The Mouse Comes To Dinner
Posted: January 27, 2004
One of their very best.
Cat chases Mouse. Mouse clobbers Cat. Cat comes back for more. Most of the early MGM Tom and Jerry toons follow this formula, but by the time of "The Mouse Comes To Dinner" (1945), the Hanna-Barbera team had raised this simple plot to a higher level. This time Tom is a scheming bon vivant in a bowtie trying to catch an alluring femme-cat named Toots over a romantic candlelit dinner for two. Jerry's already caught, and pressed into service as an unwilling servant. The mouse suffers one indignity after another-like being used as a living corkscrew-until he can take no more, and open warfare at the dinner table erupts. The ensuing mayhem is in the best T&J tradition, briskly paced with visual gags that take full advantage of everything a dinner table can offer. When Tom thinks he has Jerry trapped in a turkey, he maliciously starts carving and delights in Jerry's cries of agony-which the mouse is sarcastically faking from outside the bird. As Tom tries to bully Jerry while wooing Toots-failing at both-the battle royale turns to Jerry's favor. The scene leading to the climax actually appears in Speilberg's "E.T." (occurring when E.T. turns on the television while Elliott is at school), in which Jerry threads Tom's tail through a candle-holder and lights the tip. Clueless Tom watches the flame travel down the length of the "wick" until it finally reaches his rear end and sends him howling. In "E.T." the segment ends there, but in the cartoon Tom races across the table to an ice bucket, over which he positions his burning backside. Jerry, intent on toasting Tom's buns, devilishly switches the ice bucket with a red-hot chafing dish. Tom takes the hot seat, sighs with imagined relief, and happily wiggles his rump on the griddle even as it begins sizzling! Unaware he's gone from the fire to the frying pan, Tom flirts with Toots, who regards him with exasperation. As smoke rises behind him, Tom finally asks, "Hey, what's cookin'?" In a Judy Holliday voice, Toots replies, "YOU are, Stupid!" At first he blushes, but when he looks down and sees his fanny frying, he leaps with a force that sends him through the ceiling. Tom plummets to the table, dazed and roasted, with his tail stuck up like a ship's mast. Jerry paints "S.S. Drip" on his flank with mustard and Toots assists by launching him into the punchbowl with a bottle of champagne. To the tune of "Anchors Aweigh," Tom slides into the punch, and sinks like a stone. The luckless cat takes a real beating in this one, which is undeniably one of the more violent episodes in a series renowned for wreaking havoc. But it's also very funny and packed with enough gags to fill two cartoons. Current broadcast prints have deleted the opening scene in which maid Mammy Two-Shoes provides exposition about the original reason for the dinner. Political correctness has excised her from many T&Js; in this case her role was non-essential and the cartoon doesn't suffer from the deletion.
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