Thursday, September 11, 2014

Next Tom and Jerry: Solid Serenade... not brought to you by Ensure

You know, a wise man once said, "Jazz is a beautiful woman whose older brother is a policeman!"  Which sort of brings us to our next Tom and Jerry cartoon, Solid Serenade.  I arguably don't know much about the great Tom and Jerry cartoons, but this is certainly one where clips of it have been incorporated into future Tom and Jerry cartoons... incidentally, someone seems to have gone nuts with Solid Serenade's IMDb "Connections" page.  They seem to have listed all the Tom and Jerry cartoons, but way at the bottom, they have Jerry's Diary, Smitten Kitten and Smarty Cat, three cartoons that have used clips of Solid Serenade in them.  Jerry's Diary, that seems obvious enough.  I've never actually seen Solid Serenade, but I did once see Smarty Cat, which is a slightly less lame excuse for a highlight reel.  Tom invites some of his alley cat friends in to watch some "home movies."  Jerry Mouse messes that up, of course.  Well, he just hates noise is all, especially when it comes from cats.


A perfect comedic situation is set up here... just as long as you don't over-analyze it too much.  A pretty girl cat lives in a semi-luxurious suburban house protected by... wait for it... a mean bulldog.  We start with the bulldog.  Tom crawls up from behind the fence, and gives the bulldog an evil smile.  Then he sees his target... I mean, the girl cat.  She's busy plucking eyebrow hairs.  Well!  The Hays Code has no problem with that!  Yet Robert Picardo can't pluck his nosehairs in Gremlins 2: The New Batch.  The hypocrisy!  The double standards!... anyway, back to business.  Tom's not usually this devious-looking or this prepared to deal with the bulldog.  Take The Bodyguard, for example... not the Tony Bill film, the Tom and Jerry cartoon from earlier.  As he's being beaten up by the bulldog, Tom kinda doesn't seem to be aware somehow!  Here, not only is he aware, but he's come prepared with... SPOILER ALERT... an orange mallet and a length of rope.  Well, first, he lifts his base cello over the fence.  Then he wakes the sleeping dog up.  Then he taunts the dog.  The dog comes out of the doghouse, looking around.  Now I've heard that dogs can't look up... this comes into play in our next Tom and Jerry cartoon, Cat Fishin', but alas, maybe the dog should've looked behind himself at least.  Tom easily defeats the dog by bashing it on the head with the orange mallet.  The dog's body stiffens and floats there in the air for a couple seconds, and why?  So the cat can tie it up with the length of rope, that's why!  It's a plot device, I tells ya.  The audience should have to earn the forthcoming musical number, but to no avail.  The dog's tied up and awake, only able to move its eyes as Tom does his victory dance: hopping along on his cello as though it were a pogo stick.  Tom flicks the dog in the nose just before exiting Stage Left, just for good measure.
And so, with cello in place, Tom starts picking out a tune.  The tune?  I believe it's that classic called Is you Is, or Is You Ain't My Baby?  I guess MGM owned it or something.  Those WB cartoons were rife with songs from the WB song library, some of them even being named for the songs they featured!  Tom's voice is voiced by Buck Woods, in case you were wondering.  I kinda was.  I hate to question the veracity of the IMDb's bio section, but somehow I think Ethel G. Jackson and Ethel Jackson ARE THE SAME LADY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Anyway, the girl cat hears the sweet music, looks out from behind her curtain, and hurries up with her makeup.  She rushes out so she can sit on the bannister and look pretty for Tom.  With Tom's choice of song, however, he seems to be questioning her feelings!  Maybe it's just me.
And so we have a perfect situation: the dog's all tied up and love is in the air.  How to bring Jerry into this mess?  Well, we pan down to the mail slot.  So far, so good.  I just have one problem with this... what kind of house has a mail slot in the backyard where the dog can get at the mailman?  We look inside the mailbox to find that Jerry the Mouse has made himself quite at home inside the house's mailbox.  Anyone else have a problem with that?  Anyone at all?  I guess even the animators got tired of the same old hole in the wall.
And so, Jerry Mouse is awoken from his slumber by Tom's singin' and a'pluckin', and Jerry starts moving around to the music in his little one-bedroom mail slot.  I can see why he wouldn't be a fan of music, being too small to properly enjoy it, but still.  Why, you must be some kind of racist not to like jazz!


And so, Jerry wakes up and decides to put a stop to all that racket by those noisy kids.  Oh these kids today with their jazz music and their pizza pie.  Well, up first, Jerry sneaks a large iron into a custard pie, pushing the bounds of cartoon trickery and good taste, frankly.  I mean, if you want to chuck an iron at the cat, that I can understand.  You're a mouse!  A mouse will do that to a cat, if it could, which it can in a cartoon.  But hiding it in a pie?  That's just cruel and unusual.  After Tom gets hit by it, he takes a slight pause, then continues singing.  It's the second pie that does it, however, but there seems to be no heavy metallic objects in that one.  And so, the mood is ruined, and the cat takes up chase against the mouse.  Oh, boys and their toys, right, girls?
And so, there's a delightful romp through the kitchen.  Jerry Mouse pulls another very sneaky move against the cat: Jerry quickly drains the sink to reveal that it's full of dirty dishes.  Tom falls into the dishes, which shatter into about fifty pieces.  Still, from that angle, the sink's shallow enough so that we can see that Tom has hit his head on the bottom of the sink.  Cruel and unusual.  After the mouse drops a window on the cat's neck, the cat's tongue sticks out like a party favor, making a party favor noise.  A slightly questionable moment for the Tom and Jerry highlight reel, but it's in there nonetheless.
And then, for the worst trick of all, Jerry's managed to find himself next to the dog, and next to the bit of string holding the knot that's keeping the dog trapped.  Just to be mean, Jerry pulls the string and, just as quickly as the rope went round the dog in the first place, said rope unravels just about as quickly.  Apparently, it's easier on the animators that way.
The dog lets out a sound that seems more suited to an angry bull in one of those toreador pics and starts to chase after the cat... but doubles back to get his good dentures.  The dog wants to get this right, apparently.  And so it goes from there, until Tom hides behind a fence with a brick.  The dog sneaks up on Tom, but Tom hits Killer (the dog, obviously) with the brick anyway.  The dog's not too bright, is he?  Tom likes that in a dog!  Time to get that mouse now!
The only move the mouse has left is to go and try waking up the dog.  Pathetic.  But there's a good setup for a gag here.  The mouse hits the dog in the ass with a stick hard enough so that the dog flies up very very high into the air.  Tom comes up and looks at the mouse.  The mouse hands the cat the same stick and takes off.  Down comes the dog.  The dog looks at the stick in the cat's hands and puts two and two together.  At this point, the cat decides to play fetch with the dog.  The dog gives out a happy bark and goes after the stick.  But just before the dog picks it up... the dog's inner mental state is considered.  The dog envisions himself as a jackass... oh, these things are so not for kids.  First the violence, now this.  "Mommy!  Daddy!  I'm a jackass!"  Be prepared to hear that for the next few months, parents.


I guess we're overdue for it.  The girl comes back into the pic.  I think this was the part from Smarty Cat.  Oh, what's a girl to do?  In brief pauses while running from Killer the dog, Tom plants a couple of kisses on the girl cat's arm, then one big one on her cheek.  The dog figures out what's going on, however, and on Tom's third pass, the dog waits where the girl cat was.  Tom doesn't look at what he's doing, however, and, using his best French guy's voice, he ends up laying kisses on the dog!  Wait a second... holy Crap!  It is the same dialogue from The Zoot Cat.  The IMDb connections page is right!  However, the dialogue from The Zoot Cat is trimmed down considerably, and all the talk about hep cats is cut out; somehow it didn't make as much sense here in Solid Serenade as the serenading part is far, far behind us.  Alas, Tom eventually opens his eyes to find the girl cat staring at him quizzically.  Tom puts two and two together, and ever so gingerly prepares to give the dog some more head trauma.  One more and the dog will get drafted by the NFL!
Now, if you're a bigger fan of these things than I am, and you probably are, you might be asking yourself at this juncture, but The Movie Hooligan!  What happened to that little brown mouse?  Well, don't worry, dear reader, for your prayers are about to be answered.  Next scene: Tom hides around a corner, and a couple seconds after, the dog goes rocket-shipping right by.  Positively rocket-shipping.  The speed of fury, I tells ya!  The mouse follows after and waves goodbye to the dog.  I guess Jerry thinks the dog's got a good bead on the cat.  Jerry runs right into the cat, gets scared, and takes off.
Next scene: must be time for a quick ending.  We see Killer's doghouse.  Jerry runs inside, and the way too confident Tom follows in after, laughing like the diminutive William Bletcher... it is him!  Spoiler Alert: as it happens, Killer's already inside the doghouse, because he and the mouse emerge, shake hands, and the dog goes back inside to kick Tom's ass.  Poor old Tom.  I think he broke the cardinal rule... or maybe it's an ordinal rule, I don't know, and I'm too lazy to look it up.  Anyway, the rule is: beat up the mouse on your own turf, never in the dog's house.  Still, are the cat's crimes that unforgivable?  After all, he's one of the stars of this damn picture!  Dogs have a harder time being the star, at least in cartoons.  Sure, you've got your Rin Tin Tins and your Benjis and Lassies... Old Yeller?  Plenty of dogs in the forgotten middle ground!


I think that was a dude sighing like a girl!  YEcch.  And so, with Tom's ass beaten to submission, we find that Tom himself has been strapped to his own cello, and the dog and the mouse are plucking Tom to make sweet music.  Worse yet, the girl cat likes it!  That's just mean.  Makes me wonder why she was rushing to finish her makeup at the beginning.  Go figure.  Well, that's what Tom gets for going for the purty chicks.  Why couldn't he find himself a nice Christian cat, or one of those bookstore cats that never goes anywhere?  How about a nice cat that lives in a Christian Science reading room?

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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