In 1928, composer Louis Alter created ‘Manhattan Serenade’, an art-deco orchestral piece designed to be recorded on what was then a long-playing Victor 78rpm disc (four minutes and forty-five seconds–almost two minutes longer than standard 78 RPM records). The piece is very much of its era–a 20s ode to the big city as evinced by its modern trends in melody, harmony and structure. ‘Manhattan Serenade’ would be a forgotten novelty, though, if not for one of its three main themes which in 1942 was excerpted and turned into a popular song recorded by Tommy Dorsey, with lyrics added by Harold Adamson. The song–also titled ‘Manhattan Serenade’–was immensely popular and seemed to fit suave 40s Manhattan as snugly as it had fit roaring 20s Manhattan. (By the way it appears briefly on the soundtrack of ‘The Godfather’.)
So what has this to do with Tom and Jerry, the anthropomorphic stars of the MGM animation department? Well, in 1945 somebody remembered the Louis Alter record and wrote an entire ‘Tom and Jerry’ short specifically to match the original score. Titled ‘Mouse In Manhattan’, the short tells of Jerry heading for an exciting new life in Manhattan only to find…well, never mind just watch it. The weird thing here is that this version of the cartoon uses the old recording as ‘temp’ instead of the new, souped up version recorded by the Scott Bradley-led MGM orchestra of 1945 which appears on the DVD that contains this short. In a way I kind of like the use of the old, inferior audio against the snappy new color animation–it feels like we’re watching the editors temp copy of the short that he showed Hanna and Barbera for their approval before finishing up the post. Tomorrow more on this iconic song. Unless I think of something else I’d rather spew about. Many thanks to my pal, journalist and critic Will Friedwald, for hipping me to this whole thing.