The Easter Bunny will get all the attention this weekend, but he’s not the only rabbit to hop down the pop culture pike. Here are a few hares from TV and movies that I’ve come to admire.
Who doesn’t love this wascawy wabbit? With a great Brooklyn accent, courtesy of Mel Blanc, and an endless supply of wiseguy bravado, Bugs glides smoothly through life (crazy hunters, cowboys and Tasmanian Devils notwithstanding). Also, his “Rabbit of Seville” is priceless.
For those not familiar with the 1950 film (or the stage play it was based upon), “Harvey” is an invisible rabbit who likes to tag along with Jimmy Stewart to the local pub. It’s an appealing meditation on the virtues of pleasant goofiness over cold, harsh rationality. Stewart does a nice job with it, at a time when special effects were severely limited.
We proceed from a rabbit that is never actually heard to one that is heard all too well. Sid, part of Craig Ferguson’s late-night puppet gallery on CBS, is almost certainly the most foul-mouthed rabbit in TV history. Got to admit, though, the little stinker makes me laugh.
We’re going back into the musical vault for this 1967 gem of psychedelic rock from Jefferson Airplane. Grace Slick sprinkled lots of references to Alice in Wonderland in “White Rabbit.” She also gave it a trippy, drugged-out vibe. Best of all, it’s a cool song, full of drama.
I love this little guy’s ears. They’re like loaves of French bread stuck on the back of his head. “Crusader Rabbit” was a pioneering bit of TV animation from the 1950s that managed to work its way onto the air occasionally in reruns even in the ’60s and ’70s. Crusader went on cliffhanger-type adventures, had a tiger (Rags) for a sidekick and – my favorite part – had episode names such as “Sahara You.”
A BUNNY’S TALE
The famous feminist Gloria Steinem worked briefly as a Playboy Bunny in the 1960s in order to write a magazine article about the experience. The result, “A Bunny’s Tale,” turned heads by showing how demeaning such work. The article was turned into a movie in 1985 starring … Kirstie Alley.
Admittedly, I found the Energizer Bunny somewhat loathsome at first. But, like his product, he simply kept going. And you know what? The commercials kept getting better. The Energizer Bunny has smartly hitched his TV wagon to some of the most iconic characters in our culture, from King Kong to Darth Vader.
The first of John Updike’s famous “Rabbit” books got the Hollywood treatment in 1970. James Caan played Rabbit Angstrom, the self-obsessed guy who runs away from his wife and life and finds nothing but confusion. It was like a highly literary version of “Mad Men.”
Believe it or not, 1988’s “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” was considered a technological breakthrough. It blended animation with live action better than anything up to that point, and it gave us a smart look at older characters such as Betty Boop and Daffy Duck.
“TELL ME ABOUT THE RABBITS, GEORGE.”
John Steinbeck’s timeless novella, “Of Mice and Men,” has been the basis for several movies and TV productions. Two of the best were in 1939 (Lon Chaney, Jr., and Burgess Meredith) and 1992 (John Malkovich and Gary Sinise). Steinbeck used the imagery of rabbits in a powerful way. The story is about two drifters, protective George and man-child Lennie, who find jobs on a California ranch during the Great Depression. Something tragic happens, and the only way Lennie can be soothed is by hearing George talk about their dream of having their own farm. The farm would have soft, calming, lovely rabbits to pet – which is not a bad stand-in for the dreams we all have tucked away to keep the demons at bay.
Fine rabbits, all. So – do you have other favorites? Be sure to add them to The List!