Tuesday 6 June 2023

Ken Muse's Concerto

The Cat Concerto was a tour de force for Ken Muse, who seems to have animated at least half of the Oscar-winning cartoon.

The frames below can’t give the subtle animation of head rolls, bows and sweeps as Tom plays the piano, but you can get an idea of some of the expressions he gave to Tom.

Later, there’s a scene where Jerry has actually taken over playing the piano from inside, and the melody switches from Liszt’s Second Hungarian Rhapsody to Johnny Mercer and Harry Warren’s “On the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe” (from the MGM musical The Harvey Girls). Tom is delighting in the song until the realisation take that the music has changed.

The only that bugs me about Muse’s animation, and you can see it in the frame above, is he draws Tom’s head like Jerry’s head at times. This happens in other MGM cartoons.

I couldn’t tell you if Harvey Eisenberg was the layout artist on this as Harvey was never credited at MGM. Same with whomever provided the backgrounds. Muse, Ed Barge and Irv Spence receive animation credits. I believe this was made when Ray Patterson was in England working for David Hand.

MGM sound department records exist (I imagine Keith Scott went through them) and show Calvin Jackson was the pianist, and recorded his work on April 8, 1946. Jackson was an assistant director of music at MGM, scoring musicals at the time the cartoon was made. Jackson got no screen credit; it all went to Scott Bradley, and the pianist’s identity was a mystery and subject of speculation for years. Part of it stemmed from a story which appeared in the Venice (Ca.) Evening Vanguard on April 1, 1946:

Famed pianist John Crown, professor of piano forte at University of Southern California, was featured this week with the MGM symphony orchestra playing the 2nd Hungarian Rhapsody for “Cat’s Concerto,” Tom and Jerry cartoon co-directed by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. Scott Bradley, MGM cartoon music director, conducted.

The Hollywood Reporter of Dec. 6, 1946 had the short at the top of the list of 16 MGM cartoons on the 1946-47 schedule, adding 14 were at Technicolor for prints, but not naming them.

1 comment:

  1. Don Patterson did animate 2 scenes in this cartoon, that being Jerry playing the piano with the key hammers. It's really easy to notice based on how he moves and how he was drawn.