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  Gay Purr-ee The Cat's Big Dramas
Year: 1962
Director: Abe Levitow
Stars: Judy Garland, Robert Goulet, Red Buttons, Paul Frees, Hermione Gingold, Mel Blanc, Morey Amsterdam, Joan Gardner, Julie Bennett
Genre: Musical, Comedy, Animated, Romance, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: La Belle France around the turn of the century, and in the region of Provence, Mewsette the cat (voiced by Judy Garland) is tiring of the country life, wishing for pastures new. Her suitor, Jaune Tom (Robert Goulet) is always trying to impress her, but today goes too far with one of the mice he is expert at catching proffered to her in his teeth; she is far from impressed and lets him know it. Mewsette is getting ideas above her station, so when she overhears her owner talking to a friend about the French capital Paris, she makes up her mind to stow away in the carriage of the friend as she travels there: surely nothing but romantic adventure awaits her there?

Gay Purr-ee was a Chuck Jones movie in all but name, having devised the plot for UPA, best known as the studio behind Mister Magoo and Gerald McBoing-Boing, but with one of his cohorts from his days animating in the fifties, Abe Levitow, taking the helm when he was judged to be in breach of contract with another studio. Jones' wife Dorothy was credited alongside him with the screenplay, and you did wonder what it would have been like had he been able to direct it himself, maybe not much different as his work in the sixties, while still at the similar level of artistic accomplishment as it had been in his heyday, was undeniably lacking the same spark as it had before.

To put it bluntly, he wasn't funny anymore, and while his adaptation of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas remained a Yuletide favourite to this day in the United States, you would not really say it was as laughter-inducing as his classic Bugs Bunny cartoons which retained their anarchic, smartassed charm in a manner most everything he did post-1960 did not. Still, there were other motives for watching Gay Purr-ee that did not involve Jones, as it also featured the animation feature debut of Judy Garland, legendary singer and by this stage, something of a wreck, but in possession of that incredible voice which lifted the material she had been offered.

She had requested the services of her The Wizard of Oz songwriters Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg to pen the tunes, and this represented some of their final work together. Nobody was going to say they had conjured up a neglected classic in this score, but it was agreeable and the novelty of hearing Garland and Goulet trilling and crooning respectively was nothing to be sneezed at, though it may have been an issue with those hoping to entertain their kids, as historically it had more to speak to film buffs than the little ones who did not care who Garland and Goulet were, neither that nor the fact esteemed voice artists Paul Frees and Mel Blanc were providing some of the voices for the characters as well. Couple that with the way the project was keen to be improving, as Jones' The Phantom Tollbooth would be, and it may be heavy going for the younglings.

In addition, the budget was not as high as your average Disney effort, though curiously it did bear a resemblance to the House of Mouse’s 1970 production The Aristocats, which many have noted in a "was that a rip-off of Gay Purr-ee - or what?" sort of way. The plot of this contained mixed messages about the allure of a big city like Paris, so when Mewsette reaches there she is fooled into glamour treatment by the wicked Meowrice (Frees) and Madame Rubens-Chatte (Hermione Gingold) to make her, well, better to sell into sex slavery, frankly, though the implications of her kidnapping are never brought up. Meanwhile, Jaune Tom and his little pal Robespierre (Red Buttons) are on her trail, but not without hiccups (and a trip to Alaska). This was more acceptable than inspired, but there were pleasures for the connoisseur, such as the imagining of Mewsette painted by the most famous artists of the turn of the century in France (this was the educational part). This was also a rare toon where a cat catches a mouse successfully.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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