Posted in WB Cartoon Companion on March 5, 2004
Character actor -- emphasis on character! -- distinguished by a walrus-like mustache, pop-eyed expression, and complete zaniness. Colonna was a long-time sidekick of Bob Hope as a supporting player in his radio, television, and USO shows.
Colonna himself is caricatured in a number of cartoons. Two cartoons directed by Freleng feature a little worm character with the Colonna mustache and eyes, and a Colonna-like voice. These are The Wacky Worm (1941) and Greetings Bait (1943). Colonna himself makes an appearance at the end of Greetings Bait as the fisherman. Colonna also makes an appearance in Hollywood Steps Out (Avery, 1941), doing a Yehudi shtick.
Caricatures of Colonna and Hope also appear in Hollywood Canine Canteen (McKimson, 1946) doing their Professor Colonna routine from Hope’s Pepsodent radio show. Bugs Bunny does Colonna imitations in What’s Cookin’ Doc? (Clampett, 1944), in which Bugs is saying hello to various Hollywood stars off-screen at the Academy Awards ceremony, as well as in The Unruly Hare (Tashlin, 1945), where Bugs, in a Colonna-like accent, invites Elmer Fudd to “have some cheese, rat!” Daffy Duck, in Plane Daffy (Tashlin, 1944) and The Wise Quacking Duck (Clampett, 1943) and the title character in The Hep Cat (Clampett, 1942) both do Colonna-like turns in announcing “Aahh! Something new has been added!”, as does Private Snafu in Booby Traps (Clampett, 1944). A whole jury of Colonnas acquits Daffy Duck, the Mustache Fiend in Daffy Doodles (McKimson, 1946).
Colonna inspired a huge number of catch-phrases, many of which worked their way into Warner Brothers cartoons. A sampling would have to include:
- “Okay -- so I ain’t neat.”
Porky’s Hired Hand (Freleng, 1940) at the bottom of Gregory Grunt’s letter of introduction, and
by the dirty pig in Farm Frolics (Clampett, 1941).
- Yehudi. This refers to classical violinist Yehudi Menunin. Wertheim describes the origin of the gag, stating “apparently, Colonna, not knowing who Yehudi was, asked the cast of the radio show, who didn’t know either. The search for the mythical Yehudi became a running gag and, eventually a popular song.” Yehudi references can be seen in
Hollywood Steps Out (Avery, 1941) in which an invisible figure is sitting next to Colonna, identified by Jerry as Yehudi,
Farm Frolics (Clampett, 1941) in which an owl says “Who’s Yehudi?”, and
Crazy Cruise (Avery/Clampett, 1942) in which an invisible battleship, the S.S. Yehudi, is seen.
- “You and your education.” Said to Porky Pig by the wind-up-toy son of Daffy at the very end of A Coy Decoy (Clampett, 1941).
- “Greetings, Gate!” Besides being the obvious inspiration for the title of Greetings Bait (Freleng, 1943), variations on the Colonna trademark greeting can be seen in
Slightly Daffy (Clampett, 1944) in which an Indian says “Greetings, Gate, lets scalpitate!”
The Wise Quacking Duck (Clampett, 1943) in which Daffy Duck, dressed in a mystic outfit, greets Mr. Meek with “Greetings, Gate, lets oscillate!” (followed by a mucky kiss), and
Porky’s Last Stand (Clampett, 1940) in the message left by the mice who have swiped all the food from the café.
Colonna also lent his voice to the Walt Disney feature Alice in Wonderland (1951), in which he played the March Hare opposite Ed Wynn’s Mad Hatter.