I couldn’t let this week go by without acknowledging the 70th anniversary of one of my favorite animated characters – Foghorn Leghorn.
Though he’s not as widely-known as the other Warner Bros. Looney Tunes characters, he has always entertained me thoroughly. The cartoons, all directed by the legendary Robert McKimson, are clever in their writing and broad in their humor. I enjoy the character’s analogies and turns-of-phrase, in addition to the hilarious gags involving physical cartoon violence.
Created by McKimson and writer Warren Foster for the 1946 cartoon Walky Talky Hawky, Foghorn Leghorn was actually a parody of a then-famous radio show character. Senator Clanghorn was a boisterous, pompous Southerner (played by actor Kenny Delmar) who would regularly appear on The Fred Allen Show. He spoke with the same “good old boy” mannerisms as Foghorn does.
I don’t normally enjoy pop culture references, as it dates the material and sometimes makes it less relevant. However, Foghorn is one of the few pop culture references that actually outlived its source in terms of popularity!
And one can’t talk about Foghorn without acknowledging the voice that brought him to life – Mel Blanc. Blanc was the voice of most of the Looney Tunes characters, and his genius really shines as Foghorn. The rooster’s character necessitates long-winded, fast-paced speechifying, and Blanc succeeds in spades. He knew when to pour on the Southern charm and let loose with reckless abandon.
The Foghorn Leghorn cartoons, for the most part, follow several formulae. Foghorn torments the poor dog assigned to protect his chicken farm for his own amusement, or he’s unknowingly helping a chicken hawk, weasel or other varmint get at the chickens, or he’s wooing Miss Prissy the hen with disastrous results. A combination of two or more of these scenarios is also possible.
What makes the character interesting is that, though he’s the central character in most of the cartoons, he’s actually sometimes in instigator of the trouble. He’s too busy hopped up on his own pomp to realize it.
I think what makes the character have lasting appeal is that we all know somebody like him – the pompous jerk who thinks they know everything about everything. That’s what makes the gags against Foghorn so satisfying; there’s a certain degree of justice in seeing someone like that get their comeuppance. The cartoons are almost fable-like in their execution.
“Fools find no pleasure in understanding, but delight in airing their own opinion.” Proverbs 18:2
Foghorn is a textbook example of the above Bible verse. He’s constantly giving opinions and instructions about the “right” way to do things, regardless of the situation or if the advice is even wanted – and most of the time he’s wrong either in situation or practice. It’s a lesson for all of us to listen more and speak less, lest we start to talk simply to hear ourselves talk.
Here’s a delightful compilation of some of Foghorn’s best sayings and gags. They are still hilarious after all these years!
Happy, I say, Happy Anniversary, Foghorn!