Droopy Shorts, 1943-1949

MGM’s animation department, founded in 1937, produced animated works until its closure in 1958 – the popular characters Tom and Jerry debuted through MGM in 1940, and three years later, the same department released its first Droopy short, Dumb-Hounded. Droopy was the creation of Tex Avery, who worked for MGM at the time; the character starred in 24 shorts between 1943 and 1958, ending with Droopy Leprechaun. The aforementioned Dumb-Hounded, the first of the productions starring the dog, features an unnamed wolf who escapes from prison – Droopy is sent to pursue him, and the short eventually ends with Droopy emerging victorious (and winning a cash reward) as he hits the wolf with an enormous boulder. One clever gag in the short shows the wolf traveling in reverse; he attempts to elude his pursuer by traveling to a remote cabin, but discovers Droopy has somehow arrived there before him, and the film operates in reverse as he returns to New York. The following short, 1945’s The Shooting of Dan McGoo, features a cameo by Red, who was introduced in Red Hot Riding Hood – she appeared in nine shorts total, the final being 1949’s Little Rural Riding Hood. The Shooting of Dan McGoo includes a wolf antagonist, similarly to Dumb-Hounded; his lusting over Red (who goes by Lou in this short) is reminiscent of Red Hot Riding Hood. Droopy, in the role of Dan McGoo, ultimately shoots and kills the wolf when the latter attempts to abduct Lou, and a grateful Lou rewards Droopy with a kiss. The short’s opening credits notes that the story is based on a poem, “The Shooting of Dan McGrew” by Robert W. Service – this poem (first published in 1907) tells the story of a mysterious man who arrives at a saloon who seemingly has a grudge, and he and Dan McGrew kill each other.

Also from 1945, Wild and Woolfy also features a wolf antagonist – this wolf, named Joe, is a desperado who abducts a singer performing at a saloon (Red in another role), and Droopy defeats him with a wooden mallet. One gag at the beginning shows the wolf holding up a Good Rumor truck – Good Rumor parodies Good Humor, an ice cream company founded in 1920. The next Droopy short, Northwest Hounded Police, was released in 1946; directed by Tex Avery, it follows a prisoner (again, a wolf) as he escapes from Alka-Fizz (a parody of Alactraz) and flees to Canada. Droopy stars as a sergeant, tasked with apprehending the prisoner; his pursuit of the wolf ultimately leads to the prisoner being incarcerated again, and Droopy reveals that there are multiple versions of himself. This short features a gag involving signs resembling the famous Burma Shave advertisement campaign – Burma Shave advertised its shaving cream on rhyming signs that ran alongside roads. Three Droopy shorts appeared in 1949 – the first, Señor Droopy, features the wolf and Droopy as matadors, competing for the affection of actress and singer Lina Romay. Droopy wins by angrily throwing the bull out of the arena when the bull draws a mustache on the photo of Lina Romay gracing the magazine Droopy carries with him; Romay herself appears at the end, petting Droopy. Romay appeared in various films in the 1940s, as well as one (The Man Behind the Gun) in 1953; her first role was an uncredited appearance in the 1942 movie You Were Never Lovelier, which starred Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth.

The second Droopy short of 1949, Wags to Riches, has Spike the Dog (later renamed Butch) as the antagonist rather than a wolf; he tries to kill Droopy in order to receive an inheritance, but every attempt fails miserably. Spike debuted in Bad Luck Blackie, a 1949 short directed by Tex Avery – he would go on to appear in several other Droopy shorts. The final Droopy short of 1949, Out-Foxed, involves various foxhounds (with Droopy included) attempting to capture a fox; Droopy succeeds, as numerous foxes willingly have themselves captured for a steak reward. As a trivia note, Daws Butler provides the voice of the fox – Butler voiced other characters, including Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, and Quick Draw McGraw.

These shorts are the first seven in Droopy’s filmography – the character appeared in subsequent shorts until 1958’s Droopy Leprechaun, directed by Michael Lah. Bill Thompson voiced Droopy for most shorts; Tex Avery also voiced the character in three shorts, while Don Messick (famous for his work as Scooby-Doo) voiced him in three others. Droopy would make a cameo appearance in Who Framed Roger Rabbit as an elevator operator, as well as the three Roger Rabbit shorts that followed – his MGM productions cemented him as a classic character, and his colleagues Tom and Jerry would equally achieve success in theatrical shorts.

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