Copyright © 2017 MozartCircle.
All rights reserved.

is in public domain
or in fair use.
When The Cat Concerto won the 1946 Academy Award...
Liszt: from Eszterháza with rage
It is well known how Liszt, the last music offspring of the Haydnian Eszterháza, had links, through his father, to papa Haydn himself and Hummel and how he studied in Vienna with Czerny and Salieri and received there the blessing of Beethoven, thanks to Czerny, and how he, still a child prodigy, was presented to the great public as the actual reincarnation of W.A.Mozart. 

The fortunate destiny of Liszt's works in Hollywood
      A lesser known story is the one about the fortunate destiny of many works by Liszt in the Cinema Industry (so from Eszterháza to Hollywood) of the 1930s and 1940s. And a particular passion was cultivated for one of his piano works: the Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2.
      The most notable Hollywood product, involving the Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2, was the 1941 Academy Award-nominated short Rhapsody in Rivets.
The 1946 Hollywood scandal of The Cat Concerto
      Things became complicated, when in 1946 Warner Bros. Pictures and Friz Freleng decided to produce a new short featuring both Liszt's Rhapsody No. 2 and Warner's major star Bugs Bunny, a short conceived as a follow-up of the 1941 Rhapsody in Rivets.
      For some reason still obscure, the MGM Studios was working on a similar project, but with MGM's great stars Tom & Jerry.
      When both shorts Rhapsody Rabbit (Warner) and The Cat Concerto (MGM) were submitted for the 1947 Academy Awards ceremony the scandal shook Hollywood to its foundation: who plagiarized whom?
      Technically speaking, Bugs Bunny came before Tom the Cat, since Rhapsody Rabbit (Warner) had an earlier MPAA copyright number and release date. In the end, the accusations reached the Technicolor Laboratories: Technicolor allegedly sent the film print to the wrong producer and so disclosed the Hungarian Rhapsody project to the rival and such mistake by Technicolor ignited the whole plagiarism process. Today, how all this could have happened is still uncertain and many theories are circulating on the possible authors of the plagiarism process.

Bugs Bunny in front of the most famous Liszt's black page.

The war of the Hollywood virtuoso pianists working for the Toons
      In 2005 and then in 2011 the son of the Hollywood virtuoso pianist Jakob Gimpel, Peter Gimpel, after many questions on the activity of his father in Hollywood in the 1940s, decided to give a special interesting account on the whole controversy of the The Cat Concerto and a possible solution of its mystery.

Gimpel, Cherkassky and Crown rivals in 1940s Hollywood
      According to Peter Gimpel, Cherkassky was a renowned prankster in Hollywood in 1940s and a few of his pranks reached also his pianists rivals in Hollywood such as Peter's father Jakob Gimpel. It is a fact that the phonecall to Bugs Bunny, during his concert, may be a clear allusion to a famous series of pranks by Cherkassky, which got involved also the family of Gimpel as the victims.
      According to Peter Gimpel, so, when Warner was looking for a virtuoso pianist to record the Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 by Liszt for Bugs Bunny, the Studio contacted also Cherkassky. However, when, in the end, the virtuoso piano job with Bugs Bunny went to Jakob Gimpel, Cherkassky conceived a new prank and contacted MGM and suggested them to produce a new animated cartoon with Tom & Jerry featuring the same Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2.
      And only in 2011 it has been finally possible to access the MGM Archive and discover that the pianist, who had recorded Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 for Tom & Jerry in 1946, was the third Hollywood virtuoso rival, John Crown, who headed the USC's piano department for many years.

Why such mystery of 65 years on the virtuoso pianists working for the Toons?
      As Peter Gimpel pointed out, Gimpel, Cherkassky and Crown, both friends and rivals in Hollywood in 1940s, were proud of good job coming from the major Hollywood Studios, but, at the same time, didn't want to become known, in 1940s, as the guys who played the piano for Bugs Bunny, especially because they were at the beginning of their career. And so the mystery surrounding the anonymous virtuoso pianists who recorded the incredible soundtracks for Bugs Bunny, Tom & Jerry and the others was due to the very will of such famous musicians to be left in the shadow.

Who won the Academy Award?
      In conclusion, the 1946 Academy Award went to Tom & Jerry, MGM, John Crown and their The Cat Concerto.
      Jakob Gimpel, who on «Thursday, January 31, 1946, at 8:00 AM» recorded for «Warner Bros. - 2nd Rhapsody for cartoon.», took his revenge in 1952.
      Gimpel left Warner and Bugs Bunny and went to work for MGM and Tom & Jerry and he won the 1952 Academy Award, with the winning cartoon Johann Mouse, as the cartoon pianist and the composer of its musical arrangements.

      «Who? Franz Liszt? Never heard of him!» Bugs Bunny (1946)
S. & L.M. Jennarelli
Watch Rhapsody Rabbit

Watch The Cat Concerto Part 1, 2, 3