In 1847, famous composer Franz Liszt wrote Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 (henceforth called Number 2), which is considered today as one of the most iconic pieces of classical music ever written. Though made to be a dramatic piece, it has had a place in the world of comedy, mainly in animated shorts and feature productions. The first use of the tune in film came from the 1929 Disney short "The Opry House", and this started a trend with other studios on making comedic interpretations of the tune performed by cartoon characters. One of the most iconic, and most memorable uses of this concept is found here.
Tom & Jerry, at this point, have become household names in the motion picture industry as one of the greatest duos ever conceived. For MGM, the Tom & Jerry shorts have become just as memorable for their craftsmanship, writing, and execution as their now classic movie musicals like "Singin' in the Rain" or "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers". However, this short takes a different turn from the usual house setting. Instead, it takes place in a concert hall, most likely the famous Hollywood Bowl.
Tom is a concert pianist who arrives on stage to perform Liszt's Number 2 on the grand piano in front of a massive audience. When he begins to play, everything is going fine, until we look inside the piano and we find that Jerry has made himself a small abode. Of course, he is waken up, though he doesn't get angry about it when he finds out who's at the keys. So he decides to have a bit of fun by making Tom's big night something he wishes never happened. Plus, it serves as a lesson for all piano owners: make sure there's no mice inside to ruin your session, 'cause then you're gonna have a bad time, and no one wants to have a bad time.
What makes this short work to its advantage is how it slowly builds up the slapstick as the tune goes on, and as it goes into the second half of the short, it starts to get more hectic, with the orchestra joining in. At first, Jerry does things to the piano that just irritates and distracts Tom, but when the tempo begins to rise, Jerry decides to make Tom's night a living hell by pushing him towards exhaustion, as if the last straw was finally drawn. In the end, as usual, Jerry gets the last laugh, as the spotlight shines on him and he takes a bow for the performance instead of Tom. Now THAT is a sign of satisfaction.
This is one of the Tom & Jerry shorts that has gotten such high praise from critics and audiences as a comedy classic, it became one of seven Tom & Jerry shorts to win an Academy Award for Best Short Subject in the Cartoon category, which was accepted by the film's producer, Fred Quimby. However, the film also met a moment of controversy. Right after the film was released, Warner Brothers released the Bugs Bunny cartoon "Rhapsody Rabbit", in which Bugs also plays Number Two on the grand piano in front of an audience, with the only difference being that he does not have an adversary to quarrel with. This led to the filmmakers at MGM and Warner Brothers arguing with each other saying that their film was original, and that they plagiarized each other, when really, it was all coincidental.
As for the film itself, it's one of the greats from the Hanna-Barbera catalog of Tom & Jerry shorts. The animation and timing is well done, and the comedy is as smart as usual. The music, obviously, flows with the on-going havoc, and it fits perfectly, making it one of the best uses of Liszt's classic piece. In fact, I have a feeling that the scene from "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" where Donald Duck and Daffy Duck do dueling pianos in the Ink and Paint Club pretty much pays tribute to this particular short.
In conclusion, this is a gem in the Tom & Jerry franchise, and a step forward for the characters to interact in different environments. As a kid, I looked forward to seeing this film appear on a Tom & Jerry block on Cartoon Network. Though if you're looking to own this film so you can watch it at anytime, it can be found on the first Tom & Jerry Spotlight Collection or Volume 1 of the Tom & Jerry Golden Collection.
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