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|Early to Bet|
Early to Bet is a Warner Bros. Merrie Melodies theatrical cartoon short released on May 12, 1951 starring The Gambling Bug and a white cat who appeared in Robert McKimson's other shorts with Foghorn Leghorn. The Gambling Bug is a small character who infects others with the desire to gamble. He wears a green tie, a red jacket, a brown hat, and a white tuxedo. Early to Bet is the only appearance of this character. The Gambling Bug's history is unknown, but he was probably created by Robert McKimson, the director of the short.
The cartoon is a sequel to the 1950 short It's Hummer Time, which featured the same bulldog giving the same cat elaborate punishments (in that case, it was for disturbing the dog; the cat was after a hummingbird).
"The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down" (the theme for Looney Tunes) is featured in this cartoon.
It is available on DVD as part of Looney Tunes Golden Collection, though the sound is lower-pitched on that release. The original ending was kept for the reissue, and the Blue Ribbon is shown for DVD release. Currently, an Italian version has the audio at the original pitch.
The cartoon starts by having an unseen narrator describe what happens when the Gambling Bug is around. The cartoon shows some examples of what the bug can do:
- A man has eaten dinner and presented with the bill. However, he wants to bet the waiter Luigi "double or nothing" on a coin flip for the bill. Luigi begs him to just pay the bill and leave.
- Two men are sitting at a bar watching a fly buzz around their beer mugs. One fellow bets the other 5 dollars that the fly will land on his beer mug first, to which the other guy says "It's a bet!".
- Then a man who puts a coin in a casino slot machine. He watches the wheels spin around until three oranges appear. He jumps for joy until the payout from the machine is actually 3 oranges instead of the jackpot. He gets enraged and starts punching the slot machine.
The narrator then tells the audience "So remember folks, the gambling bug will get you if you don't watch out!", the bug mocks his exact words then says, "and I will too!".
After that introductory segment, the bug goes on vacation hoping to leave his victims alone today. Suddenly, he sees a dog asking a black and white cat if he'd like to play Gin Rummy for Penalties. The cat disagrees and says he's through playing cards with the dog. The Gambling Bug can not over-power his instincts then decides to bite the cat's ear. All of a sudden, the cat goes berserk and starts repeating "Deal the Cards, Deal the Cards, Deal the Cards" to the dog. He promptly loses. The cat spins the Wheel of Penalties, and his penalty is Penalty #14: "The Gesundheit". He is forced to blow bubble gum as the dog puts sneezing powder in his nose, causing him to sneeze and the bubble gum covers him. The cat then refuses to play cards with the dog again, but the bug is not giving up, so he bites the cat's ear once more. The cat loses yet again, and gets penalty #75 on the wheel: "The William Tell". The penalty is that the dog shoots a toilet plunger at the apple on the cats head, but the dog aims it into the cat's face. This time the cat swears off gambling for sure, but the bug bites him again. The same thing happens, the cat loses, and receives penalty #36 on the wheel, appropriately Christened "Roll Out the Barrel". The penalty is to roll out a barrel of gunpowder. The dog then puts a quick lit match on the gunpowder and the cat blows up and flies back onto the ground.
While influenced with yet another bite, the cat tries to play again but now the dog refuses saying "You're too unlucky, cat. I'm quitting before you kill yerself!". The bug comes in and agrees to play one with the cat. He decides to cut for the highest card with the cat. The cat cuts a three of hearts, to which the gambling bug says "Not so good, cat. Watch!" proud of having a good chance at winning; but only to draw a 2 of diamonds. The gambling bug then says "Oh no! Not that! Not the Post!" So the cat tries to whack him with a Post newspaper as the penalty, and the cartoon ends.
- The Gambling Bug makes a brief cameo at the basketball game in Space Jam.
- The cat made his fourth appearance in a Robert McKimson short and would make his final one later in 1951 in Leghorn Swoggled, but was never given a name.