Posted in WB Cartoon Companion on March 5, 2004
Loud, I say, LOUD rooster (rooster, that is) who is probably the most enduring legacy of Robert McKimson’s directorial career. While the Foggy cartoons eventually fell into the same formulaic rut in the mid-1950s as the Speedy Gonzales and Hippety Hopper shorts, the Foghorn Leghorn shorts are generally much easier to take. The cartoons are likeable partly because of the character’s boisterous high spirits and constant asides the audience regarding the shortcomings of his opponents, to say nothing of the indignities he inflicts on the hapless Barnyard Dog who is usually the butt of his practical jokes. It is usually enjoyable to see Foggy get his comeuppance at the hands of Miss Prissy or the eternally tortured dog. It is no less enjoyable on the rare occasions on which Foggy wins, as in Crowing Pains (1947).
McKimson is on record as citing a sheriff character from the 1930s radio show Blue Monday Jamboree as a primary inspiration for Foggy. However, given the southern accent of the character and his habit of bellowing “that’s a joke, son” it is clear that the character was inspired by the immortal figure of Senator Claghorn, the equally blustery southern senator played by Kenny Delmar on the Fred Allen radio show in the 1940s. Compare the clear Claghorn caricature in Rebel Rabbit (McKimson, 1949) with Foggy and note the similarities. For his part, Mel Blanc stated the he based the character on a hard of hearing sheriff from an old vaudeville routine. Cartoon voice expert Keith Scott has made a persuasive case that Jack Clifford had created this kind of a voice for programs on KFWB in the early 1930s, and argues that both Delmar and Blanc were familiar with his character.
Foghorn Leghorn’s debut in Walky Talky Hawky (1946) netted McKimson one of his only two Oscar nominations.