Sunday, 4 November 2012

215. A Feud There Was (1938)

Warner cartoon no. 214.
Release date: September 24, 1938.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Tex Avery.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (Elmer Fudd / Egghead), Non-Stop Corrigan, Cuckoo Bird, Various Hillbillies), Billy Bletcher (Weaver from Audience / McCoy at Cellar Door) - and 'The Sons of the Pioneers'.
Story: Melvin Millar.
Animation: Sid Sutherland.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Elmer Fudd Peacemaker tries to make peace of two hillbilly rivals: The Weavers and the McCoys.

This is the earliest cartoon that has fallen into its Blue Ribbon programme when it was first set up for the 1943-1944 season. However, according to Dave Mackey's site - it is supposedly the first Merrie Melodies cartoon of the 1938-1939 season starting with the green rings (even though Blue Ribboned). Another reason why this cartoon is also important is the fact that this was the first cartoon where Elmer Fudd is first mentioned. Its very debatable as to whether or not the 'Egghead' characters are still called 'Elmer' (according to the merchandising) but its only one mention in this cartoon and Elmer doesn't make his first official appearance until 'Elmer's Candid Camera' where Arthur Q. Bryan voices him - so, I'm still going to count this as an Egghead cartoon.

The cartoon begins as we discover a background setting in the countryside where it looks very peaceful and beautiful. There are birds flying at the scene enjoying the scenery. We can also hear the sounds of some off-screen yokels yodelling in the background and playing their acoustic guitar. The pan through the background with the birds flying around is a rather very slow pan as its supposed to demonstrate the peace of it at the beginning; and of course Avery's choice to add yodelling in the background.

The background music was provided by a vocal group called the 'Sons of the Pioneers'. As we enter inside a hut (we saw another one just at the beginning opposite that hut) where there are hillbillies sleeping in that room and there appears to be that each pair of hillbillies share a double-bed each. It turns out that they are very heavy snorers that as they snore their snores cause strong winds and they blow the pages from a diary to move as well as a lampshade at the top of the ceiling. The strong snoring appears to be so intense that the cuckoo in a clock attempts to step out of the clock but struggles to break through. The cuckoo then walks out and remarks, "Gosh - that's powerful snoring. Just like a hurricane!" The cuckoo then breaks into a British accent, "from the motion picture of the same name". I imagine that sequence was a reference to the film The Hurricane which came out a year earlier made by John Ford. The cuckoo even grabs out a moonshine bottle but the scene just cuts there.

I don't know which side of the hillbilly family I'm looking at but the rivals here are called the Weavers and the McCoys - a parody of 'The Martins and the Coys'. Since we are looking at the last hut - I'd say that this is the McCoys. The McCoys then wake up as their animals were sharing the same bed and they all rush out to get washed and ready.

A McCoy then rinses his face from a tub of water - and afterwards he walks over to try and find a towel as his eyes are clothes. Another hillbilly arrives at the seene to rinse but the hillbilly ends up walking over and rips off a part of his shirt as it now looks like paper towel - which is the gags shown here. I like how the braces for their shirts are unhooked to show that they are getting ready. More sleepy hillbillies are seen in the morning as they are just snoring and they use their snore to let the axe to the cutting on a piece of wood and I can see that Avery is just following influence from a 1930s gag. There is then an Irv Spence sequence that follows on with the hillbillies where we find that a hillbilly is sleeping under a tree and there is an apple that drops on top of the hillbilly. He is still asleep but has a very slow reaction where he just groans "Ouch" before going back to sleep as they are all clearly drunk.

There is some really neat timing but unusual timing by Irv Spence where the cat just walks lazily and looks very tired out. After the cat walks past a sleeping dog - the dog just wakes up and barely even barks "bow wow" as he is too drunk and lazy to chase after the cat. The cat looks back at the dog and instead of hissing rather fiercely; the cat just hisses back very weakly before walking past.

The hillbillies sleeping on the front porch are still asleep but then get up as they sing in front of a microphone and they go into song. Look at the way that the timing has been set up there. All the lazy hillbillies have been displayed with some slow-paced movement and it looks like as though that will be the remainder of the whole cartoon but then the action kicks in with the singing hillbillies and I believe the singing was by the 'Sons of the Pioneers' band. The McCoys continue to sing their brief song and I like how they just stand there very stuff but the Spence animation looks very rubbery. Then there appears to be a celebrity that arrives at the spot with the microphone where there is a little advertisement reference being noticed as the commentator records to call "Gladstone 4131" - the line is heard as: "Do you need money? Borrow on your own shot gun payed for or not. Call Gladstone 4131 and a versatile representative will call at your home or often". I like how the hillbillies just fall back to asleep with that little advertisement going on before they then go into song singing their little song - although I'm a little unsure of the song they are singing. As they continue to sing - we find some really lazy hillbillies at least trying to make some effort with their dancing by barely moving their feet to step dance.

Meanwhile there is a boy that ends up climbing on top of a chimney who is in fact a Weaver. The Weaver is to tell a message towards the McCoys in order for a fight to occur. He shouts out (what I can't quite make out what he is saying) but its a direct insult towards the hillbillies, he even makes a reference where it appears to be saying, "Bob Hope says so" and he continues to comment, "You can't shoot straight".

I'm not sure about where the voice is a reference to as this cartoon is full of unknown references - in my opinion that I can't seem to track down. Some Irv Spence animation then appear with the sleeping McCoys as they wake up and they receive the insulting message. The Weavers are in fact laughing at them to try and humiliate them. As the McCoys fire, they then shoot out the message towards the Weavers - "Do you mean it?" There is some Avery humour there where they just send each other messages back and forth by pistols. The Weavers shoot straight back towards the McCoys where they respond back (even using the words they would say dialectically) "Yas we mean it!" The feud then begins for the day as the Weavers and the McCoys are enemies - like the Martins and the Coys. We then find a shot where there is a sign that reads "Boundary line which is a river that crosses between the two houses. They then begin to fire pistols as they use their houses to help defend themselves from being killed.

One of the hillbillies from one of the enemies (maybe a McCoy) then begins to fire towards his enemies. There is a little subtle gag where as he fires - he ends a number on his adding machine which is supposed to mean how many targets and hillbillies he shot - which is a dark gag when you think of it.

The next gag for you is even darker when a McCoy just brings out a huge machine gun from the basement which is really funny. He then fires the missile and the missile lands on a pig and a chicken just minding their own business eating their foods. The missile lands on them where a plate drops and so goes ham and eggs. Very dark indeed but I've seen it in so many 1930s cartoons that the others I can't remember at the top of my head.  A Weaver (I think - I can't tell the differences) then approaches to the cellar and points with his shotgun and demands for a McCoy to identify himself. Instead, there is just a Douglas Corrigan reference. The hillbilly walks over to the cellar and asks, "Who's that down that in the cellar?"  The Corrigan character then replies, "My name is non-stop Corrigan...", if you don't know Douglas Corrigan was an American aviator who was famous for his non-stop flights, so hence the name Non-Stop Corrigan here. "I thought I was heading to Los Angeles, it was a mistake - my compass broke". The hillbilly with the gun makes a take out of that. Of course, Corrigan was famous at the time which would have been funny at the time.

In comes Egghead who step into the cartoon as he is riding some type of motorbike and at the bottom it reads "Elmer Fudd Peacemaker" and of course - this is the first mention of Elmer Fudd - but it is still clearly Egghead and his design so I'll just go along with Egghead. So the peacemaker then starts to yodel as he rides and tries to make peace with the hillbilly rivals. I like how he just slides his bowler hat down his back and bounces it back up to his head which is some funny animation.

Meanwhile there is a hillbilly who as a weird type shotgun that he pulls down to fire out bullets. He then chuckles and makes a reference to cartoon violence as it appears, "In one of these here now cartoon pictures - a body can get away with anything" I guess that was some message to add in to stop protests about the violence in cartoons??? We then find that there is a hillbilly who then finds that his old beard then gets shot from the bullets shooting straight past towards him. He then comments about it, "The old grey hair - ain't what she used to be". And he ends up breaking out into hysterical laughter. After breaking out into a jolly laugh he even states about, "Well it sounded funny if it hurts a little". He then places his hand on top of his beard to show that the beard has been cut off. Meanwhile an old mother then walks into the scene carrying a teapot with her and she is also a McCoy. She calls out the window rather loudly, "The Weavers are sissies!" She covers herself to see their reaction to that insult. Instead they fire back and the bullets then hit the teapot and tea falls out. The holes with tea pouring out even have tea landing into the cups which pleases the mother - a rather interesting gag for Avery to come up with.

A Weaver is hiding behind a barrel and continues to fire but instead aims for a poultry house. We find a chicken inside where she hatches her eggs. She steps out of her nest with glee over the eggs. 'Chicken Reel' is of course played in the background. The bullets then strike at the eggs as the yolks fall out.

The chicken then looks at the egg very sadly and appears to quote a reference that I can't seem to find where it is from. The chicken just comments rather sadly, "Three days work - all shot to pieces" unless it could be some reference to the Depression days but Im not sure. The chicken just shrugs after the eggs have been shot. Meanwhile the fighting between the Weavers and the McCoys and it continues on as Egghead (Elmer Fudd Peacemaker) arrives at the porch for one of the enemies' front porches and there is still firing going outside from their guns.  As the shooting still goes on - we hear the knocking on the door where the peacemaker just knocks and he remarks, "Gentlemen - let this be an end to this meaningless massacre. Let there be peace". Irv Spence animation there - at least by telling the posing of the hillbillies. Egghead then walks out of the scene yodelling but he gets shot in the fanny by the bullets. The hillbillies all laugh and mock the peacemaker and they rush back inside the house to continue the feud.

I like how inside the house we just find a hillbilly who is just sitting on a mattress and pulling the trigger like the guns to see in amusement parks. A McCoy then looks over and he expresses his hatred towards the Weavers. He shouts about how he hates the weavers and even goes as far as to shout:

"Is there a Weaver in the audience?", it turns out there is a Weaver as he is in silhouette and waves his arms out, he shouts, "Yeah, ya skunk!" - he then brings out his pistol and fires straight towards the McCoy in the rear end which causes him to jump in reaction. From what I've seen - the feud gags meant really nothing to me - but I thought that was a very funny gag to add an audience member in there - that would've got a laugh back then. The McCoy then jumps out of the window from the pain of being shot in the rear end - but still it was a funny sequence. As the massacre still goes on - Egghead arrives at the end to approach to the Weavers - okay, I think I'm starting to see the differences - the Weavers have red beards and the McCoys have black beards. Oh dear, it took me almost the whole cartoon to figure out the differences. Egghead rides over to the Weavers household where he uses his own characteristic yodel and rides on his little scooter.

He knocks on the door of the household of the Weavers. The Weaves hear the knocking on the door and they answer it as Egghead (Elmer Fudd peacemaker) walks over and he gives them the same message to end the massacre, "My friends - let there be peace. Good day all". He then walks over hoping the feud will be settled but the Weavers take his advice as offence and they just shoot him instead. Of course - Irv Spence's animations style in this cartoon is dominated throughout and this is one of his scenes.

More feud and fighting still continue as it looks like a McCoy is shooting a Weaver in the face and yet there appears to be no reaction out of it which is nuts! A referee then arrives at the two shooters that are just shooting each other and they are supposed to be dead. The referee arrives at the scene and he blows his whistle. He calls to the McCoy - "You're offside, five yards penalty for you bud!" he then carries the little hillbilly five yards back and after being picked up five yards - he then resumes shooting. That was a rather little humorous part where they even have rules to the feud which makes it very odd and funny since arguments and feuds often don't have rules - even for feuding separate hillbilly families. The shooting then continues from the point after being moved five yards.

Egghead the peacemaker then arrives at the scene where he plans to end the feud right at the spot. He blows in his whistle and he then comments, "Gentlemen, I've spoken to you time and time again - I've begged - I've pleaded with you it is apparent that you stop this useless slaughter - we must have peace".

He continues to beg to end the fight as it is very continuous. The two enemies then look at him with disgust as he demands peace. The McCoys are standing at their front porch as they shout, "So its peace they want huh?" in that Irv Spence sequence (who started off with Egghead's plead to the rivals disgusted of wanting peace). There appears to be a reference (although I don't think its supposedly a Durante one) where he comments, "We'll give him plenty of peace". The Weavers even have the same thought as the McCoy as the boys then follow on and they plan on banging up towards Egghead the peacemaker. It rather amuses me about the fact that Egghead is the voice of peace in this organ and they play the church organ in the music to help demonstrate peace.

 The two hillbillies then walk over to Egghead as they begin to threaten him, "Now what did 'y'all say?" Egghead responds to their answer and he replies back, "I say - we must have peace". At that point the hillbillies then jump over towards the peacemaker where there is smoke covering the scene as he is being beaten up by the two hillbilly groups. The peacemaker then concludes by yodelling the last part and he sweeps himself as he has managed to win the fight against the group against him. That is rather amusing since he is indestructible.

Afterwards - he then comments towards the audience as he announces - "Good night, all". A Weaver in the audience again then shouts back "Good night" and shoots straight back at Egghead. That was just amusing since he thought that he had made peace but it turns out there is one Weaver in the audience from earlier on that shoots the peacemaker knowing the conflict is still there. Ha-hah.

Overall comments: The fact that this cartoon may be important just because of the first use of the name "Elmer Fudd" wouldn't mean that he's Elmer from that point on even though its still clearly Egghead. Overall - I find that this cartoon appears to rely too much on radio or advertisement references - even though the cartoons used them frequently most of the time but it felt like most of the gags were just references. Avery still gets to have fun fun with the silhouette audience which is rather amusing that the Weaver just shoots after his own enemy.

As for the animation in this cartoon - I will speak very briefly that it appears that Irv Spence did the most animation out of the other animators as his style is all over it. I recall that the name 'Weavers' and 'McCoys' was already used before when Freleng made 'When I Yoo Hoo' - but Bob McKimson wouldn't make a funnier cartoon later on with Bugs facing two hillbillies 12 years later... I admit that is pretty much all I have to say about my overall comments for this cartoon - and I couldn't come up with much to say other than it wasn't the cartoon I thought was hilarious - and it was pretty much a hit-and-miss.


  1. "Do ya mean it?" is from the Mad Russian (Bert Gordon) on Eddie Cantor's show.
    It doesn't sound like the kid is talking about Bob Hope. I thought he said "Papo" as in his father.

  2. The "grey hair" reaction line is "Well, it sounded funny in rehearsal, anyway."

    The ham-and-eggs gag was used in Avery's "Little Johnny Jet," right down to the camera trucking in on the plate.

  3. The cartoon was re-released in 1953 with the green THE END rings.It's the only one with the THE END rings re-release to have the 1937-1938 season's Merrie Melodies close music.

    The "In these here cartoons, a body can get away with anything" comment is a reference to the magic of animation!!Steve C.

  4. Boy in chimney taunts,
    "McCoys is skunks-Poppo said so!
    You-uns can't shoot straight! McCoys is varmints!
    McCoys is skunks..."

  5. Poppo is the name Patty Duke gives her dad as Patty Lane on her later TV show.

  6. The Sons Of The Pioneers is an extremely famous Country & Western singing group that began in 1931 and continues to exist today. The members in 1938 were Bob Nolan, Tim Spencer, Hugh Farr, Karl Farr, Lloyd Perryman, Pat Brady and the group's lead singer (who has the solos in this cartoon) Leonard Slye, aka Roy Rogers. The group appeared in 87 films, many of them the films that Rogers made at Republic Pictures. Their most famous songs are "Cool Water" and "Tumblin' Tumbleweeds."

  7. Another version of this story was Disney's "The Martins and the Coys: A Contemporary Folk Tale." It was based on the legendary Hatfield–McCoy feud. The story of the feud has become a modern symbol of the perils of family honor, justice, and vengeance. Personally, I enjoyed the Disney version better.

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