Gay Purr-ee
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAbe Levitow
Written byDorothy Jones
Chuck Jones
Produced byHenry G. Saperstein
Lee Orgel
StarringJudy Garland
Robert Goulet
Red Buttons
Hermione Gingold
Paul Frees
Mel Blanc
Edited byEarl Bennett
Sam Horta
Music byHarold Arlen
Production
company
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release date
  • October 24, 1962 (1962-10-24)
Running time
85 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish

Gay Purr-ee is a 1962 American animated musical film produced by United Productions of America and released by Warner Bros. It features the voice of Judy Garland as Mewsette, a feline living in the French countryside wanting to go to Paris in her only animated-film role, as well as Robert Goulet in his first feature film as her love interest Jaune Tom. The film received positive reviews, but was a box office failure. It is also the first animated feature film to be theatrically released by Warner Bros, and the second and final animated film by UPA.

Plot

The story is set in 1895 France and takes place predominantly in Paris, but it begins on a farm in rural Provence. The lovely cat Mewsette and the accomplished but shy mouser Jaune Tom are in love, until the former is frustrated with his plebeian ways (and those of the farm), to the point of calling him a "clumsy country clod". Inspired by the human Jeanette's stories of glamour and sophistication in Paris, Mewsette runs away by taking a train to the big city, where she encounters the slick con-cat Meowrice. Taking advantage of the country kitty's naivete, he puts her in the care of the sultry Madame Henrietta Reubens-Chatte, who promises to turn Mewsette into a dainty debutante known as "The Belle of all Paris". Unbeknownst to Mewsette, Meowrice is grooming her to be the mail-order bride of a rich American cat in Pittsburgh known as "Mr. Henry Phtt". Meanwhile, Jaune Tom and his sidekick Robespierre arrive in Paris, searching for Mewsette.

Training does not go well. Just as Mewsette is about to give up and return to the farm, Meowrice takes her out to see the cat side of Paris, the Eiffel Tower, the Champs-Élysées and the Mewlon Rouge and then take a buggy ride back home. Reinvigorated, she returns to her studies. Jaune Tom and Robespierre arrive just at that moment but get waylaid by one of Meowrice's shadowy cat henchmen and barely escape drowning in Paris's famous labyrinthine sewers. By coincidence, Jaune Tom displays his incredible mouse-hunting skills in front of Meowrice (known as "Virtue-Mousety"), who sees a money-making opportunity, gets them drunk, and sells them as mousers to a ship bound for Alaska. On the ship, Robespierre consoles a depressed Jaune Tom, telling him that any problem, regardless of size, can be broken up into manageable pieces, by remarking that even the mighty ocean is made up of little drops of water. Jaune Tom has a vision of Mewsette singing about how no problem is unconquerable, and the importance of never giving up.

Mewsette finishes her training and is now lovely enough to impress even Meowrice, who commissions a series of paintings of her by such famous artists as Claude Monet, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Georges Seurat, Henri Rousseau, Amedeo Modigliani, Vincent van Gogh, Edgar Degas, Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin and Pablo Picasso (an opportunity for the animators to indulge in some artistic parodies), so that he can send them to Mr. Phtt. Meowrice quietly writes a check to pay his "sister", Madame Reubens-Chatte (using disappearing ink, so that the check is worthless), and takes Mewsette to his hideout in Notre Dame. There, he reveals his plan to ship her to America and tries to coerce her to enter a luggage crate, but after seeing a portrait of Mr. Phtt, unseen by the audience, she manages to escape Meowrice and his sidekicks. In the resulting chase scene, she leads them to a bulldog, who injures Meowrice badly enough to put him out of action for six weeks. Meanwhile, his sycophants (who are nowhere near as intelligent as he is) comb the city without success, searching for Mewsette.

Meanwhile, not long after they reach Alaska (a howling wilderness of snow), Jaune Tom and Robespierre strike gold thanks to the former's mouse-hunting skills. Now wealthy, the two cats hurry back to Paris.

A disillusioned and homeless Mewsette wanders around the streets of Paris and stops atop a bridge over the river, considering ending her misery, but she is captured by Meowrice and his sidekicks. She is taken to the Gare du Nord railway station, en route to a boat to America, and all hope seems lost, when Jaune Tom and Robespierre arrive. They have been aided by Madame Reubens-Chatte, who is outraged that her own "brother" double-crossed her and tears up the worthless check. In a humorously over-the-top fight scene inside the boxcar of a moving train, the three heroes defeat Meowrice and pack him into the crate intended for Mewsette instead of kicking him off the train, doubtless that this will be a nasty surprise for Mr. Phtt. The film concludes with Mewsette, Jaune Tom and Robespierre enjoying the high life in Paris that Mewsette was seeking when she left home.

Voice cast

Production

Gay Purr-ee was the second and final feature film, following 1001 Arabian Nights with Mr. Magoo,[2] produced by UPA (United Productions of America), a studio which had revolutionized animation during the 1950s by incorporating design and limited animation.[2]

The script for Gay Purr-ee was written by Dorothy Webster Jones and her husband, Chuck Jones, who was a veteran director for Warner Bros. Cartoons.[3] One of the former animators from his Warner Bros. unit, Abe Levitow, directed the film.[4] According to the production notes on the DVD edition, it was Garland who suggested that her Wizard of Oz songwriters, Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg, should write and compose the songs for Gay Purr-ee.

A copyright entry for a song titled "Free at Last" made for the film exists, though it is not included in the final production.[5][6]

When Warner Bros. became the film's distributor, they discovered that Chuck Jones had worked on the film. After a long debate with management over the details of Jones' exclusivity agreement, the studio fired Jones in July 1962 and laid off his staff after they had finished their next cartoon.[7] After Warner Bros. Cartoons was closed a year later, Jones hired his old unit for his first independent studio, Sib Tower 12 Productions.[7]

Reception

Gay Purr-ee was theatrically released on December 17, 1962. On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 60% of 6 critics' reviews are positive, with an average rating of 5.8/10.[8]

Bosley Crowther of The New York Times felt the film's backgrounds were "good-natured tone and diverting" but felt "the characters almost pale by contrast".[9] Philip K. Scheuer of the Los Angeles Times wrote: "The animation, in Technicolor, is inventive enough, leaning toward the economy of motion with which UPA revolutionized the cartoon movie (to say nothing of the TV commercial) and filling in the backgrounds with charming semi-abstractions in consonance with what might be called the modern French manner."[10] Variety felt the film was "hampered by an uninspired storyline, but its otherwise slick and meticulous production values overshadow the weakness with ample artistry."[11] A Newsweek review felt that the film's subject matter was too sophisticated for an animated film, drily noting that its target audience seemed to be "the fey four-year-old of recherché taste".[12] Jerry Beck, in his 2005 book The Animated Movie Guide, felt Gay Purr-ee was "a good effort" and "unjustly underrated". Despite its "strong design sense" and voice cast, he agreed the animation quality is sometimes "on a television level or worse".[13]

Multiple analyses have noted its modernist style, called "remarkably designed" in one such review.[14]

One analysis claims the modernist aesthetic has plot implications: though both urban and pastoral landscapes are equally "highlighted", the plot praises the triumph of "pastoral nature over corrupt urban technology".[12]

Home media

Gay Pur-ee was released on VHS and LaserDisc[15] in 1991 by Warner Home Video (under the Warner Bros. Family Entertainment label). The film was reissued on VHS in 1992 and 1994, then released on DVD for the first time in 2003, and later also re-released on DVD in 2014 as a manufactured-on-demand (MOD) title from the Warner Archive Collection. It has been released in HD on streaming services.[16] The film was released on Blu-ray on August 29, 2023 from Warner Archive.[17]

Soundtrack

1962 LP cover
Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
New Record Mirror[18]

On November 4, 2003, Rhino Handmade, a division of the Warner Music Group, released the soundtrack on CD.[19] This was identical to the 1962 LP version but contained 5 additional demo tracks. The demo tracks are performed by Harold Arlen and E. Y. "Yip" Harburg, the composers of the songs for the film. They were also the primary songwriters for the music of The Wizard of Oz, the 1939 Garland feature. Garland stated that the song "Little Drops of Rain" was one of her favorite songs. The CD track listing is as follows:

  1. Overture – Judy Garland and Chorus (3:59)
  2. Mewsette – Robert Goulet (3:09)
  3. Take My Hand, Paree – Judy Garland (2:58)
  4. Roses Red, Violets Blue – Judy Garland (2:02)
  5. The Money Cat – Paul Frees and the Mellomen (2:17)
  6. The Horse Won't Talk – Paul Frees (1:45)
  7. Bubbles – Robert Goulet, Red Buttons, and the Mellomen (2:48)
  8. Little Drops of Rain – Judy Garland (3:29)
  9. Little Drops of Rain – Robert Goulet (1:30)
  10. Portrait of Mewsette – Orchestra (3:30)
  11. Paris is a Lonely Town – Judy Garland (4:15)
  12. Mewsette Finale – Judy Garland, Robert Goulet, and Chorus (2:38)
  13. Paris is a Lonely Town (variation) – Orchestra (1:58)
  14. Roses Red, Violets Blue (demo) – Harold Arlen and E. Y. "Yip" Harburg (1:43)
  15. The Money Cat (demo) – Harold Arlen and E. Y. "Yip" Harburg (2:10)
  16. The Horse Won't Talk (demo) – Harold Arlen (3:46)
  17. Little Drops of Rain (demo) – Harold Arlen (2:39)
  18. Paris is a Lonely Town (demo) – Harold Arlen (2:46)

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Lenburg, Jeff (2009). The Encyclopedia of Animated Cartoons Third Edition. Infobase Publishing. ISBN 978-0-8160-6599-8.
  2. ^ a b Maltin 1987, pp. 341–342.
  3. ^ Jones 1999, p. 277.
  4. ^ Barrier 1999, pp. 562–563.
  5. ^ Catalog of Copyright Entries 1961 Music July-Dec 3D Ser Vol 15 Pt 5
  6. ^ WebVoyage Record View 1
  7. ^ a b Barrier 1999, p. 563.
  8. ^ "Gay Purr-ee (1962)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved January 28, 2024.
  9. ^ Crowther, Bosley (December 6, 1962). "Screen: Sartre's 'No Exit' in Premiere at Sutton". The New York Times. p. 55. Retrieved January 28, 2024.
  10. ^ Scheuer, Philip K. (December 6, 1962). "'Gay Purr-ee' Blend of Punning, Funning". Los Angeles Times. Part IV, p. 21. Retrieved January 28, 2024 – via Newspapers.com. Open access icon
  11. ^ Tube. (October 17, 1962). "Film Reviews: Gay Purr-ee". Variety. p. 17. Retrieved January 28, 2024 – via Internet Archive.
  12. ^ a b Murray, Robin L. (2011). That's all folks?: ecocritical readings of American animated features. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. pp. 85–89. ISBN 9780803235120.
  13. ^ Beck, Jerry (2005). The Animated Movie Guide. Chicago Review Press. p. 92. ISBN 978-1-556-52591-9.
  14. ^ Sollors, Werner (2008). Ethnic modernism (First Harvard University Press paperback ed.). Cambridge, Mass. p. 8. ISBN 9780674030916.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  15. ^ "Gay Purr-ee". LaserDisc Database.
  16. ^ "JustWatch". JustWatch. Retrieved 8 October 2020.
  17. ^ Blu-ray.com
  18. ^ Watson, Jimmy (26 January 1963). "Judy Garland: Gay Purr-ee" (PDF). New Record Mirror. No. 98. p. 10. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 April 2022. Retrieved 5 August 2022.
  19. ^ Ehrbar, Greg (October 24, 2017). "UPA's "Gay Purr-ee" on Records". Cartoon Research.

Bibliography