CAT AND MOUSE TALES:
MGM's Tom and Jerry Cartoons
Part Three - 1945-46
STORY: Mammy sets a fine dinner table; Tom, Jerry and Toots ruin it.
Ever wonder how many different ways Jerry could do damage to Tom's tail? This is the cartoon that answers that question. A series of slapstick food gags with Tom using Jerry as an all-purpose utensil (corkscrew, soup cooler, cigar cutter) and Jerry exacting his revenge on Tom's face, tail and backside in ways that are both funny and cringe-inducing.
I've seen two versions of this cartoon, one with the original Mammy Two-Shoes voice, one dubbed. The difference in dialogue is minimal:
ORIGINAL: "Boy, that's a beautiful table. Sure hope
nothin' happens to it before the company gets here."
DUBBED: "My, that's a beautiful table. I sure hope that nothin' happens to it before the company gets here."
"Boy" is changed to "my" and "Sure hope" becomes "I sure hope". And the new voice sounds more refined. Seems like an awful lot of work for a few seconds of completely non-offensive Mammy Two-Shoes wordage. I guess you could call it a case of Grammatical Political Correctness.
Mouse in Manhattan / Tee for Two / Flirty Birdy / Quiet Please
A bit of an experiment for a series that usually stuck to formula, Mouse in Manhattan is a virtual solo vehicle for Jerry, who finds life in the big city not all he expected. So it's not exactly a Tom and Jerry cartoon, but the gorgeous recreations of 1940s New York make it worthwhile, and Jerry is fun to watch as a Chaplinesque fish out of water. Still, the best moment is when Jerry returns to the country and applies multiple kisses to a sleeping Tom's face. The devil you know is better than the devil you don't, I guess.
Essentially a series of golf blackouts, funny enough, Tee for Two doesn't really offer anything special until the final moments, after Tom thinks he has eluded a swarm of bees by hiding underwater. Of course he hasn't, and the shot where he discovers he hasn't ranks with the best anticipation and delivery of a gag of the entire series. Sometimes one gag can make a whole cartoon.
Flirty Birdy features overheated kissing gags ala Tex Avery, but it should be noted that at this time, Avery had only directed one of his "famous "Wolfie" cartoons, 1942's classic Red Hot Riding Hood, with Swing Shift Cinderella and Wild and Woolfy being created roughly at the same time as Flirty Birdy. Still, it feels like Tex's influence is all over this cartoon, with the buzzard (or whatever he is) desperate to make whoopee with Tom, with bricks to the head and window shutters to the face only heating his passion all the more. Tom does his best to fight off the bird, but the last we see of Tom, he is sitting in a bird's nest, still cross-dressed, knitting a little sweater for one of his eggs.
Another Oscar-winning Tom and Jerry cartoon, Quiet Please seems like your average Tom and Jerry cartoon, meaning it has all the wild action, split-second timing, explosions, shotgun blasts, pies in the face, screams, hammers to the feet and nonstop wild swing music as any other Tom and Jerry. And it is all based on one simple gag - Jerry's efforts to make that one more noise that will set Spike off on a Tom-bashing tirade.
If some T&J cartoons were influenced by Tex Avery, and this one certainly was, the same holds true in reverse. A few years after Hanna and Barbera's Quiet Please, Avery would take its basic situation, flip it on its head, and direct Doggone Tired, in which a rabbit makes as much noise as possible to stop a hunting dog from getting a good night's sleep.
STORY: Tom is in love. Jerry won't stand for it!
The great "Tom scream" had been in play on the soundtrack for a while now, a scream that was actually a recording of Bill Hanna himself, snipped at the beginning and end to give it more impact. Here it is heard when Tom's rival Butch tells Toodles "You know, any minute I'm expecting cupid's arrow," followed by Jerry secretly jabbing him with a large pin. The scream itself is one of the funniest sound effects you will ever hear in a cartoon, and, like a camera look from Oliver Hardy or a "What's up, doc?" from Bugs Bunny, it always works, time after time.
Springtime for Tom, which plays around with the usual formula in an unusual way to keep things fresh, is filled with good, sadistic violence as Jerry, eager to get Tom back, tricks another cat into being Tom's rival, obviously certain Tom would lose in love and have no recourse but to come crawling back. The bulk of the cartoon features Tom and Butch inflicting goodly amounts of pain and humiliation on each other with polo mallets and guitars while the sexy Toodles watches with a significant amount of disinterest. Jerry is hardly in the film at all, though the film is really about Jerry's needs, not Tom's. In short, Jerry needs to be chased by his cat friend. Without that, he really has nothing to do with his day. The first scene, where Jerry wakes up (in the mailbox), breathes in the fresh morning air and then eagerly seeks out Tom to five him a swift kick in the rear to start the day's fun, is one of the series' most perfect opening sequences.
The Milky Waif / Trap Happy / Solid Serenade
In The Milky Waif, it takes about three minutes before Tom experiences his first real pain, and four minutes before he gets his first hammer to the tail. Before that, the film's comedy is based on gentle gags, character moments and pure animation, and it is all still just as funny as the usual bone-crunching and head-bashing. Nibbles, an even smaller and cuter version of Jerry, would later become Tuffy.
There is probably not a single gag in Trap Happy that hasn't been used before, not only by Hanna and Barbera but also by Warners, Fleischers, Terrytoons, Walter Lantz and every other cartoon studio. All the usual Tom and Jerry gags - polo mallets to the head, hammers to the feet, bombs placed under rears - are loving trotted out, set up and executed one after the other in a steady line. It's almost as if the makers were saying "Yes, you've seen this all before, but it's still fun, ain't it?". And it is, damn it. The gags are done with such an overwhelming gleeful enthusiasm for animated pain and destruction, that you cannot help but give into it, even if you find yourself sometimes cringing at the enormous amount of cruelty that seems to dwell in the heart of a cute little brown mouse.
A semi-sequel to The Zoot Cat, even reprising Tom's Charles Boyer imitation to his gal, Solid Serenade is another "solid" entry into the series. The biggest novelty this time around is Tom (actually Louis Jordan) singing "Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby?" for the first half of the cartoon before the chase begins. The chase itself, in which Jerry unleashes a tied-up Spike on Tom, features the usual gags, but it is the reaction shots, timing and facial expressions that get the most laughs.