Thursday, 21 February 2013

251. Dangerous Dan McFoo (1939)

Warner cartoon no. 250.
Release date: July 15, 1939.
Series: Merrie Melodies.
Supervision: Tex Avery.
Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Starring: Mel Blanc (The Stranger), Arthur Q. Bryan (Dangerous Dan McFoo), Sara Berner (Sue) and Robert C. Bruce (Narrator).
Story: Rich Hogan.
Animation: Paul Smith.
Musical Direction: Carl W. Stalling.
Sound: Treg Brown (uncredited).
Synopsis: Parody of The Shooting of Dan McGrew but cast as anthropomorphic dogs.

The first WB cartoon Arthur Q. Bryan voices a character; who would go on and notoriously voice Elmer Fudd until his death in 1959. Tex would have heard him from the Fibber McGee and Molly show where he played Dr. George Gamble.

The cartoon starts off outside the 'Malibu Saloon' which is evidently a sign gag already -- the sign gag reads Malibu Saloon. Here Tex Avery is already parrying the name of the saloon in the poem which is called 'Malamute Saloon' -- which is just a really silly and corny pun.

They immediately jump out with excitement and then freeze back to being drunk again -- which is a little crazy, but funny. The timing of the drunks acting rather excited was certainly some amusing and quick comic timing.

Whilst Robert C. Bruce provides the narration of the poem - 'the kid that handles the music-boc was hitting a jag-time tune'. We find the pianist playing the piano but the piano moves like a typewriter, and the piano player moves it back like one which is a very funny and unique gag. Then we find a close-up of a chorus group in tuxedos singing When I Saw Sweet Nelly Home. The camera trucks back and they're wearing dungarees. Then they stop singing, and appear to dash out of the scene...which just felt like a random sequence to me...but then again, I guess it was supposed to build up suspense.

The narrator then narrates: 'Back of the bar, in a solo game, sat Dangerous Dan McFoo' - of course parody of the character in the poem 'Dan McGrew'. The group of people unblock Dan McFoo who is then seen as a small, meek characters unlike the poem.

Now that is certainly amusing -- but for the time it was made its even more funny (or hilarious) when you hear Arthur Q. Bryan's voice who makes the perfect meek voice. McFoo is seen playing with the pinball machine.

Over in the corner is McFoo's girlfriend, who is called 'Lou' but in the original poem she's known as Sue - and is seen as a poodle in this cartoon. She looks towards the audience and comments with a Katherine Hepburn impression: 'I'm so happy to be here. Rarely I am'. Now that is also a very funny way of caricature Lou -- as being lustful. I must say I do appreciate her character designs here as she looks very appealing.

Afterwards; the guy next to Dan McFoo asks him to pull the knob in the pinball machine 'a little further, etc.' and keeps on making him extend it until he is in a position where they are roughly 20 yards away from the pinball machine. He lets go of the knob and the pinball machine makes a huge reaction. McFoo looks over at the pinball to see his hope but finds the ball goes right out in the 'out' hole.

All the other hole make a complete move to the side which is amusing and wacky. Dan McFoo cries, 'I was wobbed! I was wobbed!'. He weeps and bangs his fist on the pinball machine continuously.

After the sequence fades out - we find outside a silhouetted stranger walks towards the saloon during the blizzard. The stranger bangs on the door in order to be let in but the door slams face to the ground. Afterwards; the stranger walks out as though he's just come out of the basement. If you really analyse and consider this -- that is a surprisingly wild gag for a Warners cartoon of the 1930s. But then again, it really does feel like the type of gag he would use for one of his MGM cartoons when he made much wilder stuff. Then again, Tex in his Warners tenure would turn out something exaggerated than he would usually go - every now and then...but even in this era when he moved completely on to spot-gag cartoons.

The stranger makes a take and watches Lou walk up the stairs off-screen. As he notices her - he is already aroused and shouts out lustfully, 'What a pretty girl!! WOW!'. He watches her walk up and she turns. In a really creative POV shot; he visualises Lou as Bette Davis; which really shows that Lou was modelled after her for the cartoon.

The stranger's heart pounds very wildly and he walks over and ends up grabbing her, and tries to gain her attention. 'Your eyes...your lips..Honey, I loooove you!". I love the way Mel Blanc delivers the stranger's voice like that.

Lou pushes the Stranger's hands off him and rejects him. She responds in her Hepburn voice: 'Please don't go any further, because my heart belongs to that man'. Dan McFoo looks over and notices the issue that is going on between his lover.

He walks over and taps the stranger on the shoulder. He walks over and attempts to ask meekly and politely to take his hands off Lou. 'Pardon me but that's my girl' he warns. The stranger acts aggressive towards McFoo and screams straight towards his face: 'Well..WHAT OF IT?!'. Dan McFoo covers his face - the stranger pulls his index finger which strikes McFoo in the face - man, the gong sound effect is amazingly effective and striking.

This all turns to too much for Dan McFoo and decides to settle this with a fight, as he passively attempts to act tough towards him. Just before the fight is about to begin - the referee walks into the scene and makes the rules. This is very satirical as now 'a fight to the death' appears to have their own referee. Wow.

Lou is standing by the staircase supporting Dan McFoo and shouts towards the stranger: 'You big brute. I hope he (?) you do. Rarely I do'.

The round starts off when a streetcar enters through the saloon doors and rings. Now that is just an out-of-nowhere idea but its very funny.  The fight then starts off where the stranger punches Dan McFoo in the fist in the rhythm of Poet and Peasant Overture. The first round of the fighting sequence is really an advantage of what Tex can really do with comic timing -- and for this cartoon, it's pretty overlooked as he engages with fast-pacing and even swish lines to make the action much more suitable. During the fight - both Dan McFoo and the stranger grab onto each other's hands and appear to climb up in mid-air which is pure exaggeration but very fun.

The fight then turns into a tornado where they fight throughout the bar. Lou, supporting Dan McFoo pleads for him to be careful. There is a really bizarre but oddly funny part where Dan McFoo pops out of the tornado and replies, 'Don't worry honey - I'm not even hurt a bit, and I'll be wight out'..then he fights again. What makes it amusing is the stranger is fighting himself.

The streetcar pops over again where the first round finishes. Avery sure has a blast with comic timing where they are fighting in mid-air but freeze after the sound of the gong. They freeze in mid-air but walk down 'invisible steps'.

Afterwards the wolf sits on a chair there there is a barber who covers his mouth with foam for a shave, and also trims his hair - neat timing and pacing there. Meanwhile Lou walks over towards Dan McFoo who is slumped on the chair exhausted. She walks over with concerns, 'Oh my darling - are you hurt?' - Dan responds 'Uh-huh'. The second street-car arrives and the fight continues there.

The second round begins but this time Dan McFoo is facing the defeat whilst in the first round, it was a draw. The stranger pulls McFoo's hat down and then treats him like a punching bag and punches him by hanging him onto a hook. Some funny comic timing when the stranger prepares to aim his fist slowly but quickly bashes him out of the scene.

McFoo's body crashes into a wall and for about a few seconds he is unconscious. His own soul steps out and he walks over to fetch a bucket of water, and splashes McFoo to wake him up. Now that is Avery, at the epitome of exaggeration during his Warners tenure.

Dan McFoo calls over for the referee and makes a complaint: 'I'm not the one to complain but he's got something in his glove'. The referee then walks over towards the stranger and asks him to empty the gloves. He pulls out his glove where a couple of horseshoes fall out..but all of a sudden: a horse flies out. Now, the thought and even exaggeration of the cartoon is just hilarious - except Avery pulled out the gag similarly enough in Lonesome Lenny but he had a much better sense of comic timing by that point. Afterwards, Lou confronts McFoo and asks to be brave: 'Have courage my sweet, have courage'. She pecks him on the lips.

The third round then begins and the stranger makes a huge march towards Dan McFoo and Dan takes back of having courage and insteads runs away like a coward. He opens up the door and exits the saloon. Really weird door gag as to when they exit - which feels like the type of gags that would be before Tex's prime at MGM.

During the chase scene - the film is then freeze-framed where an off-screen commentator (still Bruce) announces: 'For the benefit of the fight fans of the audience. We will stop our camera at intervals, and enable you to see the blows as they land'.

The stranger then rugby tackles Dan McFoo...and then the fight ends up with fast-pacing commentary. Woah, the speed of the fight scenes with the swish line is remarkable! The commentator continues to comments on the actions (through the tornadoe speed lines) of McFoo licking the stranger with his boot (and its freeze framed) and even does so towards every action. The freeze frames are a very to come up with silly and funny poses for the fight all for laughs and chortles. Poor barman when the stranger whacks him by accident.

The commentator continues to make the fast talking as well as freeze-framing. The toe-to-toe is certainly very wacky and humorous. All the commentating keeps going until an unidentified man hands over two pistols towards them and says: 'Hey you mugs - take these, let's get this thing over with'.

There is then a blackout, and the narrator announces: 'the woman screams!'. Lou is about to but only lets out a tiny 'eek'. The blackout fight begins as we see dozens of firing which produces some very neat and fine effects animation which is very effective.

Why the amount of bullets and even fireworks for the fight? Exaggeration, I guess. Afterwards - a victim ends up shot and groans. The lights flash back on and Dan McFoo is lying in the ground shot dead. His lover Lou runs over and cries trying to revive him. 'Oh Dan you're hurt - my darling speak to me. Dan say something. Dan speak to me, speak to me, SPEAK TO ME' and cries over his chest. Dan immediately regains his consciousness and responds, 'Hewwo'. Lou looks at him with surprise as Dan grins. Now that ending is a hilarious conclusion and great satire to the poem as it originally ended with Sue crying over Dan McGrew's body.

Overall comments: This cartoon is definitely a cartoon what I would consider a pure Tex cartoon that has so many of his techniques and trademarks; probably a whole in one cartoon. Consider that, since the cartoon is a parody of the 'Dan McGoo' poem, and yet at the same time - he is really focusing on some pretty wild and wacky animation which is pretty much his MGM trademark; but it's definitely evident in this cartoon. Not to forget the amount of really wacky gags he has used for the cartoon anyone could mistake would've come from an MGM cartoon. This is probably why I like this cartoon a lot. The cartoon is a combination of almost all of his trademarks. Tex certainly takes a complete different step in terms of cartoon humour where it feels like he is focusing more on his comic timing; a technique which he seldom used in the 1930s - whereas he was busy focusing on radio humour and other satires. The swish lines here feel really developed, and not those type of underdeveloped ones that are visible in the early Jones or Tashlin cartoons. These ones are extremely well polished. As a whole, this really does feel like the first really exaggerated Tex Avery cartoon. Of course, you'd think I'm absurd since he has made wacky cartoons like his early Daffy Duck cartoons - but its exaggerated in a different way.

This is probably the first cartoon where Tex is supposedly making a melodrama cartoon that none of the audience is meant to take seriously - when before that; it felt like there were moments in a cartoon where it was suppose to be serious (e.g. Cinderella Meets Fella - with poor Cinderella trying to warm her hands by the fire). Being a satire towards the poem: this cartoon satirises the original Dan McGrew wonderfully. The voice for Arthur Q. Bryan to do the voice of Dan McFoo is absolutely well comically performed as well as being hilarious; and you could say it made his career as he would later become the voice for Elmer Fudd and even furthered his career at Warner Bros. Sara Berner's voice as Lou is very sophisticated and funny with her brilliant Hepburn impression, and Mel Blanc was, as usual, excellent. The fighting sequences were a real treat as each gag was unique...but probably the funniest part to me was the ending shot where she cries over Dan's body--believing he's dead. Really funny timing when he just wakes up with a 'Hello' voice, completely unharmed..which emphasises on cutting out the dramatic parts of the poem and the whole gag being a big build up. Of course, Tex Avery would make the cartoon again at MGM called The Shooting of Dan McGrew released in 1945; which is of course a superior cartoon when you compare Avery in 1945 than he was in 1939...a much more improved director.


  1. The Bette Davis-POV gag was clearly influenced by "Jungle Jitters"'s Clark Gable/Robert Taylor POV shot!!Steve C

  2. Tex would have heard him on Fibber if he had owned a time machine. Bryan didn't appear on the show until 1943. Tex would have heard him on the Grouch Club on KFWB.

  3. Malibu, in the 1930's was a small coastal art-colony town just northwest of Los Angeles, known for its eccentric characters.
    Today, it's home to the Hollywood elite, with massive homes overlooking the ocean and it's brush-covered canyons, that usually catch fire (and most of the homes, within them). Lately, it houses Tony Stark's fictional home in the Iron Man movies.