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Lost Tom & Jerry title cards

Fellow animation historian David Gerstein is on a roll.

He’s followed up his discovery of the lost ending to the Bugs Bunny Hare-um Scare-um with an equally intriguing find. He’s just posted on his blog of the existence of several rare Tom & Jerry prints from the 1940s, featuring previously unseen main title art (click thumbnails above for a few samples). You’ll recall that I’ve posted before, on my MGM Cartoon Research page, that the original negatives to MGM cartoons prior to 1952 were destroyed in a studio fire. While duplicate film elements survive, these are from reissue prints. Unfortunately MGM refilmed the opening titles and sometimes removed or changed gags and animation for re-release. In other words, the original visuals for 1940s MGM cartoons only exist in rare nitrate prints. David has posted some choice shots from several of these on his blog. These are images never seen on DVD or Cartoon Network. Click here and enjoy.

  • I’m sure you’re way ahead of me on this, but I’m thinking that it would be a fantastic idea if you and David Gerstein co-wrote a book on the MGM cartoons, similar to your books with Will Freidwald on the Warner Brothers cartoons, only in this book, you will utilize all the MGM synopsis writings (some samples given on and on Mr. Gerstein’s blog), along with your own copious notes on gags that you’ve both come to enjoy or even what ruffles your feathers about each cartoon. Mind you, I can’t fully enjoy such books, as you know, unless you made them audio books, but I just think that it is a shame that only you folks are able to enjoy the stuff through visits to the UCLA film vaults. Of course, Jerry, you can only imagine that I think the ultimate idea here would have been a series of fully restored MGM cartoons comps on DVD, with added booklets with each volume featuring the original saved and well-detailed MGM plot outlines that touch on the gags now omitted through neglegence; but, hey, a book, alone, would be the very next best thing, and it is a book I would support, while begging some good folks to read the damned things to me! You know I managed to enjoy your books on the LOONEY TUNES and MERRY MELODIES. I like such books, because they do the job that you would hope the video companies should be doing! You all keep baiting me with all this MGM news of rare stuff and unearthing same through dilligent Holy Grail-type hunts around the globe and, while Cartoon Brew is a magnificent place to slip in some of this stuff, we small core of fans want more, more, more–and who says that you someday couldn’t recreate the original titles on a future MGM cartoons set, similar to the ways you’ve restored and recreated the POPEYE cartoons from the theatrical era! While some might grouse about the fact that the jobs are mere recreations and not original prints, well, when it’s the only game in town, I’ll personally take the recreations, or even slipping in the now aborted gag on a bad print, neatly stuck in with the restoration where it belongs, if you know what I mean! I’d be happy even for the somewhat scratchier quality for the duration of the few seconds that feature the now very rare gag since I’d know up front that there is no way in hell that an original can be found! But, hey, for now, the book idea…c’mon, you’ve got to tell me that this is a magnificent idea!!

  • Beautiful! Amazing! I want more!!!

  • This is an historic (and VERY awesome) find!!!

  • Awesome find!

    This could make great material for a future DVD release. I always figured there was something uneven about THE MIDNIGHT SNACK. It’s great to see how the original title card looked!

  • Steve R.

    The more i re-live T&J cartoons(*and trust me, i don’t very often) the more i question why I ever did.

    To my eyes today, they’re racist, sexist and way too violent.

    Don’t get me wrong, i love Clampet and Avery cartoons as much as the next guy, but these T&J’s become repeticious after a while(*and predictable)

    I can’t believe i watched them!(*when i was 12)

  • Andy

    Way too violent?! Uh. Isn’t that a good thing? I love my Tom and Jerry violent. And sexist. And, well, I could do without racist. But violent is good. Very good. Lots better than when Tom and Jerry were pals or whatever in the ’70s.

  • Chuck R.

    Steve, I may catch heat for this, but to me ALL Hollywood cartoons get repetitive after awhile. No matter how funny the gags or ingenious the art; no matter how nice the restorations, or the packaging or the commentary, they were created as 8-minute entertainment “mints” not for marathon watching. I’m sure Joe Barbera never fathomed that a single person might see every Tom and Jerry cartoon in his lifetime, much less back-to-back. The way we die-hard fans watch these things aren’t at all the way they were made to be enjoyed.

    I still love ’em though and see something new to appreciate each time. The art in Tom and Jerry ranks alongside the best and these title cards attest to the love for craftsmanship those artists had.

    Thanks for posting, Jerry!

  • Bugsmer

    Jerry, you said that “the original visuals for 1940s MGM cartoons only exist in rare nitrate prints.” This was popularly believed before Thad found a 16mm copy of “The Hollywood Bowl” with its original opening intact. If the original titles for this 1950 short can be found on 16mm, why can’t others? Did MGM make a list of dates when cartoons were put on 16mm? Did Warners? If such lists exist, they could save artifact hunters a great deal of trouble. Who knows? Perhaps some of these rare items may be found on 8mm as well.

  • Bugsmer

    I have another question: the warehouse fire happened in the 1960s, right? Why did MGM have any nitrate prints on their property? Did they need a special license?


  • Bugsmer – You are right. I stand corrected. There are “original version” 16mm safety prints — but they are just as hard to find as nitrate 35mm. Just because a collector may have one or two does not mean they are commonplace… they are rare.

    16mm prints (and their negatives) were struck at the time of their original release to serve non-theatrical markets such as Army and Navy bases. Those negs are long gone, replaced by the re-release versions. Studios also routinely created 16mm prints of films for in-house use. 16mm was the “home video” of its day, and most movie stars and Hollywood executives had 16mm projectors – 16mm “studio prints” were routinely loaned out for private screening purposes.

    As for your other question, nitrate films have always been stored at the studios. I know Paramount still has nitrate vaults on their lot. However, in recent years most studios have moved their nitrate holdings to archives (such as UCLA’s).

  • Bugsmer

    That’s interesting, Jerry. So, lending them to UCLA is a newer practice, and it wouldn’t have taken place in the 60s. I agree with you that such prints are rare, but probably not as rare as most of us think. Greater quantities probably exist than are ever found, at least of sound films. The trick is the discoveries being made by someone who has even the smallest inkling of a particular film’s significance. The original versions of perhaps every MGM cartoon are floating around somewhere, but the people who have some of these prints may be ignorant of their significance. Thanks to you and David Gerstein, we, the public, have at least some idea of what to keep our eyes open for, so if we ever happen upon anything worthwhile, we’ll be less likely to shrug it off.

    Is sending all the nitrate films to UCLA a good thing? Isn’t that putting all of your eggs in one basket? If something happens to UCLA, some disaster or something, over five decades of films will be lost. Do the studios make some kind of a copy of their film before it goes to UCLA–an exact copy of the film itself?…or do they just rely on their newer masters made from reissues?

  • Bugsmer – You wrote: “So, lending them to UCLA is a newer practice, and it wouldn’t have taken place in the 60s.”

    First off, they aren’t “loaned” to UCLA, they are deposited there for safe keeping. The studio still owns the film (print or negs) kept there. But the archives (UCLA is only one of them – Library of Congress in DC, Museum of Modern Art in NYC and George Eastman House in Rochester are three others – there are many more) are set up to better preserve nitrate than studio lots, labs or salt mines. And yes, it’s a “newer” practice to move nitrate materials to established film archives.

    You also state: “I agree with you that such prints are rare, but probably not as rare as most of us think.”

    They are RARE. If they weren’t, we’d all be seeing these films restored correctly. Certain films and titles are LOST until someone, somewhere finds one. When that happens their status moves from LOST to RARE. When we put an original version restored on DVD, it once again becomes commonplace. One of the joys of what I do is to restore the correct versions of these films to the marketplace. However, keep in mind that cartoons are the lowest priority of those studios who control them.

    Widespread ignorance of film history causes wrong versions to exist and the right ones to languish. Most people who work for the major studios don’t know anything about the history of the studio or its films. It’s up to collectors and historians to right the situations when we can.

    “Is sending all the nitrate films to UCLA a good thing? Isn’t that putting all of your eggs in one basket? If something happens to UCLA, some disaster or something, over five decades of films will be lost.”

    Yes, in the past we’ve lost rare films due to nitrate fires in the archive vaults… but it hasn’t happened in many years due to advances in detecting nitrate decomposition. The archives now preserve the original nitrate materials in specially created, state-of-the-art, fire proof “film vaults”. Also, the archives and studios create safety negatives which are usually kept in a different location (usually back at the studio or their main film lab).

  • Bugsmer

    Wow, Jerry. I think I understand the situation a little better now. Luck and determination must go hand in hand to unearth these relics. Good luck with your search. If I come across anything you don’t have, I’ll let you know.

  • Chris Sobieniak

    Glad to see Bugsmer has ‘seen the light’!

    I personally find it interesting when it comes to those 16mm studio copies or the prints made for military bases that might still be around in the back of some guy’s garage or warehouse somewhere in middle America. It’s those people who often don’t know of what kind of significance might be there to behold in their collection, or what collection they have. It’s neat when these discoveries do show up from time to time.

  • 1. Will those original versions and others make their way into a restpration program (like the Vitaphone Project) and be released to the public somehow?

    2. The title background for “puss N’ Toots” is the same one from “Little Gravel Voice” and “Bats in the Belfry” (both 1942). I guess that was used in 1942 before the ‘Hold That Tiger’ music came along.

    3. Will videos of those lost titles be posted somewhere (like YouTube)?

  • Stephen Rhodes Treadwell

    I disagree w/ you, Andy. Those Tom and Jerry cartoons from the 70’s, where they’re pals, are by a landslide the best Tom and Jerry cartoons ever made.

  • Amen, Steve Treadwell! ’75 all the way! Hooray! :)

  • I never seen these original Tom and Jerry cartoons before. My parents are lucky to see original versions before these Tom and Jerry cartoons are re-issued. Where did you get them from I may asked?

  • Stephen Rhodes Treadwell

    Please call me Stephen, not Steve! I’m glad you agree w/ me Aaron Handy!