Part 5 in an ongoing series looking at New York City in animation.
Usually, the Tom & Jerry cartoons pit cat against mouse in an animated game of, well, cat and mouse. But in the 1945 short film “Mouse in Manhattan,” Jerry has his first and only solo adventure. He goes to the city where so many others have gone on solo adventures — New York!
The film opens with Jerry leaving a note under a sleeping Tom’s paw, explaining that he’s leaving their boring country life for the exciting bright lights of the big city. He’s heading to New York on what’s sure to be an excellent adventure.
Jerry arrives in the city at Grand Central Terminal. He is practically thrown from his train and skids across the floor, where he promptly gets stuck on a piece of gum. It’s not a very good start to his visit.
And to make matters worse, a shoeshine boy mistakes Jerry (a little furry thing) for a shoe shine rag (another little furry thing?) and dunks him in shoe polish. He shines someone’s shoe with Jerry’s head. When Jerry recovers from the ordeal, his face is covered with black polish and… um… well… I’m not sure I should show you this, but… Okay, here you go:
But Jerry recovers, cleans himself off, and sets out on his sightseeing adventure.
Of course, once night falls, Jerry heads out on the town like any New York visitor would do. He checks out the nightlife, the lights, and the ladies.
He even finds himself at a penthouse gala, where he enjoys the beverages, the music, and even dances with a mouse-sized doll. There are certainly enough rodents in Manhattan that he should have been able to find himself a real mouse to dance with. But, alas, the city can be a lonely place.
Unfortunately, things are about to take a turn for the worse for Jerry. Maybe he enjoyed the beverages a little too much. He loses his balance, and finds himself dangling over the city on a broken candle precariously balanced over the penthouse balcony.
It reminds me of the famous photo of Harold Lloyd in his movie Safety Last.
Jerry falls to the ground, lands in an alley, lucky to be alive, but surrounded by alley cats. He runs away, gets chased by a subway train, and somehow ends up falling through the glass window of a jewelry store, where he’s mistaken for a jewel thief.
He manages to escape the cops, and decides he just can’t take the Big City any longer. So he runs home across the George Washington Bridge.
He manages to get home before Tom wakes up, retrieves the note, and tears it up before Tom has a chance to read it.
So what’s the lesson here? That Jerry’s a New Jersey bumpkin who can’t cut it in Manhattan? That Bridge-and-Tunnelers should just stay put where they belong? That New York City is such a big scary place that it’s not even worth visiting? That the country mouse will always be a country mouse? Or that you should give up on a new venture if at first you meet some hardships?
If Jerry doesn’t appreciate that he’s just had an adventure in one day that’s more exciting than being chased by that cat for the rest of his life, he fails to appreciate the wonders of this city. New York’s not about visiting, trying to be successful, and leaving when you hit some rough spots. If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere, but you’ll never make it anywhere if you give up so quickly.
This cartoon may have some lovely animation, and it might capture the look of this town, but it fails to capture the spirit of this city.
IMDb Rating: 8/10
BCDb Rating: 8/10
My Rating: 5/10
(My rating is for the episode’s depiction of NYC only)