Tom & Jerry are the prototypical cat and mouse cartoon characters: Mouse irritates cat. Cat chases mouse. Mouse bests cat. Repeat ad nauseum.
Tom & Jerry were created in 1940 by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, who went on to invent some of the most memorable cartoon characters under the name Hanna-Barbera Productions. These include The Flintstones, their historical opposites The Jetsons, Yogi and Boo Boo Bear, Huckleberry Hound, Top Cat, Smurfs, Scooby-Doo, and Josie and the Pussycats, among man others.
Tom & Jerry were also among those early cartoons created specifically for the big screen in the days before tee vee. They were short films distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to be run between its feature films. As the WikiWackyWoo explains:
[Tom & Jerry] cartoons are known for some of the most violent cartoon gags ever devised in theatrical animation such as Tom using everything from axes, hammers, firearms, firecrackers, explosives, traps and poison to kill Jerry. On the other hand, Jerry’s methods of retaliation are far more violent due to their frequent success, including slicing Tom in half, decapitating him, shutting his head or fingers in a window or a door, stuffing Tom’s tail in a waffle iron or a mangle, kicking him into a refrigerator, getting him electrocuted, pounding him with a mace, club or mallet, causing trees or electric poles to drive him into the ground, sticking matches into his feet and lighting them, tying him to a firework and setting it off, and so on. Because of this, Tom and Jerry has often been criticized as excessively violent. Despite the frequent violence, there is no blood or gore in any scene.:42:134
And, of course, Tom & Jerry were the inspiration for Itchy & Scratchy, who took it one step further.
TRIVIA ALERT: Tom and Jerry were originally called Jasper and Jinx, in their first appearance, Puss Gets the Boot:
It was not all fun and games. Like so much in the mainstream media in the ’40s and ’50s, Tom & Jerry reflected the times in which they were made. In later years some of these cartoons would deemed racially offensive. I’ll let the WikiWackyWoo tell the unpleasant tale of Mammy Two-Shoes, who appeared in the cartoon above.
Like a number of other animated cartoons from the 1930’s to the early 1950’s, Tom and Jerry featured racial stereotypes. After explosions, for example, characters with blasted faces would resemble stereotypical blacks, with large lips and bow-tied hair. Perhaps the most controversial element of the show is the character Mammy Two Shoes, a poor black maid who speaks in a stereotypical “black accent” and has a rodent problem. Joseph Barbera, who was responsible for these gags, claimed that the racial gags in Tom and Jerry did not reflect his racial opinion; they were just reflecting what was common in society and cartoons at the time and were meant to be humorous. Nevertheless, such stereotypes are considered by some[who?] to be racist today, and the blackface gags are often censored when these shots are aired.
In the 1960s, the MGM animation studio, by then under the supervision of Chuck Jones, created censored versions of the Tom & Jerry cartoons featuring Mammy for television. These versions used rotoscoping techniques to replace Mammy on-screen with a similarly stocky white woman (in most shorts) or a thin white woman (in Saturday Evening Puss); Randolph’s voice on the soundtracks was replaced by an Irish-accented (or, in Puss, generic young adult) voice performed by actress June Foray. Paul Mular, head of Broadcast Standards and Practices (BS&P) at KOFY-TV (Channel 20) in San Francisco in the late 1990s, believes this was an overreaction to calls for racial sensitivity as the original Mammy was inoffensive.
However, Tom & Jerry cartoons are meant to be enjoyed. Sadly, the Not Now Silly Newsroom cannot share with you any examples of entire vintage Tom & Jerry cartoons. Those Warner Bros. must be pretty powerful brothers.
All I discovered had either been sliced and diced, had awful wrap-a-rounds added from later tee vee incarnations, or more recent overdubbing of voices and, I believe, music. But, every video found were nothing but truncated versions or mere snippets.
Apologies in advance, but some of this is still vintage Tom & Jerry: