In Tom and Jerry cartoons, the most intelligent character is Jerry the Mouse. For some reason, he is the strongest, at least pound per pound. He can lift and throw objects that are several times his size.
Tom is an intelligent cat. He taught himself to play classical piano in one afternoon, and he designed a superior mousetrap that may have brought him fame and fortune, but a certain mouse altered the drawings as Tom lay sleeping.
In addition to a few female kitties who are love interests for Tom, the third character that often appears is Spike the Dog, also known as "Killer" in some cartoons. He is a large likable bulldog, especially when he spends time with his son, but he's not very bright. Jerry often solicits Spike as an accomplice to make Tom's life miserable.
My favorite T & J cartoon is called "Solid Serenade." Some of the smallest details of the cartoon bring me delight.
Tom arrives well-prepared with a rope, maillot and a bass fiddle (perhaps a cello?). He climbs over the fence, onto "Killer's" dog house. In order to draw out the dog, he peers over the roof and in through the doorway, and makes taunting goofy faces at the dog. (He sticks out his tongue and waves his fingers from his ears.) A cartoon dog can never resist such temptation. When he comes outside, Tom pounds Killer over the head with a maillot and renders him unconscious. He then ties him with a rope, adorning his wrap with a neat bow.
He brings his bass into the yard by riding it like a pogo stick and proceeds to sing a jazzy, bluesy song, called Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby?
"I got a gal who's always late
Every time we have a date.
Is you is or is you ain't my baby?
The way you acting lately makes me doubt."
Then Tom does a little scat...."dooby doo..."
"But I love her
I'm gonna ask her...."
His beautiful girlfriend cat appears on the lower balcony. Tom plays the bass right underneath her, as he flexes his biceps to the beat. He jumps over to Killer and plucks his lips to the music.
The vibration from the bass has disturbed Jerry who sleeps in the mailbox. I'm not sure why he sleeps at this house, instead of the house where Tom lives. Creative license, I guess. Jerry's little body plops all over the place, out of bed, around his bedroom floor. He puts his fingers over his nose and gestures, "That stinks." The pictures fall from the walls, and a vase falls from the table and konks Jerry on the head.
A fed-up Jerry enters the house window and finds a pie. He hides an iron underneath the meringue and throw the whole thing at Tom. Before Tom can recover, another pie smacks him in the face. He licks his lips and finishes his song. Now the games begin. This competitive male puts his girlfriend on hold to do battle with his foe.
A chase ensues. Tom periodically returns to woo his girl. But always the fool, Tom is too busy to notice that Jerry has untied Killer. In fact, Tom is so preoccupied that he thinks he is kissing his girl. But he takes a very large Killer in his arms and says in a French accent, "Now, I love you. You set my soul on fire. It is not just a little spark, but a flame, a big roaring flame. I can feel it now...."
While he smooches Killer, he opens his eyes and sees his girlfriend across the balcony. He nonchalantly sets Killer's head down and sneaks away.
Jerry the Mouse hits the Killer over the head with a large board, but hands off the board to Tom. When Spike wakes up, he sees Tom with the board, and he seeks some serious revenge. But before he can damage the cat, Tom whistles and yells, "Here doggie, go catch...." When he throws the board like a stick, big bad Killer wags his tail and turns into an affable puppy. After catching the "stick," he realizes he has been played; the cartoon replaces him with a donkey and the words "Jack Ass."
Satisfaction is finally Tom's when he traps Jerry in the dog house. As he enters, he does a loud, evil laugh. But Jerry emerges unscathed. And so does Killer, who does this same evil laugh as he returns to pound Tom. The dog house flies around, and the roof flies off. Tom takes a break to write his Will, and the cartoon fades away....
When I was a kid, I did not enjoy chases. My mother disliked cartoon violence. My father detested slapstick or prat falls of any kind. Chases might have seemed tedious to me. The extreme violence in Tom and Jerry cartoons made me uncomfortable. Even now, I find myself cringing when Tom gets sliced into bits, or his tail catches on fire.
When I watch these cartoons with the grandkids, I say out loud, "Ouch." ''That's gotta hurt." "That's awful...." Hopefully, the kids can build up their empathy and compassion, instead of becoming callous about violence.
It is the small things, the nuances that I enjoy about these cartoons. Here are some that come to mind.
1. Sometimes these characters have human teeth; sometimes, pointed animal teeth. Spike the dog is known to switch dentures when super aggression is called for.
2. Tom can sing. Occasionally he says a phrase or two in English--or French, but he's also known to screech like a cat.
3. Tom can barbecue, play classical piano, and play pool. He is an explosives expert.
4. Tom doesn't usually know he's falling from an extremely high place until someone suggests that he look down. Until then, he hangs in the air.
5. Jerry is adept at tripping Tom by sticking his teensy leg out from behind a wall.
6. Jerry is a very good dancer.
7. Jerry is an excellent writer; he wrote and sold his memoirs.
8. Jerry likes Swiss cheese; he is also an explosives expert.
For some reason, I'm unable to imbed the video or write a proper HTML anchor, so here is the link to "Solid Serenade" below: