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Felines on Film

For anyone who has spent much time around cats the idea of getting one to "perform" probably seems like an exercise in frustration. Fortunately for the movie going public exercises in frustration are business as usual in Hollywood. Of course while working in an animated format has allowed for an examination of a broad range of both real and imagined feline behavior there has been no shortage of live action performances including several that have brought home the "animal oscar".

From Disney's "Alice in Wonderland", the Cheshire Cat

The 1951 Disney animated version of the Lewis Carroll classic features the instantly recognizable, purple and pink, Cheshire Cat.The Cheshire Cat conjures up an ancient vision of the cat as a magical being, all knowing, able to appear and disappear at will and completely entertaining.

cheshire-cat
Audrey Hepburn and "Cat" from "Breakfast at Tiffany's"

This 1961 film adaption of the Truman Capote novella features PATSY (animal oscar) winner "Orangey" in the role of Cat, a former stray that has "no name". Like the lead character Holly Golightly, Cat, exams the notion of the stray feline as an independent, loner, able to fend for itself in the big city. Interestingly the film and the novella resolve this notion of the nature of the beast in completely opposite ways.

scene from breakfast at tiffany's
Drew Barrymore and "The General" star in Cat's Eye

Based on three of Stephen's Kings short stories this 1985 film is tied together by the presence of the feline character,"The General", who passes through each tale. In the first two stories the cat appears to be your typical house cat (perhaps a bit smarter and faster than most), more observer than protagonist. In the final story the supernatural abilities of the cat become evident as he connects telepathically with a little girl under assault by an evil troll and comes to her defense.

poster of film cat's eye
"Sometimes dead is better".
"Church" returns from the grave in Pet Sematary

Another Stephen King story this 1989 horror film explores the idea of resurrection and what that might mean. Of course this a perfect fit for the common mythology of a cat having nine lives, so when their sweet little british shorthair is killed in an auto accident the idea that it might have another life left is not such a large stretch. That he returns as a medieval version of himself with a bit of the devil in him is what makes this begin to be a horror movie.

movie poster for pet sematary
Disney's "That Darn Cat"
So good they had to make it twice

One can only guess at the number of cats that were employed in the making of these two Disney family favorites. As the name implies DC (Darn Cat) is the central character of the story. The idea here being that cute suburban cat of yours is actually a lot smarter than you think and is living a secret second life separate from the one he shares with "his people". This is a family friendly film version of the "Cat Cozy", a subgenre of literatures Mystery Novel, in which a feline detective helps solve the crime but in this case minus the dead bodies.

movie poster that darn cat movie poster remake of that darn cat
Pyewacket and Jimmy Stewart
From the film "Bell, Book and Candle"

This is a film about witches, and as we all know no self respecting witch would be seen onscreen without a cat as a familiar. The interesting thing about this film is that Kim Novack has a Siamese Cat for her familiar rather than the traditional black cat. I suppose it lends a sense of New York big city sophistication to the setting while implying you're not really safe around any breed or color of feline.

scene from film bell book and candle
Academy Award winner Art Carney and TONTO

Probably the most critically acclaimed live action film ever made co-starring a feline. Art Carney received both the Academy and Golden Globe Awards for Best Actor and the film was also nominated for a Best Picture Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Basically a Buddy/Road film, TONTO and his elderly companion (Art Carney) are put out of their NY home and travel cross country to California. This excellent film highlights the bond of love and friendship that can exist between people and felines.

poster of film harry and tonto