and Fred Abranz still prevails in this cartoon; though John Carey is credited on-screen, he is only assigned to three brief scenes. Little documentation survives to answer the reasoning in what seems to be injustice for some readers; as seen in other previously analyzed McKimson cartoons, their work was still exceptional. Their work can be given belated but proper credit, and it especially deserves its due in Crowing Pains. In scene 21, Kirsanoff animates Sylvester, in pure seething rage, picking up a croquet mallet to smash the egg. Abranz continues the action in scene 22, as Henery bursts out of the egg. In a bizarre piece of staging, the shock becomes too much for Sylvester; he proceeds to yank on his tail, pulling his head down between from his shoulders, like a popgun.
Crowing Pains, for many years, circulated in its Blue Ribbon reissues, but the original opening titles have been reinstated. The most surprising detail, besides Henery Hawk’s star billing, is that the chicken hawk addresses the audience in his title card. It’s also nice to hear Carl Stalling’s soothing rendition to “Time Waits For No One,” with the beautiful scenic layout of the rooster, Sylvester, the dog and tiny Henery looking out into the sunrise, reprised near the end of the cartoon.
Enjoy this week’s breakdown video! There’ll be plenty more Foghorn in this next installment…
(Thanks to Michael Barrier, Keith Scott and Frank Young for their help.)