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Gay Purr-ee
Directed by Abe Levitow
Produced by Henry G. Saperstein
Lee Orgel
Written by Joan Janis, Chuck Jones
Starring Judy Garland
Robert Goulet
Mel Blanc
Music by Harold Arlen
E.Y. "Yip" Harburg
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date(s) October 24, 1962 (USA)
Running time 85 mins.
Language English

Gay Purr-ee is an animated film musical produced by United Productions of America and released by Warner Bros. in 1962. It features the voice talent of Judy Garland and was Garland's only animated voice role. 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.

Contents

Plot synopsis

The story is set in 1895 France and takes place predominantly in Paris. However, it begins on a farm in Provence, where the lovely cat Mewsette is frustrated with her beau (Jaune Tom, an accomplished but shy mouser) after calling him a "clumsy country clod". Inspired by stories of the glamour and sophistication of Paris ("Take my Hand, Paree"), Mewsette runs away to the big city, where she encounters the slick con-cat Meowrice ("The Money Cat"). Taking advantage of the country kitty's naivete, he puts her in the care of the sultry Madame Henretta 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, and the Mew-lon Rouge. Reinvigorated, she returns to her studies. Jaune Tom and Robespierre arrive just at that moment but are 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 ("Bubbles"), 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 ("Little Drops of Rain").

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 the rich American. Meowrice quietly writes a check to pay his sister, Mme. Reubens-Chatte (using disappearing ink, so that the check is worthless), and takes Mewsette to an old church. There, he reveals his plan to ship her to America and tries to coerce her to enter a luggage crate, but she manages to escape him. In the resulting chase scene, she leads Meowrice and his henchmen onto a bulldog, who injures the villain badly enough to put him out of action for some time. 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. Now wealthy, the two cats hurry back to Paris.

Disillusioned and homeless, Mewsette walks the city of Paris ("Paris is a Lonely Town"). Just as she is about to hurl herself into the Seine River from one of Paris' many bridges, Meowrice appears with his cats and captures her. She is taken to the train station, en route to a boat to America, and all hope seems lost, when Jaune Tom and Robespierre arrive. They have been aided by Mme. Ruebens-Chatte, who is irritated that her own brother double-crossed her and tears the check. In a humorously over-the-top fight scene inside the boxcar of a moving train, Jaune Tom defeats Meowrice and packs him into the crate intended for Mewsette, 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 ("Mewsette Finale").

Effects

Chuck Jones helped write the movie's story, and ultimately produced the project, moonlighting for UPA in violation of his exclusive contract with Warner Bros. Cartoons. One of his top animators, Abe Levitow, directed the film.

When Warner Bros. picked up the film for distribution, they discovered that it was Jones's work. After a long debate with management over the details of Jones' exclusivity agreement, Warner fired Jones in July 1962 and laid his staff off after they'd finished their next cartoon. Jones later hired his old unit after Warner Bros. Cartoons was closed at his first independent studio, Sib Tower 12 Productions.

Cast

Soundtrack

1962 LP cover

On November 4, 2003, Rhino Handmade, a division of the Warner Music Group, released the soundtrack on CD. 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 movie. They were also the primary song writers for the music of "The Wizard of Oz", the 1939 Garland feature. Garland has stated that the song "Little Drops of Rain" was one of her favorite songs. The CD tracklisting is as follows:

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

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