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“Put Out That Light!”

Posted in WB Cartoon Companion on March 22, 2004

    During the Second World War, blackout conditions were imposed in a number of areas, particularly on the East and West coasts, for fear of submarine or air raids. Air raid wardens, in distinctive white helmets and arm bands of the type worn by the Mount Rushmore figures and the Statue of Liberty in The Weakly Reporter (Jones, 1944), would patrol an area, telling people who had lights showing to “put out that light!”

    This phrase was used as a gag in a number of cartoons. One very clever use was in Hiss and Make Up (Freleng, 1943), in which Roscoe the Dog, in order to prevent Granny from seeing the muddy pawprints Wellington the Cat has put all over the living room to frame Roscoe, shouts the phrase as soon as Granny turns on the light, causing her to turn off the light and hurry back to bed. Other uses can be seen in Meatless Flyday (Freleng, 1944), in which a warden, observing the neon sign being lit up by the chasing Spider and Fly, yells the phrase. An offscreen warden shouts the phrase in Jack-Wabbit and the Beanstalk (Freleng, 1943) when Bugs lights a match to see inside the hat belonging to the Giant. It is also shouted by Tweety in the closing gag of A Tale of Two Kitties (Clampett, 1942).

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