Bugs, thugs and harmony: Nine hilarious details in ''The Unmentionables''

You may have missed these real-life pop culture references and history behind the gangster short

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LOONEY TUNES and all related characters and elements are ™ of & © WBEI

The Unmentionables is six-and-a-half minute long cartoon released as part of Warner Bros. Merrie Melodies series in 1963. The short sees Bugs Bunny traipsing through 1920s Chicago and getting on the wrong side of some less-than-savory company along the way.

Whether you haven't seen it in years, or even if you just watched it yesterday, there's a great chance you may have missed some very funny particulars throughout the toon. 

Here, for your entertainment are ten details that you may have missed while watching The Unmentionables.

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1. Merrie Melodies

LOONEY TUNES and all related characters and elements are ™ of & © WBEI

During the Golden Age of American animation, Warner Bros. studios produced two companion series, Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes. Both featured the same cast of characters, so what was the difference? Well, at first, Merrie Melodies emphasized color animation, while Looney Tunes were black and white. When Bugs Bunny broke out as the star of both series, and when Looney Tunes started producing full-color toons in the early 1940s, the differentiation was completely dropped. So why was The Untouchables a Merrie Melodies cartoon? No reason! it was completely arbitrary!

2. Speakeasy peephole

LOONEY TUNES and all related characters and elements are ™ of & © WBEI

Before the title card even has the chance to announce itself, the animators cram in a gag. Here, an unseen hand slides back the peephole in a speakeasy door to peer out. This style of peephole, also sometimes called a "Judas hole" allowed prohibition-era proprietors to see who was knocking at their door without the bar-owner revealing their identity.

3. The triple-entendre title

LOONEY TUNES and all related characters and elements are ™ of & © WBEI

The first rule of The Unmentionables is you do not mention The Unmentionables. Obviously, criminals aren't going to speak on their goings-on. In addition, the title is a parody of the hugely successful 1959 series The Untouchables. Funnier still? "Unmentionables" is a synonym for underwear.

4. Oh, You Kid!

LOONEY TUNES and all related characters and elements are ™ of & © WBEI

Even the most eagle-eyed fan was sure to miss this gag in 1963! Before the title card is over, a car carrying revelrous merry-maker scoots by, sporting the words "Oh, You Kid" on the side. 

"Oh, You Kid!" was the title of a scandalous pop song from 1909. The controversy stemmed from the adulterous implication of the lyrics "I love my wife- but oh, you kid!" 

5. Credit where credit's due

LOONEY TUNES and all related characters and elements are ™ of & © WBEI

So much of what made the Looney Tunes funny came from director Friz Freleng. A master of comic timing, Freleng either created or developed some of the most iconic Warner Bros. cartoon characters. Porky Pig, Tweety, Sylvester, and Yosemite Sam all came from Friz Freleng.

Unfortunately for Freleng fans the world over, "The Unmentionables" would mark the last Friz-directed Bugs Bunny cartoon for sixteen years.  

6. Frank Nitti gritty

LOONEY TUNES and all related characters and elements are ™ of & © WBEI

Continuing the parody of The Untouchables as evidenced in the title, Bugs Bunny here plays "Elegant Mess," a clear pastiche of real-life Prohibition agent Eliot Ness. 

7. Bugs is speechless

LOONEY TUNES and all related characters and elements are ™ of & © WBEI

Speaking of bugs Bunny, the usually-motor-mouthed mammal is here rendered more of the strong, silent type. This is the rare cartoon where Bugs has less dialogue than his onscreen co-stars. Stranger still, Bugs doesn't once ask anyone "What's up, doc?"

8. Rocky and Mugsy's last hurrah

LOONEY TUNES and all related characters and elements are ™ of & © WBEI

Fans of animated outlaws may be dismayed to learn that this was Rocky and Mugsy's final theatrical appearance for 32 long years.

Fortunately, the hilariously inept hoodlum pair would play a prominent role in the televised Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries 

9. Juliet prison

LOONEY TUNES and all related characters and elements are ™ of & © WBEI

Like usual, Bugs Bunny comes out on top, and here he lands Rocky and Mugsy in jail. The name of this big house? "Juliet Prison," a nod to real-life Illinois penitentiary Joliet Prison. 

Blues Brothers fans will remember the movie starting with Jake Blues exiting the coorectional facility after a three-year sentence.

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13 Comments

Runeshaper 7 months ago
Thanks for sharing, MeTV! Those are some GREAT gangsters 🤜🤛
BrittReid 7 months ago
That cartoon is hilarious! One of the best.
tootsieg 7 months ago
Only Bugs could play “Elegant Mess”. What a play on words!
Thanks for the article. Very funny.
cperrynaples 7 months ago
The last gag is the best! According to the Walter Winchell-ish announcer, Bugs had to go to jail because he lost the handcuff keys! BTW, the real Untouchables once ran on MeTV and still appears on H&I!
BrittReid cperrynaples 7 months ago
The Untouchables is no longer on H&I.
justjeff 7 months ago
MeTV left out part of the reason why Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies were named as such.

From Wikipedia:

"Producer Leon Schlesinger had already produced the music-based Looney Tunes series, and its success prompted him to try to sell a sister series to Warner Bros. His selling point was that the new cartoons would feature music from the soundtracks of Warner Bros. films and would thus serve as advertisements for Warner Bros. recordings and sheet music. The studio agreed, and Schlesinger dubbed the series Merrie Melodies. Walt Disney Productions had already scored with their Silly Symphonies. Since cartoon production usually began with a soundtrack, animating a piece of music made it easier to devise plot elements and even characters.

The origins of the Merrie Melodies series begin with the failure of a live action series of musical shorts called Spooney Melodies, which featured popular songs of the day. These shorts included segments with a popular artist singing along with appropriate background sequences. Warner Bros. wanted to promote this music because they had recently acquired (in 1930) the ownership of Brunswick Records along with four music publishers for US $28 million. Because of the success of their Looney Tunes series, Warner Bros. decided to develop a new series of animated musical shorts called Merrie Melodies. Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising led the development. It was meant to be a series of musical cartoons that featured hit songs of the day, especially those then owned by Warner Bros. and featured in their musical films. In 1931, many of the shorts featured the orchestra of Abe Lyman, one of the most famous band leaders of his day.

The first cartoon of the new Merrie Melodies series was Lady, Play Your Mandolin!, released in 1931.[2] Ising attempted to introduce several characters in his Merrie Melodies films, such as Piggy, Foxy, and Goopy Geer. Eventually however, the series continued without any recurring characters.[8] The shorts proved to be enormously popular with the public. In 1932, a Merrie Melodies cartoon, entitled It's Got Me Again!, was nominated for the first Academy Award to be given for animation."
daDoctah justjeff 7 months ago
Harman and Ising may very well be the most serendipitous pair of names in 20th-century commercial history. At least one step above Smart & Final (you did know those were the actual names of the guys who teamed up to run the company and not just a marketing slogan, right?) and Sol Price who founded Price Club (before it became Costco).
justjeff daDoctah 7 months ago
I kew about Glen Bell from Taco Bell but as Johnny Carson used to say... "I did not know that" about Smart and Final...
MrsPhilHarris justjeff 7 months ago
Great post! Very interesting.
Adanor justjeff 7 months ago
Speaking of the music in cartoons, when will we see Mighty Mouse cartoons? This cartoon series featured a full orchestra. So wonderful!
justjeff Adanor 6 months ago
... but the stories (looking back as an adult) were some of the lamest! In fact, the flying rodent even had multiple "origins" over the years...
justjeff MrsPhilHarris 6 months ago
Thank you! 😉
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