Friday, April 11, 2008
Who wrote the Ur-Foghorn; or, I hated to tell Henery falsehoods about chickens, but …
Worrying about the Ur-Hamlet is all well and good. (To be or not to be. Be, that is.)
But this should not distract us from other, equally essential genealogical researches.
... It is at this early point in the Foghorn saga that even Bob McKimson himself falls victim to the vagaries of recall, because by the time he began being interviewed in the mid-1970s (along with Clampett, Jones and many other Warner veterans), his memory was clouded by both the passage of time and the enormous fame that another old-time radio character, one Senator Claghorn, had enjoyed from 1945-49 on the highly respected comedy program The Fred Allen Show.
McKimson recalled telling Foster that he was listening to the radio and had heard Claghorn. He also believed that “Claghorn” had taken his vocal delivery from the old, deaf sheriff on the early variety show, Blue Monday Jamboree.
The Jamboree, like much of early West Coast radio, came out of San Francisco, before the show moved to Los Angeles in 1933, when network lines became operational in Los Angeles. At that point most of its cast began Hollywood acting careers, including character man Jack Clifford who originated The Sheriff. Clifford continued appearing as the Sheriff all through the 1930s on local LA programs like Comedy Stars of Hollywood, Komedy Kapers and The Gilmore Circus. He also played bit parts in many films.
The Sheriff - who would yell obnoxiously, talk over people, and repeat what he’d just said, prefacing each reiteration with “I say...” - was indeed the inspiration for Foghorn. But it must be emphasized, only for the first cartoon, Walky Talky Hawky. (Actually a major running gag for The Sheriff - bad puns based on mis-hearing what somebody was saying to him - was never a part of Foghorn Leghorn’s character.) But as McKimson mis-remembered it in his later years, he and Foster merged the two characters - the old sheriff and Senator Claghorn - and made them parts of the rooster.
But the plain fact is that the dialogue-track for Walky Talky Hawky was recorded on January 13, 1945, a full ten months before the debut of Senator Claghorn on Fred Allen’s New York-based show ...
I propose that, as a matter of Valve house style, all posts from now on begin with the words ‘I say, I say ...’ ["Ah say ah say in Exit Ghost, Philip Roth includes a letter putatively written by...” etc.]
I say, I say, son! I can’t believe my ears! John didn’t mention my recent genealogical research into the origins of Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man.” Here:
I hang my head in shame, Josh. I haven’t been keeping up. Great post, though! (I always assumed the song was about Tony Stark. But it didn’t exactly make sense that way.)
John, just like Foghorn Leghorn might or might not be a merger of two other fictional characters, I think the song’s Iron Man is a mashup of Stan Lee’s Iron Man origin story and the giant robot from Ted Hughes’s kiddie book. Plus, maybe, Herschell Gordon Lewis’s 1965 movie “Monster A-Go-Go,” in which a returning-from-space astronaut appears to have mutated into a large, radioactive, humanoid monster.
Even as a little boy, I knew that Foghorn Leghorn was a buffoon / authority figure & that one could laugh at him. Pretty subversive for a third-grader on Saturday morning. I’m glad to have run across this note on his origins.
You can hear the first radio appearance of Senator Claghorn here at the 4:43 mark --
The character’s popularity on The Fred Allen Show even inspired one movie --
The later incarnations of Foghorn Leghorn have more similarities with Senator Claghorn than what is heard Foghorn Leghorn’s first appearance in ‘Walky Talky Hawky’.
Sadly, I haven’t been able to find any audio examples of Jack Clifford’s 1930s radio character ‘The Sheriff’.