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The Wonesome Death of Charles Fukowski

Charles Fukowski, age 93, died in his sleep today at his home in the Hollywood Hills.

Best known to movie and TV viewers as Elmer Fudd, Fukowski made his cinema debut in the 1932 cartoon “Egghead Rides Again.” Critical acclaim earned the ambitious young actor an exclusive contract with Warner Brothers — a relationship that led to roles in more than 40 films.

“I’ll never forget how he called me a ‘Kwazy Wabbit,’” recalled a teary-eyed Albert “Bugs” Buni, who appeared with Fukowski in several dozen cartoons. Indeed, the characteristically mangled speech of Elmer Fudd inspired a new generation of actors, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Barbara Walters and Ernest “Daffy Duck” Duchovny, to pursue on-screen careers despite similar linguistic handicaps.

For Fukowski, the years of speech therapy were not without rewards. At one evening class, Fukowski met another rising star, Paul Swift-Armor, who had just signed with Warner Brothers as Porky Pig. The two actors remained best of friends until Swift-Armor’s death from advanced trichinosis in 1992. In a letter to The Los Angeles Times, Fukowski refuted the newspaper’s claim, that Swift-Armor’s last words were ”The-the-the-the-the-the that’s all folks.”

During the early 1960s, Fuddkowski wrestled with Warner Brothers for artistic control of his films. “Despite his stature as a Hollywood insider, he lacked the vision of a skilled director,” offered Buni.

“In fact, I was often surprised by Fudd’s lack of awareness on-screen. For instance, during the filming of A Wild Hare, I once sneaked in and coated the lenses of Elmer’s glasses with black paint.”

Apparently Elmer never caught on. Instead, he headed for bed and was soon “snoring like a freight train,” according to Buni.

“Minutes later, I removed the glasses, reset his alarm clock and started crowing like a rooster,” Buni recounted. “Elmer awakened, stretched and said ‘Morning aweady?’”

It was an embarrassing moment, according to Hollywood’s most beloved lapin. Nonetheless, Warner Brothers left the sequence intact, releasing the film over Fukowski’s protestations. The film earned the then-portly actor his only Oscar nomination.

Fukowski’s disagreements with Warner Brothers became more frequent, and after a particularly stormy meeting in 1971, the still-popular screen star threatened to “wesign.” Turning his back on the film world, Fukowski redirected his artistic energies to live theater. At the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, he wowed audiences with his interpretation of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar (“Fweinds, Womans, countwymen…”).

Fukowski never married and has no living next of kin. However, it is rumored that he, not David Crosby, was the surrogate father of two of singer Melissa Etheridge’s children.

David George Gordon

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