Cinerama: Rabbit of Seville

Posted: November 25, 2009 in Cinerama

Rabbit of Seville

BY Mike Derderian

A couple of days ago, I went to my barber’s shop to find the poor man sleeping on the couch. I tried to wake him up but he was in the deep snooze mood. I sat next to him and waited for about 15 minutes until he finally woke up.

After shaking off his drowsiness and shock, I sat in the chair, where this week’s column was inspired. As his electric razor nibbled through my shorter than short strands of hair that dropped to the floor, the screen was filtering images of death from South Lebanon. A disgusted paramedic was holding the limp and gutted body of a six-year old Lebanese child—a tattered torn doll superimposed on the ugly reality of war. All the while my short crop was being mowed and the tiny stalks of hair arrowed to the floor in silence.

My imagination drifted to a deserted park where men sat in barber chairs. A clown went around distributing razors so they can shave their manes off; not their whiskers—they still needed a semblance of make-believe dignity.

It wasn’t a dream; if it was, Bugs Bunny would have given me a hare-cut, the same way he gave one to Elmer Fudd, in the 1950 timeless classic Looney Toons short for Rabbit of Seville. This is where absurdity mixes with reality.

“How do? Welcome to my shop, let me cut your mop, let me shave your crop, daintily, daintily…hey you!  Don’t look so perplexed, why must you be vexed? Can’t you see you’re next? Yes, you’re next, you’re so next!” Bugsy sings gleefully to Elmer.

Rhymed by the 1,000-voice Mel Blanc, Bugs Bunny is at his funniest. I have seen my fair share of Loony Toons shorts and this seven-minute farce is probably one of the best that I saw.

Chuck Jones, the master animator behind some of the funniest and craziest cartoon movies, directs Mel Blanc and Arthur Q. Bryan, who voiced Elmer Fudd, in this hare-raising opera of blunders.

They say “it takes two to tango” and what Blanc and Bryan did with the material they had at hand was more than tango. Blanc, however, outshines Bryan’s voice characterization. After listening to Bugs singing his own lyrics to Gioacchino Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia ( aka The Barber of Seville) you’ll know why.

With gunshots behind him, Bugs rushes out of the woods and into an opera house where The Barber of Seville is to be performed. Too preoccupied with shooting aimlessly from his never-running-out-of-ammo hunting ACME shotgun, Fudd suddenly finds himself standing on stage facing a huge crowd.

At moments like these you wish you were never; born but when an animated rabbit wearing a barber’s coat pulls you to a barber’s chair you’ll wish you just weren’t there. The problem with Fudd was that he was there and couldn’t get out. I would have simply took a bow and walked away but hey that’s just obnoxious me.

Anyone familiar with “Toon Town” history knows that the gun wielding schnook, Fudd, is the embodiment of everything but the great white hunter; so relax the bunny lives. Now, throw Bugs Bunny in a barbershop filled with scissors, electric razors, nail files and hair fertilizers and tonics and you got yourself “a little shop of horrors”. It is for the unfortunate customer.

“Ooh, wait ‘till I get that wabbit!” Fudd sings. “What would you want with a wabbit? Can’t you see that I’m much sweeter, I’m your little señoriter, you are my type of guy, let me straighten your tie and I shall dance for you,” Bugs, disguised as a Spanish lady, sings back.

Fitting The Barber of Seville opera with lyrics like the above was crazy and Rossini is probably tossin-‘n-turnin in his grave to the tunes of Bobby Lewis’ music.

The rabbit is as loony as ever: He changes into a señoriter, a snake charmer (sorry I meant an electric razor charmer) and a groom. After a crazy contest on who has the biggest weapon Bugs and Fudd, somehow, end up tying the knot to Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy’s Wedding March from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, after the latter dons a bride’s outfit.

True the men behind those crazy Loony Toons shorts borrowed a lot of music from well-known classic compositions, however, Merry Melody episodes had their own music that were written by talented composers and musicians like Carl W.Stalling, who worked in this one.

The Rabbit of Seville is a gunshot fast short with a witty dialogue that is delivered with brilliant and hilarious voicing on part of Blanc; composite the voice with the images and you will have lots of fun.

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