Sunday, September 20, 2015

What's Opera, Doc?

Oh yeah!  That one!  ...that's the title?  Long-Haired Hare?  Whatever.  These days, people talk about "future-proofing" when it comes to the movies that endure.  Welp, whatever that formula is, Chuck Jones knew it pretty well, because most of his Warner Bros. stuff will probably remain in the American subconscious long after we're dead and gone.  His MGM Tom and Jerries, not so much... unless anyone would beg to differ?
So who knows where the really good story ideas comes from.  Jones himself was apparently weaned on all the literary classics in his youth, which paid off big time, as it did with John Sayles.  I guess it helps to be a voracious reader if you're going into the screenplay game.  But sometimes borrowing from the classics isn't enough.  And sometimes ideas come from everyday life.  And I imagine screenwriter Michael Maltese got the idea for Long-Haired Hare one night at a party when he tried to use his Hollywood clout to meet an opera star that he admired.  The star obliged, and asked Maltese "And what do you do?"  Maltese replied, "Oh, I'm a screenwriter."  To which the opera star replied, "Oh!  A screenwriter.  I've met a few of those.  Nice people.  Dalton Trumbo, John Huston, Billy Wilder, Billy Faulkner... what pictures have you written?"  Maltese replied, "Oh, actually, I write the Bugs Bunny pictures..."
To which the opera star replied "The Bugs Bunny pictures have writers?  I find that hard to believe."  And so, with attitude officially copped, Maltese set to work pitting rabbit against opera star...or maybe it was more like this.  Maybe Maltese was just about to meet his opera idol, when he overheard them say something to the effect of "Oh, I just detest these movie people.  What do they know about the pressure of live performances?  All they have to do is do something once and that's it.  I'm out there busting my fat ass EVERY NIGHT hitting that vibratto over and over again."  The point being, they probably don't care for the child's doodles, those big-time stars of the opera.  Well, there's one doodle who'll get the last laugh, and that doodle is.....
I am also put in a Network frame of mind, if only for two reasons.  1) There's, of course, Max Schumacher's crack about Bugs Bunny, and 2) when the average person thinks of the movie Network, they think "Oh, yeah, the 'I'm as mad as hell' movie."  As with Long-Haired Hare I thought, oh yeah, the one where Bugs impersonates a conductor and gets revenge on the opera star.  But as there's much more to Network, there's a teeny bit more to Long-Haired Hare, and Bugs' revenge starts with a couple of "test revenges," if you will.  First, Bugs tests the structural integrity of the stage... apparently, modeled after the Hollywood Bowl, which apparently inspired the concentric circles of the Looney Tunes intro!  Go figure.  The tuba gag comes full circle; of course, for the opera guy to get stuck in one, man, that tuba must be HUGE.  Next, Bugs plays a bobby soxer-esque fan of the opera star named, oddly enough... Giovanni Jones.  So, is Chuck Jones trying to say that he is the proverbial opera star?  I think so.
Oh, but these small, petty revenges just will not do.  Bugs needs to come up with a big, meta-type show stopper.  Which brings me to what the opera star does to Bugs.  The first one, Giovanni's obliteration of Bugs' banjo, takes the most time.  The second, the obliteration of Bugs' harp, is much quicker in comparison.  Go figure.  I always remembered what happened to Bugs' eyes during that part, hence my still frame... pretty messed up of me, I know.  But the tuba, that was the final straw for Giovanni Jones, especially for the visual gag that Bugs' tuba playing gets.  What Giovanni does to Bugs and his ears, well... it's a punishment that's even more depraved than something that Robert Clampett ever came up with!
Of course, I'm getting to the age where I feel everyone's pain.  Bugs' final act at the end, well... I hate to spoil it, but 1) it didn't seem to be part of the original theater's construction, and 2) sure, the opera star was acting like a ... Richard, but Bugs was still alive to tell the tale, so to speak.  But these are but mere nitpickings.  Another Bugs classic.

Good double bill with: ...what else?  Case of the Missing Hare

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan 

No comments: