This week’s installment of “Warners Wednesday” features Foghorn Leghorn – “a natural born father”…
Foghorn Leghorn’s cartoons could have been mired into formulaic premises, with similar situations such as little Henery Hawk’s confusion over whether Foghorn or the Barnyard Dawg is a chicken, or Foggy’s ignoring the nuptial advances of the lovesick spinster Miss Prissy. Foghorn’s boastful and overbearing nature, along with the contrasts of the supporting characters, avoid such restrictions.
Little Boy Boo uses a different alternative with the talkative rooster. Foghorn becomes a potential father figure to Miss Prissy’s large-headed, bookish son, not so much to allure the widow hen, but to re-locate to a warmer home than his dilapidated shack. In one of Mel Blanc’s brilliant line readings, Foghorn’s flattery borders on a touch of insincerity on his feelings for Prissy (voiced here by Gladys Holland, sped up), as he pleads, “I need your love to keep me warm…” (a play on the lyric of Irving Berlin’s popular song, I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm” – introduced in the 1937 Fox musical On the Avenue).
In this film, the animators are mostly given extended sequences, throughout each of Foghorn’s attempts to secure Miss Prissy’s “cozy little roost.” Charles McKimson’s work on Little Boy Boo isn’t as lengthy as the other animators. He handles brief sections, such as Foghorn observing Miss Prissy’s home from his shack, and the first few scenes of Foghorn with Prissy’s egghead son, up until Foghorn pries the baseball out of his mouth. Herman Cohen animates Foghorn’s hasty courtship and proposal to Miss Prissy, and, in another great delivery from Mel Blanc, his reactions to the unexpected possibilities of fatherhood. Cohen animates a section that occurs later in the film, when her son’s paper fighter airplane guns down Foghorn’s old-fashioned aircraft.
Rod Scribner animates almost all of the scenes during the baseball game, in some of his finest work for the studio. McKimson seemed to have left Scribner alone with his animation on this film, confident in his ability to convey the raw emotion and violent action of these gags throughout. Scribner’s animation does reveal some subtleties; the kid’s struggles to lift up the large bat—with some foreshortening for an added measure—as Foghorn walks away to throw the baseball. In scene 20, which follows after, the egghead hits the baseball down Foghorn’s throat and into his stomach—it’s certainly worth freeze-framing for the hysterical drawings alone. Charles McKimson animates the start of the running gag in the cartoon at the end of this scene—the egghead produces scientific explanations, which “add up” to his newborn skill in games unsuited for his intellectual type.
Phil De Lara is given the last sections of the cartoon, including Foghorn and the egghead’s game of hide-and-seek. It seems that Foghorn’s shock from egghead finding a different hiding spot leads him to be kind enough to heed the boy’s scholarly interests.
Only after the obvious results of tampering with liquid chemicals—from a “harmless” chemical set—does Foghorn bring him back to his mother and cancel the matrimony. Interestingly, Scribner is credited for a brief shot of Miss Prissy inside the house, before Foghorn pushes the egghead back inside.
The draft for Little Boy Boo indicates a deleted section, where Foghorn and the ‘egghead’ play a game of “cowboys and Indians.” This was inserted into the kid’s next appearance, Feather Dusted, released about six months after this film. In that later film, Foghorn, dresses in a Native American headdress. The junior egghead, donning a coonskin cap, brandishes a popgun, which fires real ammunition after Foghorn pulls the cork. The gag itself is lifted from a Freleng Sylvester/Tweety, Gift Wrapped (1952), presumably released by the time Little Boy Boo started production. Naturally, this was before viewers noticed the similarity in various gags and routines from different Warners cartoons.
Comments from last week’s installment noted that after the Warners’ animation department reopened its doors, Carl Stalling’s musical scores relied less on popular songs culled from their music library. The final cartoons scored by Stalling before the shutdown have the last remaining traces of these methods before he mostly composed original melodies, with a few hit tunes incorporated for appropriate sequences.
The opening scenes with Foghorn inside his shack are accompanied by Al Dubin and Harry Warren’s “September in the Rain,” introduced in the 1937 film Melody for Two. Gus Kahn and Isham Jones’ “It Had to Be You” underscores Foghorn confessing his “love” to Prissy. The World War I-era song “Dear Little Boy of Mine” is played during the introduction of the egghead, reading his giant book of Splitting the Fourth Dimension. During the paper airplane sequence, Stalling uses a contrast of different music cues; a fluttery rendition of the 1938 hit song “The Umbrella Man” (Vincent Rose-Larry Stock-James Cavanaugh) plays as Foghorn flies his simple aircraft, and, when the egghead sends his jet fighter into the air, Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer’s “Captains of the Clouds”—introduced in the titular 1942 James Cagney vehicle—plays, arranged in a heroic, brassier version.
(Thanks to Jerry Beck, Keith Scott, Jon Cooke and Frank Young for their help with this post.)