Pepé Le Pew
Looney Tunes Show: Best of Pepe Le Pew
Pepé Le Pew Odor-able Kitty (January 6, 1945)
is a fictional character in the Warner Bros. Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series of cartoons, first introduced in 1945. A French skunk that always strolls around in Paris in the springtime, when everyone’s thoughts are of “love”, Pepé is constantly seeking “l’amour” of his own. However, he has two huge turnoffs to any prospective mates: his malodorous scent, and his refusal to take ‘no’ for an answer, blissfully convinced that the girl is flirting with him, even when she rejects his advances to the point of physically assaulting him. Pepé is stereotypically French in the way Speedy Gonzales is stereotypically Mexican.
Pepé Le Pew storylines typically involve Pepé in pursuit of what appears to be a female skunk (“la belle femme skunk fatale”). But, usually, the supposed female skunk is actually a black cat (retroactively named Penelope Pussycat) who has had a white stripe painted down her back, often by accident (as by squeezing under a fence with wet white paint). Usually Penelope runs away from him anyway because of his putrid odor or because of his overly assertive manner. As Penelope frantically races to get away from Pepé, he hops after her at a leisurely pace.
In a role-reversal, the Academy Award-winning 1949 short For Scent-imental Reasons ended with an accidentally painted (and now terrified) Pepé being aggressively pursued by a madly smitten Penelope (who has been dunked in dirty water, leaving her with a ratty appearance and a developing head cold, completely clogging up her nose). Penelope locks him up inside a perfume shop, hiding the key down her chest, and proceeds to turn the tables on the now imprisoned and effectively odorless Pepé.
In another short, Little Beau Pepé, Pepé, attempting to find the most arousing cologne with which to impress Penelope, sprays a combination of perfumes and colognes upon himself. This resulted in something close to a love-potion, leading Penelope to fall madly in love with Pepé in an explosion of hearts. Pepé is revealed to be extremely frightened of overly-affectionate women (“But Madame!”), much to his dismay, as Penelope quickly captures him and smothers him in more love than even he could imagine.
And yet again, in Really Scent, Pepé removes his odor by locking himself in a deodorant plant so Penelope (Or known as “Fabrette”, in this instance a black cat with an unfortunate birthmark) would like him (this is also the only episode that Pepé is acutely aware of his own odor, having checked the word Pew in the dictionary). However, Penelope (who in this picture is actually trying to have a relationship with Pepé because all the male cats of New Orleans take her to be a skunk and run like blazes, but is appalled by his odor) had decided to make her own odor match her appearance and had locked herself in a Limburger cheesefactory. Now more forceful and demanding, Penelope quickly corners the terrified Pepé, who, after smelling her new stench, wants nothing more than to escape the amorous female cat. Unfortunately, she will not take “no” for an answer and proceeds to chase Pepé off into the distance, with no intention of letting him escape. (Credited to Abe Levitow, this cartoon is the only short in the Pepé Le Pew series not directed by Chuck Jones, save the debatable Odor of the Day—see below).
Although Pepé usually mistakes Penelope for a female skunk, in Past Perfumance, he realizes that she is a cat when her stripe washes off. Undeterred, he proceeds to cover his white stripe with black paint, taking the appearance of a cat before resuming the chase.
For some unknown reason, Penelope is always mute (more precisely – does only natural cat sounds) in these stories; only the self-deluded Pepé speaks (several non-recurring human characters are given minimal dialogue, often nothing more than a repulsed, “Le pew!”).