Gay Purr-ee - The Vive le France! Blogathon

This post is part of the Vive la France! Blogathon hosted by Lady Eve's Reel Life and Silver Screen Modes. Please be sure to click on their blogs for the good reading that will be had from all the other participating bloggers.

Like many film buffs of a certain age, we grew up and grew to know Judy Garland by the annual screening of The Wizard of Oz on television. Goodness knows I would lay on the floor, propped by pillows, in front of the big color Zenith TV and watch.  Another film I saw many more times that Oz during my childhood was the 1962 animated film Gay Purr-ee which featured the voices of Judy Garland, Robert Goulet, Red Buttons, Hermione Gingold and Paul Frees.

When I read of this blogathon with the announcement on Bastille Day, anything France was a very wide canvas to cast my net.  I love Jean Gabin in anything, Leslie Caron, Abel Gance's Napoleon or J'Accuse, Jeanne Moreau, Claudette Colbert, Lilli Damita, or Pixar's Ratatouille (apologies to the Self-Styled Siren) this list could go on and on.  Instead, my very first thought was the 1962 film Gay Purr-ee.

UPA animation is much more familiar to animation fans for Mr. Magoo than anything else.  Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol was another on regular rotation for me throughout childhood.  UPA started making training films during WWII and also industrial films. Speaking of industrial films, DO NOT MISS you chance to see Bathtubs Over Broadway, you can stream it on Netflix.


Robspierre and Jaune Tom
The story is a simple tale of Mewsette (Judy Garland) a pretty girl in Provance and her boyfriend Jaune Tom (Robert Goulet) and his pal Robspierre (Red Buttons).  Jeaune Tom is a champion mouser that Mewsette feels is too clumsy for her taste.  She longs for life outside of the farm and makes her way to experience Paris by hopping on a train.  

Mewsette and Meowrice
In the boxcar she meets Meowrice (Paul Frees) who sees in her a possibility to earn some cold hard cash.  He is a smooth talker and takes her to his "sister" Madame Rubens Chatte (Hermione Gingold) for a makeover.  His intention for Mewsette to become a mail order bride.
Madame Rubens Chatte

Jaune Tom and Robspierre follow the train tracks to Paris and begin their search for her.  They miss one another and the pair of country cats meet up with Meworice who sizes them up as a danger to his plans and also as a chance for more profit. He gets them drunk on champagne and has them shanghaied on a boat to Alaska.

Mewsette, meanwhile, has become a sophisticated beauty. 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 ans sends them to the prospective American fatcat Mr. Phtt.  Meworice pays Madame Rubens Chatte with a check for her services, the ink promptly fades away to her disgust.
Mewsette by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
Meowrice takes Mewsette to his lair and plans to crate her and ship her off to America.  She runs and Meworice and his four hench-cats fan out in search of her.  She escapes, and they meet up with a bulldog who leaves them all much worse for wear.  Mewsette is now alone wandering Paris to remain hidden from Meworice, lamenting ever leaving Provance.
Meowrice's hench-cats
Jaune Tom , Robspierre and their human friend are now in Alaska trudging through the snow in search of gold.  Jaune Tom spies a mouse in the snow and his championship skills not only get the mouse, he finds a mountain of gold.  They are soon world famous and head back to Paris to find Mewsette.

Mewsette, now desperate runs into Meowrice and his hench-cats, they chase her all over the city ending up on a bridge where she tries to leap to her death.  She is captured and is crated to be sent to America.  Jaune Tom and Robspierre head back to Madame Rubens Chatte's salon, where she freely thwarts Meowrice and gives up the plans.  A fight ensues and ends with Meowrice being the one crated to be shipped off to America.  Jaune Tom, Mewsette and Robspierre are now set to live the bohemian life of Paris.

The film is simple but the art in the film to me is amazing.  It is pure 1895 Paris in 1960s animated form.  UPA used a limited kind of animation (familiar to those who grew up on The Flintstones and other Hanna Barbera shows).  I do not have any qualms with the animation, it is the art of the film that has stuck with me.  The recent viewing only highlighted that.  It is a gorgeous film to look at.  It is well worth your time, and can be had from Warner Archive. The story might frighten some children, in spots, Meowrice is a devil to be sure.  

The voice characters are just great.  Garland and Goulet do not have a lot to do.  It is the voice work of Paul Frees here that made me always a fan.  Garlad herself suggested Harold Arlen and  E.Y. Harburg to compose the songs for the film (they will forever be remembered as the composers for The Wizard of Oz).  

Garland herself was fond of the song Little Drops of Rain and while promoting the film on the Jack Parr show, she sang it for Parr.

It is the art that hooked me completely.  Here are more screencaps, including the "paintings" of Mewsette.  Enjoy!


FlickChick said…
Thank you - or should I say merci - for this post! You cannot know how much I loved this film as a kid. I had all of the cut outs and coloring books! I loved all of those kitties so much - except that awful Meow-rice! Such a great post - it brought back so many happy memories.
Caftan Woman said…
Loved this article on Gay Purree. This movie, its look, and sounds, takes me back to my childhood in the most strange and charming way.
The Lady Eve said…
I haven't seen Gay Purr-ee since...I don't even remember when. What memories your piece brings back. And Judy singing - with Jack Paar! - at the end. Thank you! And thanks for joining our blogathon, this was a delight.
This is such a sweet movie with great art! All of the paintings of Mewsette made me smile, and some sequences were breathtaking - like Jaune Tom on the train. Wonderful review.

Popular Posts