Directed by I. Freleng; Story by Michael Maltese; Animation by Manuel Perez, Ken Champin, Virgil Ross, and Gerry Chiniquy; Layouts and Backgrounds by Paul Julian and Hawley Pratt; Musical Direction by Carl Stalling. A Merrie Melody released in 1945
Happy 4th! There’s nothing more American than a cowboy. So, why not talk about Sam’s first short? (Heck, it was said to be Freleng’s favorite short that had him in it) This short is full of firsts! It’s Hawley’s first time being credited, and what’s more it’s the first short that gives everyone their due. Leon Scheslinger wasn’t one to let valuable screen time be taken up by a still shot with a bunch of names. But when the studio was sold to the W.B. they were finally given that right.
Bugs is riding a train through the west of America as a piece of mail. (And hiding fromhis numerous relatives who are trying to piggyback on his film super-stardom) Sam makes his first appearance trying to hold the train up. (He looks a wee bit different here than in his later appearances. He has a wart or something on his nose, and his mask has less hair surround it, so it is easier to tell it is a mask) The train doesn’t slow down at all. It passes right over him! Sam has to catch up to it on horse. (Which he needs stairs to mount.) Once on board, he frightens the post man away and begins to load up. (Mail was pretty valuable in the forties) One piece of mail talks back. (It’s Bugs) Sam introduces himself as “the meanest, roughest, rip-roaring’est, Edward Everett Horton-est, hombre that ever packed a six-shooter.” (Which is how I would introduce myself if Edward Everett Horton was still well known.) Bugs tells him of a guy in the next car who not only is all that, but packs a seven shooter to boot. Sam goes over to challenge him. (It’s Bugs) Sam challenges him to draw a gun. Bug’ is a pretty talented artist, so it’s no trouble for him. (I love this joke. I’ve pulled it before with cards. Then drew the same card I drew.) Sam is impressed and tries his hand at it. It takes a while, (his efforts brilliantly portrayed with piano notes being off tune) but he manages to draw one which Bugs seems to be genuinely interested in. (“It stinks.” Guess not) Bugs is chased and he considers heading into a club car, but it’s full of live action people. (While toons are definitely allowed in, the prejudice is still strong, so he heads back to the car Sam is in.) They trade shots with Bugs ultimately removing Sam’s hat. What he thinks is said hat getting put back on his head, is really Bugs who calls to Sam as a sheriff. He pours some red ink on Sam’s head and Sam believes himself done for. He might have actually convinced himself to death had Bugs not left the bottle dripping onto his face. Bugs next leads him into the club car, which now has a fight going on in it. Sam gets roughed up pretty badly, and while dazed, Bugs tricks him into stepping off the train. Sam returns though, and pulls Bugs on top for a brawl. Ultimately, Bugs is left tied up and dangling off the side with an anvil attached to his feet, Sam gleefully starts cutting the rope as the train passes over a gorge. Then a narrator acts like we’re in a serial and asks us if this is the end of our beloved Bugs Bunny. Bugs comes out onto the screen with Sam tied up mocking the idiot trying to pull this crap. He doesn’t know Bugs like we do.
Personal Rating: 3