Gay Purr-ee (1962)

Judy Garland, Robert Goulet, Red Buttons, Paul Frees,
Gay Purr-ee is a movie starring Judy Garland, Robert Goulet, and Red Buttons. Mouser Jaune Tom and house cat Mewsette are living in the French countryside, but Mewsette wants to experience the refinement and excitement of the Paris...
  • 6.8 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • Dorothy Jones, Chuck Jones, Ralph Wright, Writer:
  • Abe Levitow, Director:
  • Producer:

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7 / 10

two of the most important parts of popular culture finally meet (there's also a link to current events)

"The Wizard of Oz" is one of the most beloved movies of all time. The Looney Tunes are one of the most popular cartoon franchises of all time. The two indirectly crossed paths with Abe Levitow's "Gay Purr-ee", with Judy Garland voicing a cat who leaves rural France for Paris with the aim of making it big. It's obviously not the most famous animated feature, but it has an enjoyable plot. The writing by Chuck Jones and additional voice work by Mel Blanc make for an unusual connection to a certain screwy rabbit, lisping duck and stuttering pig (in fact, Abe Levitow directed a couple of Looney Tunes cartoons for Chuck Jones).

The rest of the voice work includes Robert Goulet (the villain in "Naked Gun 2 1/2"), Red Buttons (Oscar-winner for "Sayonara"), Paul Frees (the voice of Boris on "Rocky & Bullwinkle" and the Ghost Host in Disneyland's Haunted Mansion) and Morey Amsterdam (Buddy on "The Dick Van Dyke Show"). As it happens, Julie Bennett (who voiced one of the women in the Provence scene) died of the coronavirus earlier this year). Strange how these things work out.

Anyway, cool movie.

10 / 10

This movie will always have a soft spot in my heart

I'll never forget the delightful surprise of seeing this film when I was a third grader... our little Catholic School (Holy Innocents in Brooklyn, NY) was supposed to go on an outdoor field trip but the weather ruined those plans.About an hour into the school day (every kid was so disappointed & glum) our Principal* made an announcement for all the teachers to bring us to the auditorium. We had no idea what our Principal (*Sister Mary Caratina) planned...When we were all seated & quiet the lights we dimmed and on a huge screen came down and this wonderful film began... I fell in love with it and it's one of my favorites to this day.I've now had the joy of sharing it with my own children. It has fantastic appeal for both boys and girls and cleverly teaches many lessons without ever being preachy.The animation is top notch (of course it's the incomparable Chuck Jones!!) and all the musical interludes are fantastic (Judy Garland is perfect)

5 / 10

Disappointing Kitty Garland Vehicle

One of the most tragic downfalls of a beloved animation studio traces all the way back to 1962, when the innovative production company UPA was in such financial turmoil that they produced a talking animals musical about cats in Paris, France. This little movie, known as Gay Purr-ee, would be the complete opposite of what the studio stood for in terms of competing with the Mouse House and other places, both in terms of artistry and content. Despite being a vehicle for Judy Garland and boasting critical appraisal, the film went unnoticed upon its release and is only now deemed a minor cult classic, and for notable reasons.

Set in 1890s France, the film centers on a starry eyed farm feline named Mewsette (Judy Garland), who heads off to the more exciting Paris, but gets manipulated by a cat modeler named Madame Rubens-Chatte (Hermione Gingold) and her slimy assistant, Meowrice (Paul Frees). Meanwhile, Mewsette's tomcat suitor, Jaune-Tom (Robert Goulet), and his furry cohort, Robespierre (Red Buttons), set forth to find her, but get caught up in all sorts of antics along the way. While seeming like an intriguing premise on paper, the movie's biggest dilemma is how weak the execution is. What's interesting to note is that the film was written by Looney Tunes director Chuck Jones and his first wife Dorothy, and the whole movie feels like a stretched out Warners cartoon, down to a basic premise with more padding than substance to fill out the runtime. The movie tries to liven the story up with the soundtrack written by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg (the same Wizard of Oz songwriting duo), but even the musical numbers feel more like add ons to the otherwise slogged out story beats.

What doesn't help matters either is that the movie flip flops between Musette, Meowrice and Jean-Tom's stories so much that it becomes hard to know who to focus on the most. Considering that the movie barely develops Musette or Jean-Tom beyond their basic statuses and paper thin personalities (even Robespierre is more amusingly charismatic than either of them), they're so hard to even care for that Madame and Meowrice become far more fascinating by contrast. At least when they're on screen, you can just feel the uneasiness bleed into their sly and cunning mannerisms. On the plus side, the film does boast a very talented cast; not just Judy Garland and the aforementioned cast above, but even Thurl Ravenscroft, June Foray and Mel Blanc got some decent cameos. With all of these wonderful singers and actors lending their talents to pretty weak characters, there's no denying that the most memorable aspect of this movie are the boastful performances alone. However, you know paper thin characters are in trouble when their actors are more fascinating than themselves.

Now from a technical standpoint, the film does look very gorgeous, especially in terms of the production design from Corny Cole. The luscious retro artisque tribute to France at the turn of the century lends itself so well in the movie, and the fine arts background from the UPA crew really paid off in that department alone. Even some of the lighting, effects and shot compositions can get very experimental, especially in jazzy surreal musical numbers like Money Cat and Bubbles. As for the character animation, the design work is very similar to Chuck Jones' overly cutesy drawing style back then, and it unfortunately makes the cast range from appealing enough to grossly exaggerated. Also, the more limited and stylized animation UPA was known for does not lend itself well to characters that should almost feel fit to move in a more free flowing aesthetic, and let's just say the motion leaves a lot to be desired. At least the movie knows when to let the characters stick out from acting the most, reserved for the musical numbers and them alone.

So in the end, while somewhat ambitious and boasting a talented cast, Gay Purr-ee stands more as the final nail in the coffin to UPA's creative downfall. It's a shame that a studio known for creating a legacy consisting of artistic achievements in graphically oriented films and daring narratives ended up becoming everything they never wanted to become: a Disney-like talking animals musical. I would say the film is best to be checked out as a curious watch than an overall worth while viewing. Either that, or maybe you could just compare and contrast this movie to The Aristocats and see which one is the best.

5 / 10

Disappointing

I was eight years old when this film came out. I never got to see it then but had a comic book version which I read over and over again: I loved the story, the characters, the illustrations. So, I thought that after 50 years I should finally check out the film. I was sorely disappointed. The acting (Judy Garland, Robert Goulet, Red Buttons, Hermione Gingold, etc.) is excellent but although the orchestral background music is nice, the lyrics to the songs are embarrassingly banal. And while the drawings are fine, the animation is really poor. It reminds one of the static (limited animation) Hanna-Barbera technique. A story like this, with a star-studded cast, deserved much more than this. I think an interesting project would be to retain the soundtrack and the drawings, but bring the latter to life with modern animation techniques. One wants to experience the breadth and depth of Paris, the mystery of the felines crawling through sewers, down alleyways and over housetops, the thrill of a ship sailing rough seas to the Arctic. As it is now, it's all flat.

6 / 10

Three country cats visit Paris in the 1890s

RELEASED IN 1962 and directed by Abe Levitow, "Gay Pur-ee" is an animated film about a beautiful feline, Mewsette (voiced by Judy Garland), whose romantic fantasies about life in Paris become the awful truth when she stows away to travel there, but her dreams are shattered by a shady cat (Paul Frees) and his "sister" (Hermione Gingold). Meanwhile, a tomcat named Juane-Tom (Robert Goulet) goes to Paris to save Mewsette along with his lil' pal, Robespierre (Red Buttons).

I suppose it helps if you're a cat-lover, but I always liked this cartoon flick. Sure, there are too many songs and only enough story to make up for half the runtime, but "Gay Purr-ee" has its charm. The climatic confrontation is particularly entertaining. Juane-Tom and Robespierre are the best characters. To be expected, several of the story elements reflect real-life, including a drunken binge (lol), but also money-loving smooth-talkers who take advantage of the na?ve and ignorant.

THE FILM RUNS 85 minutes. WRITERS: Dorothy Jones & Chuck Jones with additional dialogue by Ralph Wright & Levitow.

GRADE: B-/C+