BAXTER'S BREAKDOWNS
December 13, 2017 posted by Devon Baxter

Tom & Jerry in “Tee For Two” (1945)

From Irv Spence’s diary

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.)

(Thanks to Mark Kausler and Frank Young for their help.)

17 Comments

  • One of the absolute best Tom & Jerry cartoons. Good gags, great soundtrack, fine animation, it has it all.

  • First saw this on the CBS Sunday morning broadcast back in the 60s. My brother and I just about EVAPORATED from that unexpected bee gag reaction shot. Good times.

  • I love this cartoon!

  • FYI:
    To anyone who may be interested, there are 165 easily downloadable episodes of Tom & Jerry in glorious HD, including “Tee for Two,” at this site: http://www.b99.tv/?s=tom+and+jerry&search=Search&paged=6

    In addition, there are hundreds of other downloadable HD cartoons from the studios of MGM, Warner Brothers, Walter Lantz, Hanna-Barbera, DePatie-Freleng, and Disney.

    ENJOY!!!

  • That ball cleaner gag is a scream! It gets me rolling in the aisles every time.

  • Saw this in a theatre a few years back, where it preceded an MGM feature titled ANCHORS AWEIGH. One of the few times I’ve seen a Tom and Jerry cartoon with an audience. It went over very well. Drew a lot of laughs.

    • I’ve never seen a Tom and Jerry cartoon in a theater with an audience. I bet that would be a great experience. I’ve seen Warner cartoons in theaters and it’s great hearing all those people laughing. Much different than watching them at home alone.

  • Nice reference to “Pass The Gravy”, in which this film’s closing gag (as well as the end gag from “Mouse Cleaning”) was “borrowed”.

  • One of the Tom and Jerry greats!

  • I wonder (and this is regarding just about any MGM cartoon) how many times an animator poses to display the proper reaction body language for a gag, similar to Tex Avery showing his animators how the jungle cat reacts when he cannot bring himself to kill the poor defenseless little bird in “CROSS COUNTRY DETOURS”. Yes, there are times in T&J cartoons wherein Tom or Jerry sport human fingers and toes when propelling their violence at each other…and there are so many instances in any of the MGM cartoons where the animation is so detailed that you really get the impression that they must have been looking at live action models to get the body movements just right, remembering of course that the characters are animals, not humans. It is that missing link that I always think about ever since I’d seen some of the more frenetic HAPPY HARMONIES or early MGM in-studio cartoons. One gag never mentioned (and I hope I get this description right) is the one in which the bees, after being disturbed, swarm around Tom’s head, shaping themselves into Abe Lincoln’s hat and beard. Like “WILD HONEY” (the BARNEY BEAR cartoon, not the Beach Boys’ album), I’m sure that the swarm is so incredibly animated as if they animated each of the insects separately and shrunk the images down until they appear to be dots. Perhaps, in contrast, if all info can be found for a future breakdown, “WILD HONEY” should be dissected. Oh, and yes, this is indeed one of those terrific Scott Bradley scores, although my favorite of this period by far is “THE MILKY WAIF”, from beginning to end.

  • Oh, and one more thing…here’s hoping that the TOM AND JERRY cartoons are reissued real soon as one big GOLDEN COLLECTION or two or three further such sets, because I’m wondering how many original nitrates have been discovered so we can see missing pieces or original title sequences; I know, I know, most MGM materials around this time are no more, but surely someone must have something closer to an original print of the title(s) somewhere in their dusty basements or other carefully locked away places?

  • Correction: this film was NOT on the CBS line-up.

    • I must have conflated watching the CBS show with the 1980s syndication package. Thanks, Uncle Wayne!

  • FYI:
    To anyone who may be interested there are 165 easily downloadable episodes of Tom & Jerry in glorious HD, including “Tee for Two,” at this site: http://www.b99.tv/?s=tom+and+jerry&search=Search&paged=6

    In addition, there are hundreds of other downloadable HD cartoons from the studios of MGM, Warner Brothers, Walter Lantz, Hanna-Barbera, DePatie-Freleng, and Disney.

    ENJOY!!!

    • Wowzers!!!!! Thank you for sharing this site Rock. It is cartoon gold mine.

    • Rock West the B99.TV site is indeed an excellent source for cartoons. It is a way better location than YouTube or Dailymotion for high def cartoons. I’ve already downloaded over a dozen that I was missing from my collection. Thanks for turning me on to it.

    • COOL SITE! But I really wish it had more H-B on it! Pretty much just has the standard issue choices: Scooby, Flinstones, Jetsons and Top Cat. Would be cool to see some of the more obscure stuff! I did think it was awesome that it had Laff a Lympics though! But I assume they put that up because of Scooby being in it.

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