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Saturday, July 12, 2014

Another Delayed Dinner For Sylvester

More Cat v. Bird in Home Tweet Home (1950)

Had I been cartoon directing at Warners and sufficiently maverick, would I have realized my dream finale of Sylvester just once biting off the head of Tweety and making a richly deserved meal of the preening bird? Just once, I said --- we'd get back to normal with the next cartoon and never mention the matter again. Would viewers have forgiven and eventually forgotten? I never, on the other hand, cared so much if the Coyote caught the Road Runner. Maybe Sylvester and myself shared some of life's frustrations, or Tweety just seemed too pleased with himself. In this short, they chase about a park as opposed to being housebound. Sylvester is stripped of his hide several times. The cat abducts a child and takes its place in a carriage, but we never see what became of the child. Did Sylvester commit a truly egregious crime offscreen that would have lost my sympathy forever? Perhaps I should be more circumspect about handing him Tweety to eat.


Blogger preston122 said...

A few years ago an artist in the UK indulged in just such bloodthirsty fantasies:


9:45 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Donald Benson fills us in on Sylvester and Tweety's complex history. Great stuff here!

On at least one occasion the cartoon begins with Sylvester's owner finding the bird cage empty and the window open to suggest the canary escaped. Sylvester hiccups of a bunch of feathers and we see he's keeping a list of "kills" like a fighter pilot. The owner calls the pet shop to have a new canary delivered, which turns out to be Tweety. End of cartoon has owner calling pet shop for a new cat -- Sylvester has gone missing and Tweety now has a kill list.

Speedy Gonzales cartoons often began with a bunch of Mexican mice calling him in to deal with Sylvester. In one, they draw straws to see who's going to try and get past Sylvester to the American cheese factory (political commentary?). A friend holds the "winner's" sombrero. We see the mice react to the offscreen outcome, and the sombrero is tossed onto a large pile.

On a few occasions Sylvester and Tweety are peacefully co-existing as housepets when they're stuck in a house or cabin without cat food (or a can opener to open same). Then Sylvester begins eying his little pal as edible (at the same time, a desperate mouse suddenly decides Sylvester is an entree). Or there's a an uneasy truce enforced by Granny. More often it seems he's an alley cat (frequently treating a row of garbage cans as a cafeteria) or the pet of another household.

There are a few variations he shares with Tom (of "and Jerry"). He might be a mouser who doesn't eat mice but takes joy in beating them up and throwing them out of the house. Or he's semi-human, engaging in human activities and disliking mice on general principle. Sylvester wasn't a girl chaser like Tom, but we did see him with a son and, occasionally, the lad's mother.

Perhaps the weirdest twist on Sylvester had the cat as a married homeowner. A drunken stock delivers a baby mouse, and Mrs. Sylvester's fierce maternal instincts prevent him from eating Junior (his initial response is to produce a butcher block instead of a cradle). The bulk of the cartoon is Sylvester dealing with other neighborhood cats, who lay siege to the house with the sort of tricks and disguises Sylvester usually deploys.

I never worried about the kid too much, but "Scaredy Cat" -- the first of a series that offers a mute, paranoid Sylvester with an oblivious Porky as an owner -- has Sylvester witnessing a grim procession of mice hauling off another cat to be beheaded. The condemned looks miserable and makes eye contact. Near the end Porky is being hauled off the same way, and Sylvester comes to his rescue. But I still felt bad about that first cat.

Yes, it is a slow Saturday here.

7:37 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Dan Mercer considers dreams that Sylvester might have had:

I imagine that Sylvester's continuing frustrations would have generated a growing and unrelieved tension among the more impressionable viewers. However, there would have been a simple way of allowing the cat to have his bird and eat it, too. It was only a dream!

In the front room of the house of that odd little fraternity I belonged to in college, there was a table piled with comic books, no doubt as an aperitif to study. All of them were DC--no Marvels among them, certainly no Charltons--surprisingly, no Classics Illustrated, that parachute for English Lit papers done the last minute--and many featured dream-based stories in which alternative plot lines were played out. In the "Supermans," Lex Luthor would become Master of the World and Lois Lane would discover Clark Kent's secret identity and even marry him.

Of course, this was a way of getting a little more mileage out of themes that were pretty much used up without disrupting the universe, but why not for Sylvester, to some better end?

I could see Sylvester enjoying utter and delightful mayhem with Tweety, then awakening and feeling ...guilty!...when he's not sure that it wasn't a dream. Perhaps he'd burp up some feathers for effect. And then it would be revealed that the feathers were from a savaged pillow and that Tweety was about to subject him to the usual shenanigans, which the cat would submit to, almost with a sigh of relief.

Or how about a Bizarro World Sylvester and Tweety?

8:03 AM  

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