As most of you know, I’ve been on the hunt to get as many CinemaScope copies of the Gene Deitch Terrytoons shorts as I can. I shared much of it through several posts on this site, but since my last one, I managed to gain new ones.
This particular one I felt was worthy of its own post. Another Day Another Doormat (1959) is the last of the four “John Doormat” cartoons, and it’s arguably the best one of the bunch.
The cartoon is an interesting twist on the “henpecked husband” trope, where we see that John Doormat, when away from his domineering wife, is a tyrannical boss at his company. Meanwhile, Jane Doormat dreams about having a husband that’s firm and dominating.
According to Gene Deitch, the character was already being developed when he arrived at Terrytoons: “A new character they were already working on was named ‘John Doe,’ a harrassed husband; a completely stock character. I felt right off that the name, ‘John Doe,’ meaning the average man, was uncopyrightable, too generic, and didn’t say anything to indicate his character, a browbeaten husband. So I changed his name to John Doormat, which was at least an original name, and it did describe the character.” (source: https://www.awn.com/genedeitch/chapter-fifteen-the-terry-fying-challenge)
The first two cartoons featuring the character (Topsy TV and Shove Thy Neighbor) was evidently close to the original plan they had before Gene arrived. However, when Al Kouzel took over the series, changes were being made to characters. “On all of these characters, we tried very hard to develop in a multi-dimensional way, writing extensive character studies of each of them.” (source: https://www.awn.com/genedeitch/chapter-sixteen-a-terrytoonery)
Gene Deitch himself regards the cartoon as one of the best to come out from his days at Terrytoons, writing to me “[Another Day Another Doormat] holds up today, over a half-century old, thanks to Jules [Feiffer’s] story, Al’s styling and old Phil Scheib’s remarkably update music.”
I sent Jules Feiffer a DVD copy of my Another Doormat transfer, and this is what he wrote back to me in response:
“Al [Kouzel], Eli [Bauer] and I did a lot of hanging out together. Gene was trying, with mixed results, to do an end run around the stuffy Paul Terry veterans who would have dearly loved to stick with Heckle and Jeckle and Mighty Mouse. The one original piece I created, which Gene wanted to put in to replace Tom Terrific ( I wrote a few) when it ended its run, was a jazzy kid’s cartoon, that Gene was high on but CBS rejected with this unforgettable quote, “Really, it’s more like Dostoyevsky than Peter Pan”. After that rejection, it became clear that the support for the level of work I was interested in doing had melted away, so I gave notice, and got out. But I was there almost 2 years, and I think of my friends and time there fondly.”
And now, here is the cartoon, in its original format:
In regards to the original titles, somebody in the credits department goofed, accidentally crediting Allen Swift for Lionel Wilson’s voices! Yes, even on-screen credits are not 100% reliable. Here’s an original model a sheet for John Doormat (click to enlarge):
(Thanks to Tommy Jose Stathes, Jerry Beck, Gene Deitch and Jules Feifer)