San Diego Classic Film Calendar

Saturday, February 13, 2016

You Must Remember This…A Kiss Is Just a Kiss Blogathon – Bugs and Elmer

This post is part of the You Must Remember This…A Kiss Is Just a Kiss blogathon, hosted by Second Sight Cinema.



I think Leslie at Second Sight Cinema posted the Bugs and Elmer graphic above as a joke. Since I was kind of late getting on board, and I love old cartoons, it seemed like a natural for me.

Between the 1930s and 1960s, Warner Brothers produced several hundred cartoons under the Merry Melodies and Looney Tunes imprints. The most popular character of course is Bugs Bunny. According to Wikipedia, Bugs appeared in more films than any other cartoon character. While he often starred with Elmer Fudd, he also starred with Daffy Duck and Yosemite Sam in numerous films. In addition, Bugs made quite a few films, with one-off characters, like a boxer, a baseball player, and a circus lion. He starred with a mad scientist twice, including one played by a Peter Lorre parody.

My best friend has a theory that Bugs Bunny was the first gay cartoon character, and I think you can make a good case for it. Think about it, every chance he got, Bugs dressed in drag. When it came time to kiss someone, did Bugs kiss his trophy wife, Honey Bunny? No, he kissed Elmer, Yosemite Sam, or some other dude. 


Bugs and Elmer's first kiss from "A Wild Hare" ain't love grand
When you think of Bugs and Elmer, you think kissing. But I watched about 25 or 30 Bugs and Elmer cartoons, and less than half had them kiss. Often they were in kissing situations, but didn't actually kiss. Probably their most famous cartoon, "What's Opera Doc," where Bugs dresses in drag as a Valkyrie warrior, they do not kiss or even come close to it. One of the advantages of watching all of this is that I stumbled onto a lot of great old Hollywood stuff. For example, "Slick Hare," starring Bugs and Elmer features numerous star appearances, including Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, and great gag with Ray Milland paying his bar tab with a typewriter and getting change in little tiny typewriters. Again, no kissing.

As far this blogathon is concerned, I didn't think I could pull off a full post on a 7-minute cartoon. I decided the best approach would be to watch as many Bugs and Elmer cartoons as I could find. Then I covered all of the ones that had either kissing-like situations or actual kissing, a total of 15 cartoons. I broke these into Near Kisses and Kisses and ranked them from bottom to top. 

If you care, the rest of this post does contain SPOILERS.

Near Kisses

6. "Rabbit Romeo" (directed by Robert McKimson) – Elmer Fudd gets a delivery of a Slobovenian rabbit (Millicent) from his Uncle Judd Fudd. Millicent is heavy and being kind somewhat less than pretty. She talks like Natasha from Rocky and Bullwinkle and is desparate for a husband. Elmer catches Bugs Bunny and introduce him to Millicent. At one point, Bugs tricks her into kissing a goldfish instead of him. The goldfish promply commits suicide. Later Millicent kisses Bugs on both cheeks and Bugs goes to great effort to avoid kissing again. Admittedly Millicent is no prize, but since Bugs goes to such lengths to avoid kissing her, it kind of makes a case for the Bugs being gay argument. At the end of the cartoon, Bugs dresses Elmer up as a rabbit. It ends with Millicent chasing after Elmer, trying to kiss him. Seems like both Bugs and Elmer would rather be kissing each other if you ask me.


5. "The Big Snooze" (directed by Bob Clampett, uncredited) – Elmer Fudd frustrated with Bugs Bunny's abuse tears up his contract with Mr. Warner and swears off hunting to go fishing. Elmer falls asleep. Bugs takes sleeping pills so he can invade Elmer's dreams. The cartoon gets very surreal at this point. Through most of the dream sequence, Elmer is almost naked wearing a wreath of leaves on his naughty bits. Bugs puts Elmer in drag, and the animators make Elmer way sexy. Bugs changes the scene to Hollywood and Vine, where several wolves chase after Elmer. There's no kissing, but with the wolves chasing after sexy drag Elmer, I think this counts as a near kiss.

4. "Hare Remover" (directed by Frank Tashlin) – Elmer Fudd plays a scientist (Dr. Jeckyl parody) and tries to turn animals into devilish fiends. He tries it on his dog first, but it doesn't work. He then sets a rabbit trap for Bugs Bunny.  He gives Bugs the formula but nothing happens. Elmer breaks down crying, and Bugs makes a tonic to make him feel better. Through a misunderstanding, Bugs thinks that a bear is Elmer (changed by his tonic to a monster). Bugs kisses the bear thinking it's Elmer. Later through a similar misunderstanding, Elmer thinks that the same bear is Bugs (changed by his tonic). Elmer kisses the bear thinking it's Bugs. Technically, Bugs and Elmer do not kiss each other, but mentally and spiritually, oh yeah.

3. "Easter Yeggs" (directed by Robert McKimson) – The Easter Bunny cons Bugs Bunny into delivering his eggs for him. The first stop is Dead End Kid, a red headed juvenile delinquent, who nearly kills Bugs. The next stop is Elmer Fudd's house, where Elmer has laid a trap for the Easter Bunny.  Later, Elmer digs a pit and covers it up. When Bugs falls in, Elmer fills it with water. Bugs floats out in a life raft and into a hollow log. Elmer follows him in. On the other side of the log is a Tunnel of Love sign. Bugs and Elmer come out in a close embrace. There's no kissing shown but I'm thinking they were making out in that tunnel. 

2. "Bugs Bonnets" (directed by Chuck Jones) – The Narrator explains that costumes can influence behavior. Even a simple hunting cap on a mild-mannered character (Elmer Fudd) immediately turns him into a hunter out for rabbit (Bugs Bunny's) blood. To explore the phenomenon further, they have a truckload of assorted hats dropped into the woods. the rest of the cartoon is Bugs and Elmer switching hats and of course acting how the hats dictate. The key comes near the end of the cartoon, when Elmer dons a bridal veil and Bugs a top hat. The wedding march plays, and Bugs carries his bride (Elmer) to their honeymoon cottage. Bugs says, "... It always helps a picture to have a romantic ending. 


1. "Rabbit of Seville" (directed by Chuck Jones) – Elmer Fudd is hunting Bugs Bunny, when Bugs takes refuge in the Hollywood Bowl (presumably) during the opera. Bugs poses as a barber to abuse Elmer.  Bugs dresses in drag in green opera-ish outfit. Bugs is very much the vamp and embraces Elmer, but doesn't kiss him. Back to the barber routine, Bugs continues to mess with Elmer with various barber implements. Ultimately, Bugs offers Elmer flowers, candy, and then a ring and tricks Elmer into marrying him. Bugs carries bride Elmer up several flights of scaffoldings to their honeymoon cottage. Bugs opens the door, carries Elmer over the threshold, and drops him off into a Marriage of Figaro wedding cake.

Kisses

9. "Wideo Wabbit"  (directed by Robert McKimson) – Bugs Bunny is hired to be a guest on Elmer Fudd's hunting television show, The Sportsman's Hour. They put Bugs on ladder with an electric shocker, so that Bug will jump out of the hole on cue. Bugs runs off, and Elmer chases him through the studio. At one point, Bugs impersonates Groucho Marx, in a parody of Groucho's quiz show from the 1950s, You Bet Your Life. Elmer realizes that it is Bugs, not Groucho. Bugs takes off the mustache and glasses and kisses him. Later, Bugs does a parodies of both Liberace and Art Carney. You gotta love that.

8. "What's Up Doc" (directed by Robert McKimson) – Bugs Bunny is being interviewed by Dissociated Press. He explains his life story, how he was a rabbit born into a human world. As a child, he finds he has an affinity for music and goes into vaudeville. Ultimately, Bugs has trouble making the big in show biz. Down on his luck, he hangs out in park with other show biz has-beens, Al Jolson, Jack Benny, Eddie Cantor, and Bing Crosby. Elmer Fudd comes up, recognizes Bugs, and asks what he is doing hanging around with these bums. "They'll never amount to anything." Bugs joins Elmer's vaudeville act. At first, Bugs plays straight man to Elmer's corny jokes, until Bugs turns the tables on Elmer. On stage at gun point, Bugs stumbles on his catch phrase, "What's Up Doc" and they become a smash hit. Hollywood beacons. In a screen test, Bugs sings a "What's Up Doc" song and dances around a passive Elmer. Bugs does kiss Elmer, but as kisses go, it's nothing special. However, the cameos make this well worth watching.

7. "The Wacky Rabbit" (directed by Bob Clampett) – Elmer Fudd's character went through several incarnations. At first, he had the body we are used to, but with a head very similar to an earlier character named, Egghead. There was a brief period in the early 1940s, where they drew him much heavier. Here, fat Elmer is a prospector looking for gold in the desert. Bugs Bunny appears under a steer skull and spends most of the first part of the cartoon wearing it like a mask. Bugs tells Elmer that they have discovered gold. He shows Elmer the gold filling in his teeth. Elmer shows Bugs that he has one too. Bugs kisses Elmer and runs off and dives into his hole. While Elmer is trying to dig him out, Bugs takes some scissors and cuts off Elmer's shirt and suspenders, revealing that Elmer is wearing a dude corset. Bugs does a wolf whistle at Elmer's undergarments. You gotta love male fetishware. Elmer catches Bugs determined to get the gold tooth. He goes after Bugs. In the ensuing fight, Elmer removes his own tooth by mistake.

6. "The Old Gray Hare" (directed by Bob Clampett) – Here we see into the future, the year 2000. Elmer Fudd is old with a white mustache and hunts an old Bugs Bunny with a Buck Rogers ray guy. Bugs kisses him and hobbles off with his cane. Elmer shoots Bugs, and Bugs pretends to be dying. Bugs pulls out photo album with them as babies. They go into a flashback with baby Elmer hunting baby Bugs with a popgun. Baby Elmer crawls after baby Bugs, and they even take a nap in the middle of their chase. Eventually baby Elmer switches to a souped up baby buggie. Baby Bugs dresses as cop and pulls baby Elmer over on a pretend motorcycle. Baby Bugs kisses baby Elmer, making him cry. Back in the year 2000, Bugs continues to die, digging his own grave, but tricks Elmer into going into to it instead. Bugs buries Elmer, and Elmer says that at least Bugs is out of his life forever. Just then, Bugs digs his way into the grave, kisses Elmer, and hands him a stick of dynamite that goes off over the closing That's all Folks credits. Three kisses, two old and one as babies, the hell with Viagra.


5. "Wabbit Twouble" (directed by Bob Clampett) – Fat Elmer Fudd goes camping at Jellostone Park. Bugs Bunny puts up a sign that says, CAMP HERE. Elmer sets up camp, and the shenanigans are on. Bugs steals his tent and ties it into knots. Bugs puts dark glasses on Elmer while he's napping to make him think it's night already, then wakes him up in a minute later making him think it's morning. Elmer gets a gun to go after Bugs, but instead runs into a bear. Reading his camping book, Elmer plays dead to be safe from the bear. When the bear leaves, Bugs snarls and growls over Elmer, who still has his eyes closed. Bugs kisses Elmer, and Elmer gets a huge smile and blushes bright red. Very cute.

4. "Rabbit Fire" (directed by Chuck Jones) – Daffy Duck wears rabbit shoes to lead Elmer Fudd to Bugs Bunny's hole. There's a great verbal gag between Bugs and Daffy, "Wabbit season," "Duck season." Ultimately, Daffy dresses as a hunting dog, and Bugs dresses in drag as a woman hunter nearly shooting Elmer. Drag Bugs apologizes and kisses Elmer to make up. Elmer turns bright red, very much smitten.

3. "Hare-Brained Hypnotist" (directed by Friz Freleng) – Elmer Fudd learns hypnotism to control dumb animals of the forest. He hypnotizes a bear to make it think it's a canary bird. He tries to hypnotize Bugs Bunny, but it doesn't take, and Bugs kisses Elmer on the forehead. Things go awry when Bugs Bunny tries to teach Elmer a lesson by hypnotizing him and convincing him he's a rabbit. From there, it's a complete roll reversal, rabbit Elmer spends the rest of the cartoon messing with Bugs, including kissing him three times.

2. "A Wild Hare" (Directed by Tex Avery) – This is regarded as the first real Bug Bunny cartoon. Earlier films featured a cartoon rabbit that shared many features as Bugs, but this is where it all came together. Elmer Fudd is hunting wabbits. He find Bugs' hole and tries to lure him out with a carrot. While he is trying to get at Bugs. Bugs come out of a different hole and starts talking to Elmer who doesn't recognize him as a rabbit. Bugs come up behind Elmer puts his hands over his eyes and says, "Guess who?" Elmer guesses several actresses, Hedy Lamarr, Carole Lombard, and so on. Eventually Elmer realizes that it might be the rabbit. Bugs says, "Ummm, could be." He gives Elmer a big kiss and jumps in his hole. Elmer sticks his head down the hole, and Bugs gives him another  big kiss. Elmer sets a trap, but when he pulls out his quarry, it is a skunk. Elmer continues to talk to Bugs, bragging about how he caught him while holding the skunk. Bugs kisses him again. This is more or less the quintessential Bugs Bunny Elmer Fudd kissing cartoon. It has many of the gags that they would come back to over and over again when depicting Bugs and Elmer. As kisses go, not the greatest, but it set the standard.


1. "Rabbit Seasoning" (directed by Chuck Jones) – The cartoon opens with a play on Burma Shave advertising signs, indicating that it's Rabbit Season. As we move into to the woods we see more and more signs for Rabbit Season, including ones that lead Elmer Fudd right to Bugs Bunny's hole. Daffy Duck has put them up (it's really Duck Season). This has probably the best of the Bugs/Daffy verbal gags, pronoun trouble. The kiss comes toward the end. Bugs dresses in drag in a tight pink sweater and blond wig. Daffy asks whether Bugs has anything to say, "... out of sheer honestly." Bugs in a woman's voices says, "I would just love a duck dinner." Bugs kisses Elmer. Elmer's  eyes turn into stars, and he prances over to Daffy and shoots. Bugs, Daffy, and Elmer at their very best.

4 comments:

  1. !!—All I expected was a bit of riffing on one or another Bugs/Elmer kiss, and you post this taxonomy of Bugs/Elmer kissing, a fine piece of research and analysis! Thanks for participating in the blogathon, Chris!

    Lesley
    Second Sight Cinema

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks, it mostly was an excuse to run through all of the DVDs.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I've never thought about it before, but you're right. Bug Bunny does like to dress in drag quite often, and he never misses a chance to kiss Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, et al. Hmm...You may be onto something there.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks, there are others. Peppermint Patty from Peanuts, think about it, her best friend Marcie calls her, Sir. And of course Velma from Scooby Doo. I also have my doubts about Fred. Sure, he's supposed to be dating Daphne, but that ascot screams Fire Island to me. Still, Bugs predates all of them.

    ReplyDelete