Saturday 29 February 2020

Metro Myths

It’s time on the Tralfaz blog for “MGM: True or False?”

1. Daws Butler voiced characters in Tex Avery’s 1945 cartoon Jerky Turkey.
Answer – False. Butler was still on military duty and had never stepped foot in Hollywood. His first MGM cartoon was Out-Foxed (1949) where he plays the Ronald Colman-esque fox. And Bill Thompson was on service in Chicago so he’s not in it, either.

2. Tom and Jerry cartoons occasionally included a character named “Mammy Two-Shoes.”
Answer – Likely False. There’s no evidence that I’ve seen from MGM model sheets or contemporary trade publications that the character had a name at all. If someone has definitive evidence, and I don’t mean “the name’s in a bunch of books” or “Wikipedia says...” please post it.

3. Tom and Jerry were originally named Jasper and Jinx.
Answer – Maybe. Certainly the cat was named Jasper; the housekeeper/maid refers to him by that name in the first Tom and Jerry cartoon, Puss Gets the Boot. The mouse’s name is never mentioned in the cartoon. Joe Barbera’s autobiography My Life in ‘toons (published in 1994) says “Jerry didn’t even have a name yet.” (pg. 74). Bill Hanna referred to him as “Jinx” in his autobiography, A Cast of Friends (published in 2000). But MGM had a name for the mouse in 1940, and it was neither Jerry nor Jinx.

The studio had a publication called “Short Story” which, basically, promoted its short subjects to exhibitors and included plot summaries from its various one and two-reelers, including the Pete Smith Specialites, John Nesbitt’s Passing Parade, the Our Gang films—and cartoons.

In the January-February issue, it featured two cartoons—The Fishing Bear and Puss Gets the Boot. The summaries would have been written in late 1939, before Puss ever reached screens. Here’s the item on that cartoon; the storyline will be familiar if you know the cartoon.

You’ll notice the absence of any mention of Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, who we know today as being responsible for Puss, with credit given to Rudy Ising, whose name appeared on screen. An Associated Press story later in 1940 revealed Hanna and Barbera were behind the short; how that news got to the public press is, I suspect, a fascinating bit of studio politics yet to be uncovered.
SINCE Eve evolved from Adam's rib, cats have waged constant war against mice. Now comes a one-mouse revolution brought on by a cat, that ends in victory for the mouse.
This story, as told in Rudolf Ising's latest M-G-M Cartoon, "Puss Gets the Boot," relates how this one small mouse, taking advantage of one large cat's shortcoming, subdues the larger warrior in a battle of wits and with the aid, of course, of circumstances.
Ising's cat feels particularly wicked, this day. Before putting an end to the mouse of his choice, he decides to toy with it. As the mouse pokes his head out of his hole, friend cat grabs him with his tail, flips him in the air, and lets him fall to the floor senseless. The cat then dips his paw into some ink and draws a false hole in the wall for the mouse. As soon as he awakens, the mouse makes a dash for his hole, runs into the solid wall and is knocked unconscious again. This time, when he awakens, he is angry. With great courage he strolls up to the cat and punches him right in the eye.
Furious, the cat runs after the mouse, and dashes right into a pillar that supports a beautiful vase. The vase falls to the floor, crashes into a thousand pieces, and the cat, Jasper, by name, is in for it. Immediately, the housekeeper chases after Jasper with a broom, beats him, and warns him that if anything else is broken in the house, he will be thrown into the street forever.
Now, the mouse, named Pee-Wee, knows how to handle Jasper. If Jasper tries to hurt him again, he'll break something and blame it on the cat. The next time Jasper chases Pee-Wee, the mouse runs to the edge of a table, grabs one of a set of cocktail glasses, and defiantly shouts that he will drop the glass if the cat comes any closer. With each of Jasper's lunges, Pee-Wee threatens to drop the glass. Finally, just to be ornery, Pee-Wee does drop the glass which Jasper catches, before it breaks, by the skin of his teeth. Another glass and still another come hurtling down with Jasper catching each one before it hits the floor. Now Jasper gets wise and places soft cushions all over so that even if Pee-Wee does drop the glasses, they won't break.
Jasper moves toward Pee-Wee, who threatens to drop another glass. Jasper laughs, the mouse drops the glass and it falls on the pillows and doesn't break. Immediately, Pee-Wee is in Jasper's tail, being tossed up and down like a ball of wool. But Jasper flips Pee-Wee a bit too high. The mouse catches on the ledge of a mantel on which there are many valuable plates. Immediately he starts throwing them to the floor. The cat dashes around madly, catching each dish until his arms are full.
Calmly, Pee-Wee comes down from the mantel, and kicks Jasper right into next week. Up in the air goes every dish, and down they come. The housekeeper catches the cat and banishes him from the house forever.
Calmly, and with great confidence, Pee-Wee strolls back to his hole, sighing, "Home, Sweet Home."
Whether “Pee-Wee” was a temporary name (like “The Flagstones” for a certain Hanna-Barbera prime-time cartoon), appeared on model sheets or was something merely used in-house, I can’t tell you. But it was the mouse’s name. The only references I’ve discovered stating “Jinx” was Jerry’s name are from decades after Puss Gets the Boot was made.

By the way, the artwork which accompanied the story must be a cel set-up. It doesn’t occur in the actual cartoon. But the background is in it, and so is Jerry being held in Tom’s tail. They’re in two different scenes.

Oh, one more MGM true or false:

4. Fred Quimby is a red-faced jerk.
Answer – Cal Howard thought so (according to interviewer Charles Solomon). Howard’s role at Metro, devoid of screen credits, is a story for another time.


  1. Cal Howard is a character worth investigating. While he did credible work in the Hollywood animation studios. his worst work was during his period with Fleischer Studios. It would certainly be worth looking into his work and his attitudes.

  2. I believe Frank Graham was the voice of the Fox in "Out-Foxed"....???

    1. Nope. Doesn't sound like Graham at all.

  3. Hans Christian Brando3 March 2020 at 18:45

    I'm sure it would never occur to kids watching Tom & Jerry today that "Mammy Two-Shoes" was a maid (except for one cartoon where she actually wears a maid's uniform). We never see her answering to any white characters.

    1. Yeah, when I was a kid, I always just thought she was the lady of the house. That seems to be the case in the later cartoons especially, when she's the only one seen in the master bedroom, or with the income to buy a new mechanical cat when Tom isn't doing the job of chasing Jerry out. If that's the case, that's pretty darn progressive for the era...that an African-American woman would own a very nice house in a very nice suburb.

  4. Hi Yowp,
    Don't mean to push, but did you get the pages of Our Gang comics or the Tom and Jerry storybook I sent you? They had full figure drawings of "The Cook", "Rose" and "Dinah" as the "Maid" was called in those stories. "Mammy Two-Shoes" was actually a storyboard name that Disney used for the Silly Symphonies: "Three Orphan Kittens" and "More Kittens". Lillian Randolph probably did the voices for both the Disney and MGM Cartoons characters. Please let me know if you got the material I sent to you,
    Thanks, Mark

    1. Mark, sorry. You may have. I haven't looked at that e-mail address for some time, not since the Yowp blog ended, and I didn't check it very often even then.