Gay Purr-ee (1962) starring Judy Garland, Robert Goulet, Red Buttons, Paul Frees
Gay Purr-ee is often remembered as the animated cartoon with the voice of Judy Garland …. But it’s quite frankly a lot more than that. It takes a simple story: The farm girl who runs away to the big city in search of happiness, only to find that she was truly happy back home after all. And tells it in the setting of a musical, with the main characters all being cats.
Mewsette (voiced by Judy Garland, whose singing is in fine form) is the farm girl. She finds herself dissatisfied and runs away to Paris. Mewsette leaves behind her boyfriend Jaune-Tom (Robert Goulet in his film premier) and their friend Robespierre (Red Buttons, in fine form as comedic second banana). She is befriended by Meowrice (voice by the famous voice actor Paul Frees). Unknown to her, he’s the king of scoundrels. Who has an ulterior motive. He introduces her to his “sister” Mademouselle Rubens-Chatte (Hermione Gingold) who trains her to be a lovely lady …
So that Meowrice can sell her to a fat, old American cat as wife. Jaune-Tom and Robespierre are following Mewsette, despite the dangers of the trip. They are intercepted by Meowrice. He gets them drunk and shanghaied to Alaska, so they aren’t in a position to interfere. Will there be a happy ending? Do you really need to ask?
In addition to the main story, the animated art is quite nice, especially during the musical numbers. And the movie even manages to introduce the audience to the great artists of France at the time. Another point in the favor of Gay Purr-ee is that, unlike so many musicals, the songs don’t detract from the story. Instead, they advance it. Although it occasionally felt like there were too many songs too close together.
In addition to the voice acting already mentioned, it should be pointed out that the film is narrated by Morey Amsterdam (The Dick Van Dyke Show), with several voices contributed by the man of 1,000 voices, Mel Blanc (The Looney Tunes, Neptune’s Daughter).
Editorial review of Gay Purr-ee courtesy of Amazon.com
This little gem has the pedigree of a purebred Persian: it features voices of no less than Judy Garland and Robert Goulet, the original songs of Wizard of Oz composers Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg, and the writing talents of animation giant Chuck Jones. Garland gives life to our young heroine, Mewsette, a naive country kitty who runs off to seek the bright lights of Gay ’90s Paris; Goulet is her devoted country bumpkin beau, Jaune-Tom, who sets off to find her (accompanied by the scrappy kitten Robespierre).
While in Paris, Mewsette falls prey to the dastardly yellow-eyed Meowrice, and his compatriot, Madame Rubens-Chatte (played with hilarious swagger by Hermione Gingold), who runs a cathouse of ill repute off the Champs Élysées. The story is slim, itself a bit of an homage to Oz: country girl longs to spread her wings, leaves home, and has many adventures, only to discover that there’s no place like home. But the stylized look of the film is breathtaking–the French countryside looks like miles and miles of Vincent Van Gogh’s sensual Arles–and Garland and Goulet are in fine voice. If you love surreal animation, Judy Garland, cats, or Paris–or any combination thereof–this film will have you purring. –Anne Hurley