Tom and Jerry title card-1-485

Many symphony orchestras now play music from Hollywood’s golden age,  but none that I’m aware of has attempted to perform Scott Bradley’s breakneck-paced scores for Tom and Jerry cartoons—until now. I’m indebted to Rob Paquin for sending me the YouTube link to this remarkable performance by the John Wilson Orchestra at London’s Royal Albert Hall, as part of the BBC Proms concert series.

In his e-mail Rob writes, “As you can hear from the full house audience, it was a great success and long overdue. John Wilson has been painstakingly trying to restore the original arrangements for classic scores. He is a big fan of MGM's distinctive musical sound when Conrad Salinger and Johnny Green were in charge of the music department, and I think he comes incredibly close to capturing that sound. I thought you would enjoy the link since you did so much in your animation book Of Mice and Magic to bring attention to Scott Bradley's great contribution to the enjoyment of the Tom and Jerry cartoons.”

Here's this amazing segment.


Yes indeed. Bradley has never gotten the same degree of attention as Carl Stalling, his counterpart at Warner Bros., but he too was a superb musician with a wonderful sense of humor. And like Stalling, he had free use of his studio’s song library, which enabled him to integrate tunes like “You Were Meant For Me” and “The Trolley Song” into his scores.

The unnamed party who posted the Tom and Jerry link on YouTube writes, “Pete Morris, who worked on the arrangement with John Wilson, on 4 September wrote the following in response to questions about this video: ‘We wanted to create a score that wasn't too fragmented and that didn't rely on visuals so the music you hear is a compilation of some of the best bits of Scott Bradley's music. There is no single video for the music; it comes from eight different cartoons: Smitten Kitten, Sufferin' Cats, The Framed Cat, Cat Fishin', Just Ducky, Jerry and Jumbo, The Cat Comes to Dinner and Mouse for Sale.

Conductor John Wilson
Conductor John Wilson

“On 8 September Pete Morris added, ‘John is a dab hand at reconstructing scores from audio. Check his Wiki page for info. In this case, however, we used score fragments, archives and a lot of patience. I used FCP to extract candidate snippets of video and linked them to create 3 candidate narratives which John and I then worked on. Copyright is a nightmare (MGM, Warner, Sony, Turner, EMI have all owned bits in the past). Only JW has the clout to cut though that quagmire. Scores are as rare as hens' teeth.'”

If you like, you can watch and listen to the entire concert (click HERE ), which celebrates film music in fine fashion with compositions by Alfred Newman, Max Steiner, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Bernard Herrmann, Miklos Rozsa, David Raskin, Franz Waxman and others—even my great favorite Jerome Moross, whose great score for The Big Country is included right alongside themes and suites from Street Scene, Citizen Kane, Ben-Hur, Psycho, A Place in the Sun, and more. At intermission, conductor John Wilson discusses the program and his decision to include Scott Bradley (at the 51-minute mark).

Kudos are also due to the BBC director who captures all the action of the percussionists who get a real workout during the Tom and Jerry score, even hurling plates into a metal garbage can. (Remember, when these shorts were originally scored, the orchestra could stop and start; editing was definitely a convenience, even if it was used sparingly.)

Wouldn’t it be great to witness a performance like this in person?