CAT AND MOUSE TALES:
MGM's Tom and Jerry Cartoons
usually voiced by actress Lillian Randolph, was one of the most beloved
characters in the Tom and Jerry
and, significantly, the only human being of any real importance in Tom
and Jerry's world.
She made her first appearance in Puss Gets the Boot,
prototype cat and mouse cartoon in which Tom was named Jasper.
A large black woman whose face or head were rarely
Tom's owner, much to his regret. Her life consisted of
up around the house and threatening to throw Tom out,
whether for making a mess, breaking things, or some other infraction of
Mammy's rules. ("Tom, if you'se in dat icebox... start prayin'!").
In many cartoons, she gets her own share of laughs,
when she spies
Jerry the Mouse for the first time, leaps up on a chair and pulls her
her house dress - and fifteen different undergarments besides.
When Jerry starts rocking the chair, the contents of Mammy's
pocket - a straight razor, a pair of dice, a diamond ring - reveals a
rich and fascinating side of her life that never gets explored
In short, Mammy was a hoot. Yes, she was a racial
stereotype, speaking in black dialect commonly found in movies of the
same time, but she was no more a stereotype than the Irish cop or the
Italian grocer you might find in other cartoons. Mammy was an
admirable character, a no-nonsense, hard-working firebrand who made
every cartoon she appeared in a little funnier.
In later years, characters like Mammy Two-Shoes were considered racist and offensive. In the 1960s Chuck Jones, who was doing his own Tom and Jerry series for MGM at that time, was called on to reanimate Mammy's scenes for CBS television, redrawing her as a white woman. New vocal tracks were provided by June Foray. In other words, Mammy got a complete racial makeover, quite a strange solution for what many cartoon fans felt was not really much of a problem to begin with. A more recent compromise kept the original "black mammy" footage but with a newer, more grammatically correct voice dubbed in, which only made Mammy less funny. As kids, we didn't laugh at Mammy because she said "is" for "are", "dat" for "that" or spelled "out" as "O-W-T". We laughed at her because the character was beautifully animated and the actress who played her knew how to ring every drop of humor out of her lines.
Though she is known as Mammy Two-Shoes, her name was never mentioned in the cartoons. And in the 1950 short Saturday Evening Puss, you can actually see her face if you freeze-frame your DVD or video at just the right moment. She looks angry. Tom was probably in that icebox again.