BAXTER'S BREAKDOWNS
April 18, 2018 posted by Devon Baxter

Robert McKimson’s “Of Rice and Hen” (1953)

“Oh doggy, you’re gonna get your lumps…” This week features our favorite loud-mouthed barnyard schnook rooster, Foghorn Leghorn!

Around May 1949, story men Tedd Pierce and Warren Foster switched directorial units. Pierce shifted to Bob McKimson and Foster was transplanted to Friz Freleng’s unit. While Pierce wrote stories for McKimson throughout the 1950s, Foster would write for McKimson on occasion, such as with Of Rice and Hen. He is credited for the story of Too Hop to Handle (1956), which was in early production before McKimson’s unit took a studio cutback two months before the 1953 shutdown. After the shutdown, The Unexpected Pest (1956) went into production, while Tedd Pierce served as a story man for Chuck Jones since his regular story man Mike Maltese was still employed at Walter Lantz’s studio. Foster is credited in a later film, A Broken Leghorn (1959), released after he left the studio to join Hanna-Barbera as a writer.

No records survive of the recording session dates between Mel Blanc and Bea Benadaret (as Miss Prissy and the mother hens), but the jam session for this title (production #1242) might have occurred sometime between February and March 1951. To further the point, the story conference for Jones’ Duck Amuck (#1240) took place on February 15, 1951 and Forward March Hare (#1243) occurred on March 23, 1951. By March 1951, the late Bob Givens returned to Warner Bros. to work as a layout artist for McKimson’s unit. Givens previously served as a story man and character designer at the studio in the late 1930s and early 1940s. In some of the film’s scenes, Givens’ layouts and Richard H. Thomas’ backgrounds display a minimal approach to the foliage; for instance, in scene 15, there are sketched and cross-hatched lines resembling a large treetop drawn around a fully rendered trunk.

McKimson assigns blocks of footage to his animators, including an uncredited Keith Darling, rather than small scenes in each cut. In the draft, some of the scene numbers (examples: scenes 3, 5, 13) are noted as one camera shot; in the film, the scenes cut closer within the camera fielding and are not noted in the document. Herman Cohen handles the introductory scenes of the downcast Miss Prissy mocked for her inability to have children, and her reaction to the blunt words from the gossipy hens. Cohen animates a great piece of character acting, as Prissy winces as one hen calls her a drip (meaning an unattractive or boring person) and she sinks lower with each letter spelt out. Phil De Lara animates Foghorn’s bouncy introduction, singing “Old Hound Dog,” while he obtains a fence post for the Barnyard Dawg’s “lumps”—his trademark method of instigating his rival. The song itself was an original composition written by Warren Foster, accompanied by a Cuban rhumba beat, composed by Carl Stalling and arranged by Milt Franklyn.

As Jaime Weinman pointed out on his insightful—now defunct—blog, Rod Scribner’s animation of Foghorn’s reaction to Miss Prissy’s suicide attempt (scene 11) is a prime example of his ability to move characters’ bodies in all directions at once through his extreme poses. Infatuated with Foghorn after his noble deed, Miss Prissy’s advances towards Foghorn are sudden, but she also mixes up her coquette-like affection, as animated by Charles McKimson. First, she grabs him and plants a quick kiss, but only after, she drops a handkerchief at his feet before exiting the frame. Foghorn disregards her captivation at first and resumes to paddle the dog’s rear (as animated by Phil De Lara).

Herman Cohen’s animation continues Prissy’s eccentric courtship, as she dresses in flamenco attire and plays the castanets to the accompaniment of Tolchard Evans and Erell Reaves’ hit tune “The Lady of Spain”. After Foghorn learns her intentions of matrimony, he refuses, as he tells Prissy to “turn your damper down” and continues to torment the Barnyard Dawg. Scene 21 has some great staging and timing, when Foghorn lights a firecracker to toss into the doghouse with the sleeping Dawg inside, but ultimately backfires. Scribner adds a great capper to the scene, when the scorched and wobbly Foghorn emerges from the doghouse on all fours.

Scribner also animates Prissy preparing a picnic for Foghorn, but he dismisses her advances again, as he pulls on the drawstrings of Prissy’s bonnets for her to listen. Charles McKimson handles an extended section of the dispirited Prissy conspiring with the Barnyard Dawg to play “hard to get,” pretending to ignore Foghorn’s dignified greeting, much to his surprise. De Lara animates the dog dressing up as a rooster suitor, promising her gifts and vacations, which angers Foghorn and leads to a fight between the two, with great posing/animation by Scribner. McKimson animates the marriage between Foghorn and Prissy—his victory is momentary as he realizes his life as a bachelor has faded, indicative when he slaps himself on the cheek at the iris out.

The music cue sheet for this cartoon was prepared by April 13, 1953. Carl Stalling uses two different love songs that are appropriate for Prissy’s lovesick condition in the film. “A Little on the Lonely Side” (Frank Weldon/Dick Robertson /James Cavanaugh) is played in the underscore when Prissy is scolded for petting one of the hen’s baby chicks, and later, after Foghorn rejects her a second time. After Foghorn saves her from jumping off from the barn roof, the song “L’Amour, Toujours, L’Amour” (Rudolf Friml/Catherine Chisholm Cushing), from the 1922 musical comedy Bibi of the Boulevards, serves as the underscore. Stalling started to use this composition as a romantic theme by the early 1950s. The song is heard again when Prissy brings pastries to Foghorn at their picnic. Of Rice and Hen was released on November 14, 1953—two and a half years after production presumably began.

Enjoy!

(Thanks to Jerry Beck and Andrew Gilmore for his help.)

7 Comments

  • I prefer “Lovelorn Leghorn”, though “Of Rice and Hen” has the better ending.

    Anyone know what the song is that plays over the title cards and later sung by Foghorn? imdb says it’s “Old Hound Dog”, but I’m sure it’s based on an existing song called something else.

    I dig the backgrounds in this short. The ground is textured like a typical short of the time, but the sky/clouds are done in crayon. The combo strangely works well.

    • The cue sheet says “Old Hound Dog” by Warren Foster (it is registered with ASCAP), but the arrangement makes it sound like any number of calypso songs.

  • “That gal reminds me of the highway between Fort Worth and Dallas: no curves.” One of my all time favorite Foghorn lines.

    • One of my favorite Foggy lines too, though the Tom Landry Freeway (I-30) has some bends, if not outright curves.

  • Never knew “L’Amourt Tojorus :L’amour” was from a musical! As for “Little on tyhe Lonely side”, it was used in an earlier WB cartoon, 1948’s “A Hick, A Slick, A Chick”{ directed by Art Davis, with another Frank Weldon song, “Rural Rhymthm./”-

  • A year or two before this, Bob was prone to giving most of the close-up scenes to Charles — there’s less of that here, but the other McKimson still seems to be the go-to guy for the more precise reactions in close-up scenes.

    (Just as Foster would still do some stories for McKimson, Pierce would team with Friz once more in 1956 for “Two Crows from Tacos”, which introduced Jose and Manuel, who Freleng would get a lot more mileage out of, working with Foster and John Dunn over the next six years.)

  • PLus this has always been one of my favorite Foghorns.

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