Years ago there was a huge Warner Bros. Studio store in midtown Manhattan.
GAWD, I loved that place.
It was like a temple to my childhood.
I was always seeking excuses to go over there. Christmas shopping–yes! Someone sick in the hospital–yes! No particular reason except I loved being there and riding up and down the escalators seeking out obscure Warner Bros. characters from far above–YES!
One of my very favorite Warner Bros. characters was Gossamer, the hairy, orange monster in white tennis shoes who terrorizes (hah) Bugs Bunny in Hair-Raising Hare (1946) and Water, Water Every Hare (1952). Oh, how happy I was whenever I found a Gossamer item at the Warner Bros. store.
The weird thing about these two cartoon appearances by Gossamer is that they are nearly identical in plot and situation. Bugs Bunny finds himself in the castle of an Evil Scientist (BOO), one who resembles Peter Lorre in Hair-Raising Hare, and one who sounds an awful lot like Boris Karloff in Water, Water Every Hare. In the first cartoon, Bugs is meant as a meal for Gossamer (who is actually unnamed until his reappearance in the 1980 cartoon Duck Dodgers and the Return of the 24 1/2 Century). In the second, Evil Scientist wants Bugs’ brain for his robot creation, promising Gossamer a spider goulash as a reward.
Even some of the jokes are the same. Probably the most iconic are the ones where Bugs gives him a manicure in the first one, and a “perman-a-ment” in the second one, both ending disastrously for Gossamer. Bugs goes into a routine as a manicurist/hairdresser who finds monsters the “most IN-ter-resting” customers.
What endeared me to Gossamer from the beginning was the way he falls for the ruse, because clearly, being a big, hairy, orange thing can give a monster a bit of an inferiority complex. The way he looks at himself in the mirror, admiring how Bugs is styling his hair, handing him bobby pins, makes me totally love him. I feel bad for him when he ends up with his fingers caught in mouse traps or his hair exploded off his head.
It’s not easy being orange.
In superb trickster fashion, Bugs easily defeats Gossamer several times, but unlike other Bugs cartoons, I don’t find myself cheering his successes. I think it’s because unlike most of Bugs’ other enemies, Gossamer doesn’t see himself as better than Bugs. He’s just a minion doing his master’s bidding.
In Hair-Raising Hare, Bugs final defeat of Gossamer is when he breaks the fourth wall and points out that they are being watched by an audience–which totally freaks Gossamer out. In Water, Water Every Hare, he uses one of the Evil Scientist’s potions to reduce Gossamer in size, resulting in Gossamer packing a bag, kicking a mouse out of its hole and hanging up a sign that says “I Quit!” The mouse throws away a bottle and declares, “I quit, too!”
Maybe it’s better that Gossamer had only two appearances during the golden age of the Warner Bros. cartoons. He’s made several in more recent years, but that doesn’t compare to these two cartoons. It just makes him that much more special.