Saturday, July 16, 2011

Quick Draw McGraw — Chopping Spree

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Lew Marshall; Layout – Dick Bickenbach; Backgrounds – Art Lozzi; Story – Mike Maltese; Story Director – Alex Lovy; Titles – Lawrence Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voices: Quick Draw, Baba Looey, Sam Squeamish, Lumberjack on rail car – Daws Butler; Narrator, Naughty Pine (Foreman), Ronald Rugged, Voice on Phone – Hal Smith; Peachy Blossom – Jean Vander Pyl.
Music: Phil Green, Harry Bluestone/Emil Cadkin, Jack Shaindlin.
Episode: M-026, Production J-65.
First Aired: week of March 21, 1960 (rerun week of Sept. 19, 1960)
Plot: Quick Draw McGraw goes undercover to investigate mysterious accidents at a lumber camp.

This may be a cartoon starring Quick Draw McGraw, but the real star is Mike Maltese. He pulls out just about every dialogue trick he’s ever tried and sprinkles them throughout this six-and-a-half-minute short. We get groaner puns. We get characters talking to the narrator. We get characters aware of their situation and commenting on it. And we get a nice little twist ending.



Yeah, I realise what I’ve described is aural; that “illustrated radio” that C. Martin Jones found so distasteful. So what? It’s a funny cartoon. At least, I’m a sucker for silly dialogue that works in its own little world of logic. And the opening pan is attractive and sets up the plot. It’s a good marriage of Bick and Art Lozzi’s talents. The flip-branched trees are a Bick trademark, and Art’s added his favourite star-like leaves. He’s also varied the colours nicely on Bick’s tree designs, with various shades of green, a couple of greys and even a buff in there.

But, before we get to our plot, we’ve got some groaners:


Narrator: There was no room for the squeamish here.
Tough Lumberjack: I’m lookin’ for work.
Foreman: What’s your name?
Tough Lumberjack: Sam Squeamish.
Foreman: Sorry. Like the man said, there’s no room here for the squeamish.
Narrator: Only the rugged were welcome at The Roaring Splinter.
Foreman: What’s your name?
Wimpy Lumberjack: Ronald Rugged, what else?
Foreman: You’re hired.

Now it’s time to get to the action. Maltese sets up his running dialogue joke.

Narrator: You are about to witness another of the mysterious accidents which befell the camp of recent date.

And the rest of the cartoon, just about everyone tosses in the contrived phrase “the mysterious accidents which befell the camp” during some portion of their dialogue, including Peachy Blossom, who the narrator tells us is a “Typical, Helpless, Lonely Lumber Queen.” She’s evidently helpless enough that the narrator has to help her along by explaining there’s a card on her desk from someone who could help her (which isn’t there in the medium shot). It’s a shame it’s not a Paladin-like card with a horse’s head. That would have been an appropriate gag for Quick Draw.

Quick Draw (reading letter): Dear Quick Draw, I need your help. Bad-ly. Signed, Peachy Blossom, T.H.L.L.Q.
Baba: Say, Quickstraw, what means “T.H.L.L.Q?”
Quick Draw: That should be oblivious, Baba Boy. It means “Typical, Helpless, Lonely Lumber Queen.”

Off they go to the Splinter Lumber Camp. Peachy, without any kind of scare take because that would have involved maybe three extra drawings, looks at Quick Draw.

Peachy: Oh, you poor man. You must be the latest victim of the mysterious accidents that have befallen us.
Baba: No, lady. This is Quick Draw McGraw. Always he looks like that.
Peachy: Oh, you poor man.

Quick Draw quickly reveals who is responsible. It’s the butler, because they’re always guilty. But Peachy hasn’t got a butler. She has a foreman. So Quick Draw deduces it’s the foreman.

Peachy: Mr. Quick Draw?
Quick Draw: Yes?
Peachy: Are you sure you weren’t in an accident?

This is where we get the “Don’t you for-get it” catchphrase before Quick Draw and Baba disguise themselves and meet up with the foreman. Maltese digs out the routine he used in Treasure of El Kabong as our heroes spout real groaners trying to convince the interrogating foreman they’re really lumberjacks.

Foreman: So how do you chop a tree?
Quick Draw: I chops it down.
Foreman: What do you holler when a tree falls?
Quick Draw: I hollers “Ouch!” if’n it falls on m’foot.
Foreman: Where does sawdust come from?
Quick Draw: From a dusty saw.
Foreman: Where do we get wood pulp?
Quick Draw: From a young tree when it’s just a pulp, yuk, yuk.



The ruse works but the foreman, being a “yellow, thievin’ polecat,” doesn’t want a “smart guy” hanging around, so he pulls out a pistol. Quick Draw and Baba run to the nearest log-laden rail car and hide to avoid the bullets. The foreman lights a bundle of dynamite on the car and kicks it down a hill. Both Quick Draw and Baba jump to safety before it explodes, Quick Draw “snaggin’ a branch, Western-style.” Maltese comes up with a sequence that would have been at home in a late-‘50s Daffy cartoon from the Jones unit. We hear sawing. Cut to a shot of the foreman sawing off the part of the branch Quick Draw is on. Cut to a shot of Baba sawing off the part of the branch the foreman is on. We hear chopping. Cut to a shot of the foreman next to the falling tree Baba is on. Cut to a shot of Quick Draw next to the foreman, sawing off a part of cliff he’s standing on. Quick Draw and the cliff plummet. Alex Lovy or Bill Hanna couldn’t have timed the sequence much better, though I suspect if Hanna were at MGM, there’d be a great realisation take by Ray Patterson when the sawing sound is heard, then a cut to the two-character shot. Something that never would have happened at MGM—Quick Draw wouldn’t be standing on a different tree in the next shot.




Peachy expresses sympathy for the battered Quick Draw (who almost gets an axe chopping him in an area that isn’t anatomically correct) and asks the lamenting question whether the mysterious accidents will ever cease? “I’m sure they’ll cease if you’ll marry up with the villainous foreman,” Naughty Pine informs her. So Maltese pulls a surprise ending like he did in Masking For Trouble, where the girl decides to run off with the bad guy. That kind of ending certainly wasn’t original with Maltese; Franklin Pangborn’s 1935 melodrama parody Ye Old Saw Mill ends the same way. The foreman decides he doesn’t need his double-bladed axe any more and casually throws it away. It cuts into a hollow log where Quick Draw happens to be hiding.



Baba: Hey, Quicksdraw, where are you going?
Quick Draw: To the nearest tree surgeon, where else? Ooh. That smarts.

Some trivia notes:
● The cartoon’s set in “the Old Northwest” but Quick Draw drives a modern jeep.
● The foreman’s name is only mentioned once, when Quick Draw is being sawed off the tree.
● Quick Draw doesn’t say “I’ll do the thinnin’ around here,” though we hear the word “thinnin’” a couple of times.
● Daws uses a modified version of his Jerry Lewis voice for the lumberjack on the blown-up rail car.

The best use of the stock music is that unidentified sad violin piece underneath the scene of the mournful Peachy in her office. It’s hammy enough to fit Maltese’s dialogue. The harmonica “Oh, Susanna” is a good opening set-up. I don’t know the source of either cue. And I still don’t have the full name of the Jack Shaindlin ‘Fireman’ cue.


0:00 - Quick Draw McGraw sub main-title theme (Curtin).
0:16 - Oh Susannah (?) – shot of lumber camp, foreman talks to Squeamish and Rugged.
0:52 - CB-87A COME AND GET ME (Bluestone-Cadkin) – Mysterious accident.
1:09 - sad string music (unknown) – Peachy on phone.
1:40 - GR-348 EARLY MORNING (Green) – Peachy looks at card.
1:50 – CRAZY GOOF (Shaindlin) – Quick Draw reads letter from Peachy.
2:22 - GR-78 CUSTARD PIE CAPERS SHORT BRIDGE No 1 (Green) – Quick Draw and Baba in jeep, knock on door.
2:35 - GR-99 THE DIDDLECOMB HUNT (Green) – Quick Draw talks to Peachy.
3:25 - GR-96 BY JIMINY! IT’S JUMBO (Green) – Quick Draw questioned by foreman, foreman shoots.
4:41 - SIX DAY BICYCLE RACE (Shaindlin) – Quick Draw and Baba run, Quick Draw jumps from train.
5:33 - GR-81 FRED KARNO’S ARMY SHORT BRIDGE No 1 (Green) – Quick Draw on branch, hears saw.
5:39 - ‘FIREMAN’ (Shaindlin) – Sawing scene, foreman offers to marry Peachy.
6:25 - GR-457 DOCTOR QUACK SHORT BRIDGE No 1 (Green) – Accepts proposal, axe lands in log.
6:35 - SIX DAY BICYCLE RACE (Shaindlin) – Quick Draw runs away.
6:59 - Quick Draw McGraw Sub End Title theme (Curtin).

5 comments:

  1. The chopping sequence was used before by Chuck Jones, in 'Don't give up the sheep', the first Wolf/Sheepdog cartoon.

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  2. Good point, Zarktok. Only, of course as there were only two characters involved, it (like a latger Wolf/Sheepdog cartoon, "Don't Give Up The Sheep", released right before of the Quick Draw short"), was a variation on the "One step ahead of the other" character bit done numerous times in cartoons (and even in live action, even in certain blockbuster films just a few years ago).

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  3. This is my all-time favorite Quick Draw cartoon – with “Scat Scout Scat” as a very close runner up!

    Along with “One Froggy Evening”, Mike Maltese may have written two of the most cynical cartoons in the history of animation.

    Knotty Pine (and I never realized that was his name, instead of a joke reference) gets away with sabotage and attempted murder (not just QD, but at least one incidental extra early in the cartoon), AND not only “gets the girl” but gets the LUMBER CAMP as well!

    …And the “hero of the picture” runs off with an AXE in his back!

    That’s even worse than Dripalong Daffy “cleaning up” the one-horse town! Though, admittedly, not as good a JOKE.

    Speaking as a life-long cynic, how do you not LOVE THIS!

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  4. After about six episodes or so, QD cartoons had established the forumula whereby each one ends with Baba making his trademark "I like that Queekstraw; he's [punny, backhanded compliment]-" observation to the audience. This cartoon seems pretty 'new' to NOT end in this fashion.

    A guest character mistakenly assuming that a particularly ugly regular character has been in an accident, or otherwise needs aesthetic assistance goes back to the Three Stooges- often with Curly's drag act. "Would you like to go to the powder room, my dear?" "Nawww- he ALWAYS looks like that."

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  5. Joe, the Los Angeles Times TV listings for this episode mention the character's name, so he must have been in the publicity handout, even though his name was mentioned in the cartoon itself once.
    The TV listings can be helpful in the absence of model sheets as I was able to discern the spelling of another secondary character using them.

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