Today we’re out on the fairway with Tom and Jerry in this week’s animator breakdown!
Just as Disney’s Hockey Homicide (1945) depicted its sport as a frenetic, breathless and violent experience, Hanna-Barbera’s Tee for Two—released the same year—escalates to a brisk and brutal crescendo. After the opening pan background of a damaged golf course—riddled with divots, broken trees and clubs wrapped around trunks —an overzealous Tom (animated by Irv Spence) furiously swats at the ball as he digs himself into a deep pit. The character animation is autobiographical, in a sense; many entries in Spence’s cartoon diary, drawn the previous year in 1944, illustrate his love of golf—and, on occasion, his frustrations over the lack of improvement in his score.
Ken Muse animates the following scenes of Tom’s first encounter with Jerry on the golf course. Muse often draws their whiskers crossed, which often makes Tom look like a villain from a stage melodrama. Another trait of Muse’s animation is in how he handles the entry of Tom or Jerry on-screen; their feet slip onto the ground before they come to a stop. Muse stressed a general flexibility in the characters’ movement—for instance, their bodies squash and stretch in his scenes. In this sequence, Tom’s body language acts accordingly; in one instance, after his ball has twice bounced back onto the green, he putts and inches on his toes in anticipation before it’s thrown out again. In a fit of frustration, he repeatedly jabs the ball into the hole to secure it.
Pete Burness’ scenes of Tom using Jerry as an assistant, under his own persecution, elevate the level of counteraction between the two characters. After being nailed into the ground as a golf tee, Jerry’s reciprocal act (squirting soapy water into Tom’s eyes after being dunked into the ball washer) leads to further penalty as Jerry holds up a real golf tee, much to his chagrin. Naturally, Tom’s humiliation of Jerry leads to one of the more painful sight gags in the series, where his earnest grin is shattered after his ball bounces against a stone. (A similar gag in 1948’s Kitty Foiled is depicted with sharper timing but is almost as unpleasant.)
Some of the film’s acts of violence are paralleled. Jerry’s head is exposed when he’s relegated to a golf tee. Later, Tom is in the same predicament when his swing leaves him stuck in a hole. After Jerry strikes him with a club, leading him to ingest the golf ball, Tom’s temper flares. Like many of the cartoons in the series, their rivalry leads other forces to boost the ongoing aggressive tone. In this film, nature on these sporting grounds is disrupted. The retaliation over Tom’s abuse towards Jerry continues when his golf ball is switched with an egg. A newborn woodpecker pops out of its shell and instantly drills his beak onto Tom’s head.
Ray Patterson animates perhaps the finest acting in Tee for Two. Tom conveys an array of emotions when he scores his first hole, with a half-broken golf ball fastened on Jerry’s head. First, Tom is concerned for a moment, watching out for nosey lingerers that might notice his cheating before he pokes Jerry into the hole. He looks up in a faux-innocent manner. After it takes him a moment to recollect the number of strokes he used to score, Tom chooses to mark in a low par on his scoreboard before Jerry shames him. In a subtle touch, Tom exchanges a begrudged glance to Jerry before writing his true number of strokes—a quite high amount for one hole.
Later, near the end of the film, nature is breached again when Tom is chased by a swarm of bees—in animation split between Spence and Muse—and seeks refuge in a pond using a reed as a snorkel. His gutsy act of spitting water at the buzzing horde is his own undoing; with Jerry’s assistance, the bees dive into the straw, and Tom lets out the largest and most gruesome reaction in the series to date, as animated by Muse.
A final parallel/callback ends Tee for Two. Earlier in the cartoon, Jerry is struck by a golf ball by Tom earlier in the film. Jerry isn’t finished with his retribution—Tom is beaned on the head by a soaring golf ball as he runs farther into the horizon. He registers the impact in a comic exclamation before he hits the ground, reminiscent of the closing gag in the silent Hal Roach two-reeler Pass the Gravy (1928), starring Max Davidson.
Enjoy, and remember to replace your divots! (The version presented here is the re-issue, released on February 1953—the original 1945 release has not surfaced as of this writing.)