CAT AND MOUSE TALES:
MGM's Tom and Jerry Cartoons
Part Four - 1947-48
IN-BETWEENERSCat Fishin' / Part Time Pal
Cat Fishin' displays an abundance of Tom's stubbornness and bad timing and Jerry's ingenuity . Two minutes into the film, having been attacked several times by a large fish with shark-like teeth, Tom should look for a safer place to fish. But his enthusiasm for the dangerous place he's chosen just keeps growing. As for Jerry, from his humble introduction in this film, emerging from Tom's bait box dressed in a bathrobe, he winds up getting the better of Tom and Spike in the final moments. But not the the fish, who disappears from the story in the final minutes, most likely having had enough of all three visitors.
Copping a plot device from Chaplin's Part Time Pal is
never really takes off. When under the influence, Tom's true
seems to come out - he likes Jerry, wants to live as carefree a life as
his little mouse pal, and has a whole lotta resentment toward Mammy.
But some of the gags are short-circuited by
Jerry stopping Tom from harming Mammy.
STORY: Tom plays Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody #2, Jerry interrupts.
In what is either a very strange coincidence or a case of one studio stealing an idea from the other, The Cat Concerto was released the same year as Warner Brother's Rhapsody Rabbit. Both films feature established characters (Tom, Bugs Bunny) playing the Hungarian Rhapsody #2 at a packed concert hall, only to be harassed by a mouse living in the piano. The Cat Concerto won the Academy Award for best animated short over Rhapsody Rabbit, which, unfortunately for Warners, was screened for voters after The Cat Concerto.
Watch them back to back and the difference in style is immediately obvious. Tom enters from the wings, sits down and starts playing. Bugs, being Bugs, has to execute five gags (and one audience member!) before hitting his first note. Some of the other gags are similar. The mouse in the Bugs film begins pounding out a boogie bass line on the piano, inspiring Bugs to dash off some tasty blues licks of his own. In The Cat Concerto, Jerry interrupts Tom's Rhapsody with a few syncopated bars of "The Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe", but Tom doesn't join in.
But who cares which one came first? Both cartoons are classics. This is, however, the farthest to date that Hanna and Barbera have humanized Tom. He has stepped completely out of the world of cat and mouse and is functioning more like Bugs, Daffy and Donald, characters whose species have little relation to their actions.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Mouse / Salt Water Tabby / A Mouse in the House /
The third in a series of films that have ditched the ultra-violent gags (for the most part) in an effort to explore what else can be done with the characters, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Mouse is obviously inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson's horror story, as well as the many film versions of it. The scene in which Tom creates his concoction, disguised as a bowl of milk, is a beautiful, shadowy pastiche of horror films.
Within the first thirty seconds of the "day at the beach" short Salt Water Tabby, Tom has already been bashed through a door and covered in garbage... and Jerry hasn't even shown up yet! Fast paced, funny and painful, Salt Water Tabby presents nothing new except for the setting. Otherwise, Tom breaks his teeth on a clamshell sandwich, Tom drinks a cup full of sand, Tom gets hit in the face with a shovel... you know, all the usual good stuff.
The funniest part of A Mouse in the House, which features Tom and Butch living under the same roof, is the initial search for Jerry, which Jerry himself happily participates in. (It takes the cats a while to catch on). Otherwise, it's an average short that once again shows that no matter how many cats you send after him, Jerry is smarter. Tom and Butch, who live in the same house for this cartoon, spend more time beating the hell out of each other than trying to catch Jerry. And I have to say - land's sakes, that Mammy has one gigantic house!
Invisible Mouse is cute, deftly animated but ultimately pointless short. Not that it isn't funny, but there is little Jerry does to Tom while invisible that he couldn't have easily done otherwise. The best parts are when Tom out-thinks Jerry, rendering him partially visible with flour and later a blanket thrown over him... and Jerry still gets away unharmed!
Kitty-Foiled / The Truce Hurts
You wonder how stupid those TV censors over in England have to be when they object to scenes of Tom smoking cigarettes but say nothing about a scene in Kitty-Foiled where a canary holds Tom at bay at gunpoint. Not to mention a scene where Jerry breaks all of Tom's teeth with a hammer.
The Truce Hurts, a Tom and Jerry version of the classic Popeye cartoon It's The Natural Thing to Do, is crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle. The first and last 30 seconds of The Truce Hurts features the three lead characters bashing the hell out of each other with a baseball bat (Spike), a frying pan (Tom) and a lead pipe (Jerry). The entire middle of the film is all about the negotiated peace treaty ("With this treaty we won't tinker, the one who does is a stinker") and how hard all three try to live up to it. It's cute, in a good way, with lots of great character moments.
Story: Mammy gets a new cat who is more effective at chasing Jerry.
A deft combination of gags, story and character, Old Rocking Chair Tom is six minutes of perfectly executed cat and mouse mayhem. The new cat, Lightning, is indeed fast as lightning and an expert at getting Jerry out of the house. Jerry figures this out and at one point, he even kicks himself out into the backyard, saving Lightning the trouble. But Lightning is also the Eddie Haskell of the cat world - all sophistication and charm when Mammy Two-Shoes is around, but a troublemaker when she's not. Tom and Jerry's plot to get him in trouble involves forcefeeding him an iron (takes all of three seconds) and manipulating him with one of those super strong magnets that only seem to exist in the cartoon world.
For younger readers who stopped reading at "Eddie Haskell", look up the Leave It to Beaver television show.
"Thomas, if you is a mouse catcher, I is Lana Turner... which I ain't!"
Professor Tom / Mouse Cleaning
Tom is a standard entry with the twist of having Tom
having a young kitten as a student. The little guy has a lot
of personality for a
one-off character; he's got tons of spunk and energy, even if he is
always running off in the wrong direction. It feels so
for the little cat and Jerry to get along famously we don't even
question it. As for Tom, it seems his teaching skills are as
sharp as his mouse-catching skills. Sad to say.
Mouse Cleaning, a solid cartoon built on several surefire premises, has Jerry coming up with just about every way imaginable to get Tom to accidentally mess up the floors, curtains and walls so that Mammy will throw him out. The master shot of a living room covered in Tom's inky footprints (including the ceiling and walls) is a classic. Unfortunately, this one, in its uncut version, ends with a racial gag in which Tom, face dirtied by coal, pretends to be Stepin Fetchit.