Fraidy Cat is a 1942 one-reel animated cartoon and is the 4th Tom and Jerry short, it was released in theatres on January 17, 1942 and reissued for re-release on May 10, 1952, the original title card was retained in the reissue title sequence. It was supervised by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, produced by Fred Quimby (uncredited on original issue) and music by Scott Bradley (uncredited). Animated by Jack Zander, George Gordon, Irven Spence, Bill Littlejohn and Cecil Surry (all uncredited). This is the first Tom and Jerry cartoon to have Tom yelp in pain, although he also screeches like a cat in this cartoon. It was the first Tom and Jerry wartime cartoon. The original print of this cartoon did not give Fred Quimby credit, crediting only Hanna and Barbera as the "supervisors" of the film. The title card of the original issue remains intact in the reissue.
The cartoon begins with Tom listening to the radio, and being frightened by the horror story being told. Halfway into the story, the dramatics (hair standing on end, icy chills on spine, heart leaping into throat) begin happening to Tom. At the particularly grim conclusion, Tom runs away and hides in a flowerpot as an evil scream is uttered. Upon hearing the voice say "And that, my dear children, concludes this evening's Witching Hour", Tom sighs with relief, and is asked the question, "And you do believe in ghosts...don't you?" Gulping, Tom nods as if to say, "Yes, I do."
Jerry has been observing the whole thing and laughing to himself, and proceeds to pull down the curtain and release it. The flapping noise scares the cat, who hides only to discover the curtain, still rolling up he sighs with relief for it is not what he thought it was. Jerry tiptoes away, and under the still-swooning cat, bursts a radiator water line, burning the cat's behind and launching him into the air making Tom yelp in pain. Tom escapes the stream and runs towards a closet, panting heavily as he holds onto the door. Behind him is a vacuum with a white nightshirt, which Jerry approaches and peeks at the cat from the vantage point. Seeing the cat still recovering from the second shock, he activates the vacuum, which appears to be a ghost. Tom hears it, and without looking behind him, knows that this is something very terrifying. He makes panicked gestures towards the vacuum and faints, upon which Jerry turns off the vacuum, pleased. To wake up Tom, he squirts him with a speedy jet of water from a bottle. Tom awakens with a start, spits the water out of his mouth, and shakes it out of his ears. Tom sighed with relief that the noise is gone. Once again, before Tom can recover from this blast, Jerry reactivates the vacuum and paces it towards Tom. The rug he is lying on gets sucked up, and Tom's tail is caught in the opening. Tom jumps out of the vacuum, running against the heavy gale as objects are sucked into the vacuum. He manages to grab ahold of the telephone receiver, but let’s go when he is rebuked by the operator, and ends up holding onto the lower stair pillar. All of Tom's nine lives are sucked out and form a chain of cats holding on to each other. Life 9 bites Tom's tail, causing his host to yelp with pain and speed off, freeing all the other lives. Life 1 smiles at the camera as he is freed. Tom continues to run around the corner and bumps his head on the wall, whereupon 8 of the lives re-join him, and the ninth swings his arms before following suit. Tom instantly recovers and hears the vacuum again, and tries to find somewhere to run, and sees a shocking scene: Jerry operating the ghost-vacuum. Jerry continues to flip the switch and invites Tom to laugh with him. It takes a few looks and a peek into the distance for the mouse to realize that the cat, instead of being scared, is standing behind him. Jerry gulps nervously after he notices this. He resignedly walks out, and then dashes behind the nightshirt and makes a neophyte attempt to scare Tom by making a ghostly noise and waving his arms. Tom's I-mean-business look finally catches on, and Jerry waves and narrowly escapes from the leap from Tom pouncing.
Jerry runs towards a piano and prepares another, similar scare for the cat, but (obviously) it fails to work. They chase across the piano keys, and Jerry draws back a round piece of furniture and it hits the cat in the face. Just then after being woken up by all the noise, Mammy Two Shoes walks into the room with a rolling pin and a similar nightshirt on thinking there is a burglar in the house. Jerry turns around and runs up a baking ladder, and then hides himself in a tub of flour. As Mammy slowly sneaks through the hall, Tom turns the corner and sees her posterior. Believing this to be Jerry and his vacuum again, Tom slithers across the floor and under the table, pounces on Mammy and bites her bottom, and this causes her to scream.
Off-screen, Mammy yells at the cat, hits him several times, then throws Tom off while Jerry pulls himself out of the tin of flour, waves at Tom, but soon runs into his own reflection on a vase, looking like a ghost. He in fright yelps and runs into his hole. At this time Jerry pokes his head out and makes a confused look at the camera as if to ask, "Who was that?”
Lillian Randolph as Mammy Two Shoes (1942 original)
Thea Vidale as Mammy Two Shoes (1989 redubbed version)
Martha Wentworth as Radio Narrator of Witching Hour and as Phone Operator
- Mammy Two Shoes was removed from Cartoon Network and Boomerang
- This is the first episode where Tom attacks Mammy. When that happened, Mammy got enraged and clobbered Tom before kicking him out of the house.
- This is one of the eight cartoons in which Mammy Two Shoes attacks Tom. The others are The Midnight Snack (1941), Part Time Pal (1947), A Mouse in the House (1947), Mouse Cleaning (1948), Saturday Evening Puss (1950), Sleepy-Time Tom (1951) and Nit-Witty Kitty (1951).
- This is the first of only five cartoons the others being The Lonesome Mouse (1943), Part Time Pal (1947), A Mouse in the House (1947) and Nit-Witty Kitty (1951) in which Tom attacks Mammy Two Shoes.
- This is the first of twenty-one cartoons in which Tom and Jerry both lose in the end. The other cartoons are Baby Puss (1943), Part-Time Pal (1947), A Mouse in the House (1947), Polka-Dot Puss (1949), The Little Orphan (1949), Saturday Evening Puss (1950), Safety Second (1950), The Framed Cat (1950), His Mouse Friday (1951), The Missing Mouse (1953), Baby Butch (1954), Downhearted Duckling (1954), Muscle Beach Tom (1956), Down Beat Bear (1956), Blue Cat Blues (1956), Barbecue Brawl (1956), Feedin' the Kiddie (1957), Tot Watchers (1958), Filet Meow (1966), and Advance and Be Mechanized (1967)
- Along with that also marks the first time Jerry loses in the end.
The radio show Tom listens to at the start - The Witching Hour is a reference to a real radio show "The Witch's Tale". It was a horror-fantasy radio series which aired from 1931 to 1938 on WOR, the Mutual Radio Network, and in syndication. The program was created, written, and directed by Alonzo Deen Cole. Cole's spooky show was hosted by Old Nancy, the Witch of Salem, who introduced a different terror tale each week. The role of Old Nancy was created by stage actress Adelaide Fitz-Allen, who died in 1935 at the age of 79. Cole replaced her with 13-year-old Miriam Wolfe, and Martha Wentworth was also heard as Old Nancy on occasion. Cole himself provided the sounds of Old Nancy's cat, Satan. Cole's wife, Marie O'Flynn, portrayed the lead female characters on the program, and the supporting cast included Mark Smith and Alan Devitt. For syndication, the shows were recorded live during broadcast and distributed to other stations. These recordings were destroyed by Cole in 1961, so few episodes survive.
The nine "lives" that get sucked out of Tom by the vacuum are a reference to the cultural myth that all cats have "nine lives", which gives them the ability to survive falls from high places, whereas here Tom is able to survive getting sucked into the vacuum, because of his "nine lives".