Sunday, May 20, 2018

DYNAMIC DUOS IN CLASSIC FILM: Ralph Wolf and Sam Sheepdog


Once Upon a Screen and Classic Movie Hub aka Aurora and Annmarie are hosting a blogathon look at the amazing pairs in classic film that delight us. It is a two-day party on May 19th and 20th. Click HERE for Day 1 contributions. Click HERE for Day 2 contributions.



A day at the office with Sam Sheepdog and Ralph Wolf.
A Sheep in the Deep



"In pitting Ralph Wolf against Sam Sheepdog, I was trying to discover if I could do the opposite of the chase at the heart of the Road Runner cartoons. The Road Runner is moving all the time, and at great speed. I, therefore, wanted the wolf's opponent not to move at all. And that is exactly what happens - or doesn't. Sam just sits very solidly on the ground. He doesn't move: he is there."
- Chuck Reducks
published, 1996

Chuck Jones directed six shorts starring Ralph and Sam: Don't Give Up the Sheep (1953), Sheep Ahoy (1954), Double or Mutton (1955), Steal Wool (1957), Ready, Woolen and Able (1960), and A Sheep in the Deep (1962). The pairs final outing to-date, excepting cameos, was in Woolen Under Where (1963) directed by Phil Monroe and Richard Thompson.

The universe in which Ralph Wolf and Sam Sheepdog reside is an orderly and structured workplace with strict rules and guidelines as to clocking in, taking breaks, and day's end. Within that routine, all is chaos and mayhem, at least for benighted Ralph Wolf. Sam Sheepdog, the purveyor of the chaos does his job with the precision and emotion of an automaton. I find the whole concept and its execution side-achingly funny and oddly comforting.



The first short featuring these characters is Don't Give Up the Sheep. There is a bit of confusion with regards to the names, but the basic premise is laid down beautifully. Sam is there to protect the flock of sheep, and Ralph is there to prey upon the flock of sheep.



Here's a typically brilliant plan of Ralph's which has gone awry in Double or Mutton. That Ralph sure is a hard worker. He throws everything he's got into the job. Sam never lets us see the work, but he must have an awfully active brain to keep one step ahead of the crafty Canis lupus.



"Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so."
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

We should all enjoy the illusion as much as Ralph and Sam. The music selected by Milt Franklyn for this scene in A Sheep in the Deep is A Cup of Coffee, a Sandwich and You. It's best to keep up with the popular songs or you'll miss the jokes!



THE classic gag!



The last shot of Steal Wool makes me smile. Ultimately, Ralph and Sam cheer me with the idea that the world works best when everyone does their bit. There will be pain, but it doesn't last.












20 comments:

  1. What fun it is to revisit these classic cartoons time and again. Like the greatest of movies they draw us in to these worlds and we go easily. It's hard to believe Sam and Ralph made so few shorts given the impact they had on you and (I'm sure) your children since I know you raised them to appreciate these classic treasures. Thank you so much for reminding us of this dynamic (and steady) duo.

    Aurora

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    1. I feel like there must have been dozens of these gems for the pleasure I and (the very happy I'm their mom!) kids have gotten from them. For Chuck and Ralph and Sam, it is a matter of quality over quantity.

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  2. I thought it was clever of them to try and "recast" Wile E. Coyote in alternate roles such as this (the 5pm whistle blows right when Sam is about to pound on him and they clock out for the day as buddies). I like the ones where he's with Bugs Bunny and he talks like some overeducated master criminal. I guess neither those nor the Sam & Ralph ones caught on as much as the Road Runner ones, but at least they try to tweak the formula, not that it needs much tweaking.

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    1. The main concession to a different characterization for Ralph from Wile E. is his red nose.

      I love stuff like Compressed Hair when the coyote is the self-professed genius. "Are you in, genius?" has become a family catch phrase. Used in a sarcastic tone, it is appropriate from husband to wife, from wife to husband, or parent to child. We will not take it from child to parent!

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    2. That is the first time I've noticed that in all the years I've seen these cartoons! Weird.

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    3. Sometimes we don't see what we want to see, but what we expect to see. Just as weird.

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  3. LOVE Looney Tunes. Just looking at some of these images make me chuckle -- I think I appreciate them even more now as an adult :) So iconic and bring back fond memories!

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    1. It is wonderful how we can appreciate these shorts on so many levels. They have grown with us through the years, or we've grown with them. The point is we are still together.

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  4. What I adore about Ralph and Sam is always seemed that they were just doing their jobs. I always got the feeling that off the clock they were friends. On their hours outside of work I could picture them blowing together or having each other's family over for dinner! Anyway, I always looked forward to the shorts when they came on TV when I was a little and I still love watching them.

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    1. You are definitely on to something there. They are pals to the end after that clock stops. I see them getting their gold watches from the Sheep Consortium and sitting on rocking chairs regaling all and sundry with tales of boulders and sticks of dynamite.

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  5. What a fun choice for the blogathon! I love Wile E. and all of his iterations, but there is something so sweet and reassuring about Ralph's friendship with Sam. They respect what the other has to do and by the end of the day there are no hard feelings. (After all, their jobs depend on one another!)

    A pleasure to read, as always!

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    1. You wrapped up the Ralph and Sam relationship perfectly. It was fun for me to write about them, and it has been a kick to discover all of the other fans.

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  6. I remember watching this cartoon before going to school when I was a kid, and loving the "clocking in" and the "lunch time" gags. And then I thought it was a sheepdog and Willie Coyote! Well, from now on, you'll just assume Willie Coyote and Ralph Wolf are cousins!
    Kisses!

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    1. I thought the same thing when I was a kid. I'll bet we weren't alone. It wasn't until my dad pointed out that the wolf was called Ralph and that he had a red nose that I almost figured it out. Kids!

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  7. Oh, I loved that sheepdog! And a kinder, sorta gentler wolf now has a name - Ralph! Who knew? Why, Caftan Woman knew - genius!

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    1. I have to get genius cards made, like Wile E. himself. Ha! Ralph had no such pretentions.

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  8. What a brilliant choice! I grow up on the Warner Bros. cartoons and the ones with Ralph and Sam were among my favorites. "Double or Mutton" may be my fave (even the title is funny...clever). Another great Warner BRos. cartoon duo is Sylvester and his son--I like the ones with mouse and the kangaroo.

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    1. Thank you so much.

      Sylvester cracks me. When Jr. puts the bag over his head in shame, I lose it. Timeless stuff came out of Termite Terrace.

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  9. I agree with what Rich said: I love it when Sam and Ralph about about to beat each other up, but the whistle blows and they part as amicable co-workers, no hard feelings. As a kid I thought that was a remarkable. As an adult, I still think it's remarkable.

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    1. It is indeed remarkable, and I think the main draw of these characters for me. Well, that ... and stepping on a rake!

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