Cast & Crew
Mewsette, a little country cat on a French farm, decides to abandon her peasant life and go to Paris. She is followed by her devoted admirer, Jaune-Tom, and his kitten companion, Robespierre. Upon arriving in Paris, Mewsette falls into the hands of the evil Meowrice who takes her to a salon run by the plump and jaded Madame Rubens-Chatte. Unaware that Meowrice is planning to groom her for marriage to a rich cat in Pittsburgh, Mewsette willingly takes beauty courses. When Jaune-Tom and Robespierre arrive in the city, Meowrice gets them drunk and has them shanghaied aboard a ship headed for Alaska. Once there, they accidentally discover gold and return to Paris laden with wealth. Mewsette, meanwhile, has learned of Meowrice's plans and tries unsuccessfully to escape. She is placed in a basket labeled for Pittsburgh, but Jaune-Tom and Robespierre come to the rescue. After disposing of the culprit, Jaune-Tom rides away with his beloved Mewsette. Songs : "Mewsette" (Jaune-Tom), "Roses Red--Violets Blue," "Take My Hand, Paree," "Paris Is a Lonely Town" (Mewsette), "The Horses Won't Talk," "The Money Cat" (Meowrice), "Little Drops of Rain" (Mewsette & Jaune-Tom), "Bubbles" (Jaune-Tom & Meowrice).
E. Y. Harburg
Joseph J. Lilley
Henry G. Saperstein
Gay Purr-ee (1962)
Garland was but one of several high-powered artists involved with Gay Purr-ee, a film that despite having many strong individual components was seen by most critics as a disappointment. Indeed, The Hollywood Reporter declared it to be "one of those inexplicable projects involving people of the highest talent that just doesn't come off."
Aside from Garland, those people included fellow actors and voice artists Robert Goulet (in his big-screen debut), Red Buttons, Hermione Gingold and Mel Blanc; songwriters Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg, who had created songs for Garland in The Wizard of Oz (1939) (and, in Arlen's case, A Star Is Born ); and the famous Warner Brothers animator Chuck Jones, who wrote this film with his wife Dorothy.
The criticism generally centered around Gay Purr-ee's attempt to appeal to both adults and children, the result being that it truly satisfied neither. The story -- of a little country cat in 1890 who longs for the color and excitement of the city, and therefore heads to Paris -- was seen as too uninspired and cloying for adults, while the brilliantly stylized animation -- which worked in simulations of art by Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec, Cezanne, Van Gogh, Seurat and Picasso -- was deemed too sophisticated for kids to appreciate.
The technical achievements of the film, however, drew universally high praise, with Variety deeming the artwork to "rank with the finest ever manufactured in the specialized realm of the animated cartoon." The New York Times echoed the sentiment, praising "a fetching color canvas that blends some truly lovely pastels with classical works by art masters," and "a superbly imaginative panorama of Paris." Overall, the paper called the film "a pretty, pleasant seasonal package for family audiences." Arlen's and Harburg's eight songs also drew praise, especially the superb blues number "Paris Is a Lonely Town," which, as sung by Garland, became the score's biggest hit.
Gay Purr-ee was produced by UPA (United Productions of America), an animation studio most famous for creating Mr. Magoo. Originally the film was to be distributed by United Artists, but after a falling-out over financial matters, UPA president Henry Saperstein moved the distribution deal to Warner Brothers.
This was an ironic switch, because Warners was angry with Chuck Jones, one of their best and longest-serving animators, for having "moonlighted" with a rival studio when he co-wrote Gay Purr-ee for UPA in the first place. This caused a management dispute, and Jones left Warners soon thereafter. A year later, in 1963, the Warner animation unit closed altogether.
Gay Purr-ee director Abe Levitow had been an animator in Chuck Jones' unit at Warner Brothers. The two later teamed up again to co-write and co-direct The Phantom Tollbooth (1970).
By Jeremy Arnold
Gay Purr-ee (1962)
But darling, think of Paris! Lovely, gay Paris! Have you forgotten the sidewalk cafes and how we sipped champagne?- Jeanette (to her sister)
Champagne? That must be what they call catnip in Paris. How nice!- Mewsette (thinking aloud)
..the button champignons sauteed in butter with tiny shreds of herbs...- Jeanette
I know what they are - mushrooms! And delicious, too!- Mewsette
And oh, my dear, the Champs-Elysees!- Jeanette
Champs-Elysees? I wonder what they taste like.- Mewsette
Evil is the root of all money... money trees!- Meowrice
Why don't you go to France? Then you can drink "sham-pahg-nee" and eat "champs ulysses"...- Robespierre
When teach can't teach you, and preacher can't preach you... the money cat can! The money cat knows where the money tree grows!- Meowrice
Oh, it's such a big ocean, Robespierre... Bigger than the whole world...- Jean Tom
You gotta look at it differently, Jean Tom. Why, it's only little drops...- Robespierre
What'll ya have?- Meowrice
Er, uh, milk?- Jean Tom
C'mon Jean Tom, let's live it up. STRAIGHT CREAM!- Robespierre