The Scarlet Pumpernickel is an animated Warner Bros.Looney Tunes theatrical cartoon short released in 1950, directed by Chuck Jones and written by Michael Maltese. The cartoon was released at the same time as Cinderella, an animated feature film produced by Walt Disney. Although the title (invoking a type of bread instead of a flower) is a pun on The Scarlet Pimpernel, the Pumpernickel is given a portrayal closer to that of Robin Hood: after Daffy fails to perform a stunt, he mutters that "I'll have to check with Errol," and a costumed appearance more like Zorro, with cape, mask and sword, none of which the Pimpernel used. His alter ego the "Nobleman disguise" is, however, more in line with wealthy English fop Sir Percy Blakeney of the Pimpernel fame. In 1994 it was voted #31 of the 50 Greatest Cartoons of all time by members of the animation field.
The cartoon is a story-within-a-story. Daffy Duck is fed up with comedy and wants to try some more serious roles. He offers a script to the Warner Bros. executive "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 another page number. By the cartoon's end, the script has exceeded 2 thousand pages (movie scripts much in excess of 100 pages were usually rejected as too long back in those days). In this script, the clumsy Scarlet Pumpernickel (Daffy) must save the Fair Lady Melissa from being married to a man she does not love, the Grand Duke (Sylvester) under the Lord High Chamberlain's (Porky Pig) orders. Melissa loves Scarlet, but her happy mood is extinguished in a heartbeat when the Chamberlain orders her to "keep away from that masked stinker". The Chamberlain gets a brilliant plan and decides to marry Melissa to the Grand Duke in exchange for killing the Scarlet Pumpernickel. Toward the end, 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. Daffy, as the scriptwriter, overdoes the ending as an unlikely series of random and accelerating natural disasters, including skyrocketing food prices (most notably "kreplach").
This cartoon is Henery Hawk's second appearance in a Daffy Duck cartoon, after 1948's You Were Never Duckier - notable for being the first "transitional" Daffy cartoon (from "screwball" to a greedy, self-centered character), the first cartoon in WB's own TV packages (cartoons released 8/1/1948 or later) to be released, and the first such cartoon to be reissued (only one of five without credits).
This is only one of three cartoons that Melissa Duck stars in (the others being 1953's "Muscle Tussle" and the late 1980s cartoon short, "The Duxorcist"). She is Daffy's girlfriend in both. She has survived, however, and has become a regular on Baby Looney Tunes, the 2002 series that tells about the childhood of the Looney Tunes characters.
This short was one of the few times that Mel Blanc voiced Elmer Fudd, who plays the role of an innkeeper here. Elmer was usually voiced by Arthur Q. Bryan, but since the character had only one line of dialogue, Mel Blanc was told to go ahead and imitate the Bryan's voice for the character. Blanc did not like imitating, however, believing it to be stealing from another actor.Michael Barrier. Audio commentary for The Scarlet Pumpernickel on disc two of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 1.
This is one of the few cartoons that are set on the Warner lot in Burbank, California, and is also one of the few cartoons that have numerous references to the Warner Bros. co-founder, Jack Warner, who is called J.L. in this short (as is normally done in the WB cartoons when referring to the studio chief).
The cartoon was reissued as a Merrie Melodies "Blue Ribbon" classic. The original opening rings were replaced, but like the other later "Blue Ribbon" reissues (1956 onward), the original opening credits were intact. The "Blue Ribbon" opening rings are the ones featured on the DVD release, however, there are still prints with the original opening rings.
This is the only Chuck Jones-directed Porky/Sylvester cartoon in which the latter speaks. In the cartoons where Porky and Sylvester explore spooky settings (Scaredy Cat, Claws for Alarm, and Jumpin' Jupiter), Sylvester is a mute (additionally like this cartoon, Scaredy Cat also features a suicide gag that is often censored on TV).
In this cartoon, Daffy's middle name is revealed to be Dumas, but Bugs said his middle name is Sheldon in The Looney Tunes Show.
This cartoon for notable for only two cartoon were Porky Pig and Elmer Fudd paired together, unseen. Also, the only cartoon where Sylvester and Elmer Fudd were paired together in a Chuck Jones cartoon, the rest of the 4 were Friz Freleng. This is only cartoon Were Elmer Fudd and Porky Pig to co-star with Sylvester, Porky and Sylvester continued in Chuck Jones series in 1954 "Claws for Alarm" and Elmer and Sylvester continued in the Friz Freleng series in 1955 "Heir-Conditioned"
The ending of the cartoon after Daffy pitches the scene in which the price of food skyrockets (where Daffy acts out the suicide of The Scarlet Pumpernickel) is almost always edited on television, but in different ways:
On ABC and the syndicated run of The Merrie Melodies Show, there is a frozen shot of the outside of the office at the point where Daffy shoots himself in the head so that the viewer doesn't see him actually doing it then cuts back to the interior of the office where Daffy says, "It's getting so you have to kill yourself to sell a story around here" before passing out again.
On Nickelodeon, the scene is edited similarly to ABC's and the Merrie Melodies Show edit, but superimposed over the suicide gunshot visual is a repeat shot of the outside of the office, shown in reverse (whether or not this was a mistake is unknown).
Cartoon Network once edited out the suicide gag by irising out after Daffy asks "Is that all?" when the cartoon aired as part of the channel's "50 Greatest Cartoons of All Time" marathon. Every other print after that edited the scene by freezing on the shot of the kreplach costing $1000 and once Daffy says, "Is that all?", it jumps to Daffy's "It's getting so you have to kill yourself to sell a story around here" line that ends the short, making it obvious to even the most naive viewer that something was edited.
On a July 13, 2012 installment of Cartoon Network's Looney Tunes Show (not the 2011 animated sitcom, the anthology show of actual Looney Tunes shorts from the 1930s to the 1960s), the cartoon was re-edited. The suicide part was still cut, but it was cut the same way it was on the channel's "50 Greatest Cartoons of All Time" marathon (read: the cartoon ends after Daffy says, "Is that all?!"), only instead of an iris-out, it's a fade-out followed by the "That's All Folks!" card (thus answering Daffy's question very surreptitiously). As of 2014, the July 2012 edit is the version that airs whenever Cartoon Network airs its Looney Tunes block and is also the version that airs on Cartoon Network's sister channel, Boomerang.