Weird references in vintage cartoons

I’ve watched a zillion Warner Brothers/MGM/Fleischer or whatever cartoons since I was a kid (born 1962), and there’s a ton of weird moments that obviously reference current memes that are long gone and 99% of us will never get it. Easy ones are Jimmy Durante 'ha cha cha’s and such. But there’s pretty obscure ones.

One that caught me just now was this one: a Tom and Jerry mixup where the radio says there’s an escaped white mouse that will esplode! if mishandled. So of course Jerry dies himself white and messes with Tom. Then the actual white mouse shows up, Tom bampfs it and boom, the city is leveled. Then we get this scene after the explosion. This has to be a reference to something, doesn’t it?!?

OK, what other impenetrable then-current culture references are there from old cartoons that you’ve never quite figured out?

The sonorous “don’t…you…believe it” is definitely “from somewhere” and referenced culturally hither and yon, but before my time (and/or awareness). Is that the bit you’re referring to?

From Wikipedia:

Don’t You Believe It! was an American radio program which aired in the late 1930s and early 1940s. The program, hosted by Alan Kent and later Tobe Reed, introduced unique facts along with debunking popular myths, followed by its tagline “Don’t you believe it!”[1][2][3] The program was sponsored by the Lorillard Tobacco Company, promoting “Sensation” cigarettes.[4]

The droning tagline had cultural references, along with cartoons such as the Warner Bros. Merrie Melodies’ short “Bacall to Arms”, Tom and Jerry in Mouse Trouble and The Missing Mouse , and Bugs Bunny in Big Top Bunny .[5]

Nice @Dropo ! Thank you!

I asked the same question in 2008.
There are at least two other cartoons using the same joke, including a Bugs Bunny, and another Tom And Jerry.

Ha! Great minds think alike …with a delay of 13ish years. Glad we got the answer finally.

There’s one cartoon (probably a Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck) where the hero gets a whiff of the bad guy and goes “Beeee-Ohhhhh!” with a foghorn-like effect.

This meme would have been instantly recognizable to radio listeners back in the '40s, since it was used in commercials for Lifebuoy soap. I remember people still using it when I was a wee lad in the late '50s and early '60s.

Click on the MP3 link on this page to hear it:'s/Lifebuoy.html

Are all of these weird-30’s/40’s pop culture references fourth-wall breaks? Probably? The T&J ones certainly were.

They also had “celebrities”* show up to deliver their catchphrase or act tough if it was an actor currently doing gangster roles.

*These were NOT universally well-known; even my parents from the 20’s didn’t recognize some of them. So maybe not the smartest move.

I meant obscure dialog from/at the main characters. I don’t think e.g. Ann Margrock on the Flintstones is the same type of thing.

A prototype for the Straight Dope.

In one cartoon, Bugs Bunny is singing “As Time Goes By” while he munches on carrots. When he gets to the line “Woman needs man, and man must have his mate,” he breaks the fourth wall and says “Ain’t it the ta-ruth!”

I’ve always thought that has to be the catch phrase of some then-popular comedian, but I have no idea who.

That’s from Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz.

Warner Brothers cartoons* are filled with references to characters, catch phrases, and references to then-popular topics that haven’t lasted. Modern viewers need footnotes, or maybe pop-ups like in “Pop up video”, to understand them. We;ve discussed this many times on this Board before. I first noticed it as a kid when there were all these odd references to World War II in the 1940s cartoons “You know how it is with these ‘A’ cards”, says Bugs Bunny when he (and the gremlin) are saved from flaming death when their airplane doesn’t crash into the ground, having run out of gas. The line explains their running out of gas by referring to the gas-rationing “A” sticker. A history lesson in the final gag line of a cartoon.

There were lots of those things – Draft Dodgers, metal drives, hoarders (the Evil Queen “banned” cartoon Coal Black and the Seven Dwarves is hoarding tires and food, so you know she’s Evil), and the like.

Caricatures of then-famous actors was another thing. Today it’s easy to pick out Clark Gable and W.C. fields and James Cagney and Jimmy Stewart. But then there are all those more obscure stars In “Jungle Jitters” (another banned cartoon) the Queen sees the hero as Clark Gable (that’s obvious) and as another caricature that’s obviously a Hollywood Heartthrob, but I would have known it was Robert Taylor. In “The Hardship of Miles Standish” it’s obvious that Priscilla and Miles Standish are supposed to be famous actors, but it’s not obvious who they are (Edna May Oliver and Hugh Herbert, it turns out). and so on.

Sometimes a character is a parody of a popular radio character, but we don’t remember them – or even the radio show – anymore. In the aforementioned “Jungle Jitters”, the hero is a bumbling salesman (a dog-human) who is a caricature of Elmer Blurt, played by al Pearce. His catchphrase – “Nobody home – I hope, I Hope, I Hope” showed up in a lot of Warner Brothers cartoons. Foghorn Leghorn’s personality, catchphrases, and style – the whole act, in fact, was a blatant ripoff of Kenny Delmar’s Senator Claghorn from the popular Allen’s Alley radio show.

The line “Sing Melancholy Baby” is used in a variety of cartoons. It’s based on an incident where the heavy drinking writer Damon Runyon attended a musical performance where the song My Melancholy Baby was first introduced. Runyon shouted out a number of times to have the new tune sung again. The performer was none other than a young William Frawley, later famous for playing Fred Mertz on I Love Lucy.

The one that confused me as a kid was in the cartoon “High Diving Hare” where Yosemite Sam is saying “Open the door! Open the door!” and then adds “You notice I didn’t say ‘Richard’…”

It was a long time before I learned that “Open the Door, Richard” was a popular song at the time.

Nitpick: The title is Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs.

You could always count on Katharine Hepburn saying “Really, I do,” which was apparently a misquote of her line in the movie Alice Adams (1935) “They make up things. Yes, they do, really.”

Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs.

Well, it was until just now that I learned that!

Hollywood Steps Out was the one that got me. Imagine a seven year old in 1968 seeing that one. A pointless (to a kid) parody of celebrities that I’d never heard of, and not funny if you don’t know what is being parodied, and barely funny if you do. I mean, I’ve watched a lot of old movies since then, and I still don’t recognize some of the people.