The Scarlet Pumpernickel is a 1948 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 Brothers 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 a 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 two cartoons that Melissa Duck stars in (the other being 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.
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 (and closing) 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, but the original closing rings were restored. 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, 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 many re-airings of this episode, the short seems to be cut off after Daffy is seen catching for air after reading his play. The true ending of this short consists of Daffy attempting to commit suicde after the series of events that occured, but failing to do so and only shooting his hat. This scene is most likely cut off due to concerns of viewers attempting to repeat Daffy's actions or plainly because it was considered too violent.
↑[Beck, Jerry (ed.) (1994). The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals. Atlanta: Turner Publishing.