He Watched It Sober.

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Speaking of Animals:

The Lonesome Stranger

     "Anyone who'd foreclose on Little Orphan Fanny is a low down, dirty, smelly, yellow polecat -- polecat that is."

-- Our Hero      




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Sights &
 J. Fairbanks Productions /
 Paramount Pictures
Same Stink.
Smaller Package.

The Lonesome Stranger


It was truly a humbling sight to behold at B-Fest 2004. Despite the presence of films like Spawn of the Slithis, The Beatniks, and a hardcore porn version of Alice in Wonderland, it was a short, Monkey Business, featuring a gaggle of singing monkeys, that broke the back of many a B-Fester that year. Of course those singing monkeys were wearing diapers -- and quite a few of those monkeys had -- very obviously, soiled themselves. Wow.

Of course, those monkeys weren't really talking and singing. They were real monkeys, whose mouths were animated over to match the dialogue and songs; poked and prodded into action by unseen hands -- or cattle prods, from off screen.

Well, guess what? I've manage to unearth another one. This time a full-blown wild western melodrama complete with a dastardly villain, a damsel in distress, and valiant masked hero. All of them monkeys. Hee-hee. Monkeys in funny hats, that is.

Our short opens at the farm of Little Orphan Fanny (-- a monkey in a bonnet and curls), who is about to lose the farm to Dirty Dawson (-- another monkey in a black coat and hat, complete with a long black Snidely Whiplash mustache). And Dawson intends to foreclose on the mortgage at six o'clock that very night unless she can come up with the money. After Dawson slinks off, Fanny cries, loudly, not knowing what to do. Luckily, her sobs are so loud they attract the attention of The Lone Stranger (-- yet another monkey with a hat, badge and domino mask).

Putting the spurs to his faithful horse, Plastic (-- a Great Dane), because he's always ready, willing and able to help out a pretty girl (-- it's the code of the west and all that, and if you don't know what that is, go watch Rustler's Rhapsody), the Stranger confronts Dawson at his office. And after a quick exchange of insults, they fight. 

Alas, they must have started to fling their own poop at each other because the censor steps in, denying us the privilege of watching two monkeys dressed as cowboys beating the snot out of each other ... Even though we didn't get to see it, Dawson gets his comeuppance, but the mortgage still has to be paid. The Stranger tries to raise some money, but all of his ventures -- a lemonade stand, a paper route and selling Fuller Brushes door to door -- net him not one red cent. Discouraged, the Stranger heads to the old Rot Gut Saloon for a sarsaparilla to drown his sorrows, where the saloon girl (-- another monkey), belts out a divaesque tune, much to the audience's delight. Especially the Stranger, who flips so bad for her he winds up in the rafters.

Meanwhile, as the clock ticks closer to six, when Fanny wonders what's become of her hero, the narrator rats him out, telling her he's at the saloon making googley-eyes at the saloon girl ... Well, he was making eyes at her, but now he's more interested in the money being thrown at her in appreciation of her musical talents. Taking up a guitar, the Stranger cranks out an old folk number about the weariness of women. It brings tears from the audience but very little money. But when Fanny tells him to kick up a notch, the Stranger is magically joined by a crazed drummer and a possessed piano player, and laying down a crazy meringue beat, this proves more to the audiences liking and the money flows in, more than enough to cover the mortgage payment. 

The farm is saved! (Whew.) And Dirty Dawson is foiled, who admits they've made a jack-ass out him. (And we'll just let you envision that last visual joke.)

The End

And here you thought The Terror of Tiny Town would be the most [expletive deleted]-up western you'd ever see.

Back in the day, I remember watching an interview with one of the stars of Battlestar Galactica, I think it was Dirk Benedict, who talked about the chimpanzee that inhabited the costume for Muffit: the robot dog. Apparently, the chimp was pretty temperamental, and when it wouldn't cooperate, the trainer would take him back stage for a little "persuasion" session, after which shooting would commence.

And when I say "persuasion" I don't mean giving him a banana.

It's stories like that one that can make you cringe a little while watching shorts like this one. Who knows what kind of persuasive training is involved to get the monkeys to do what they do. It all seems harmless enough, though, in this instance. (Except for the very visible string tying the Strangers hand to his guitar. Yikes.)

The film was directed by Lou Lilly, who had another talking animal short, Down on the Farm. Lilly was a gag-man for Leon Schlesinger's Looney Tunes, making him one of the denizens of the famed Termite Terrace. Lilly had a hand in several of Bob Clampett's surreal shorts, most of them turned out as propaganda pieces during World War II. The two most recognizable are Russian Rhapsody, featuring the singing "Gremlins from the Kremlin" who torment Hitler on a flight to bomb Moscow (-- and if you look closely, most of those gremlins are caricatures of Schlesinger's staff.) The second was Draftee Daffy, where no matter where he goes or what he does, Daffy can't get away from his draft board representative (-- who resembles a bowling pin). Lilly also had a hand in the truly bizarre Hare Ribbin', but his biggest contribution was the co-creation of the Red-Hot Ryder character for Buckaroo Bugs. Ryder would morph slighty for the following year's Hare Trigger short, but you probably know him better now as Yosemite Sam.

Lilly co-wrote this piece with Charles Shows, who would go on to work on the  Hanna-Barbera staples, Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound and Pixie and Dixie. There's some familiar voices, but I'm not sure if Fanny was Julie Bennet, June Foray or Bea Benederat. Anna Osborn headed up the animation for the project, and the whole thing fell under the UM&M TV Corp banner. But, of course, the stars of the project were Tippy and Cobina, the feature attractions of Manuel Vierra's Musical Pets Revue.

Lilly might have had a hand in more of those old cartoons, but we'll never know for sure because the credits weren't all inclusive until right before he left the studio to form his own advertising company. His experience with Clampett and Chuck Jones, and their signature influence, sure shows up in The Lonesome Stranger, though. And that's why The Lonesome Stranger isn't quite as traumatizing an experience as Monkey Business. (And in retrospect, Monkey Business wasn't all that bad, a lot of us had just been up way too long at the time we saw it.) There are some really funny gags to be had -- if you can keep your eyes open during all the groan inducing bits.

The Lonesome Stranger (1946) Jerry Fairbanks Productions :: Paramount Pictures / P: Jerry Fairbanks / D: Lou Lilly / W: Lou Lilly, Charles Shows / C: Frank Ramsay / M: Edward Paul / S: Ken Carpenter, June Foray

Originally Posted: 11/30/04 :: Rehashed: 10/26/09

Knuckled-out by Chad Plambeck: misspeller of words, butcher of all things grammatical, and king of the run on sentence. Copy and paste at your own legal risk. Questions? Comments? Shoot us an e-mail.
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