Tom and Jerry may have won seven Oscars in the ‘40s and early ‘50s but I’d, frankly, rather watch a Warner Bros. cartoon from that same period over them any day. The MGM cartoons are expertly animated with wonderfully displayed emotions. But I prefer the wise-ass Warners characters who are silly and unexpectedly inventive, generally in the same cartoon. Tom and Jerry are too full of humiliation and pain for my liking. And the less said, the better, about the later Tom and Jerrys which needed to rely on whining ducks, childish mice and even a teenaged babysitter to drive the plots.
But there are some cartoons that don’t altogether fit in those categories, and they can be enjoyable. ‘Mouse in Manhattan’ (1945) has a charm that overcomes potential hokeyness. ‘Heavenly Puss’ (1949) is highlighted by Tom reacting to his own desperation and a fun, evil Satanic bulldog. And then there’s ‘Texas Tom’ (1950).
There’s a great sequence of animation by Ray Patterson as Tom dudes up in cowboy duds to impress a girl kitty with his “singing”, only to have Jerry show off what a poser he is by changing the speed of the record the cat is lip-synching to.
And just before that, we get this reaction from Tom when he sees the girl cat. Yeah, it’s not as wild as a Tex Avery take, but it’s an attractive and effective one. The animator is Ken Muse, a former Disney animator who was a mainstay when Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera opened their own studio in 1957.
Tom’s song, “If You’re Ever in Texas, Look Me Up,” is casually crooned by Ken Darby of The King’s Men, the vocalists (with Billy Mills and his Orchestra) on ‘Fibber McGee and Molly’ (radio comedy shows always seemed to break for a musical interlude). Darby also worked on ‘Song of the South’ for the Walt Disney studio.