Cats in Film
By Sandy Robins
It seems that if you have an idea for a national holiday or special day, all you have to do is lodge your suggestion with someone (I am not sure with whom, to be exact) and bingo, you have a day on the calendar to celebrate.
Case in point: June 19 is National Pets in Film Day.
If you just take cats, there is a plethora of well-known feline actors as well as cartoon cats and, of course, feline-inspired characters such as Catwoman that actors love to portray to show off their feline prowess.
In fact, cats have been stealing scenes throughout the history of cinema. The movie “Inside Llewyn Davis” owes its success to a brilliant cat performance from an unknown ginger tabby, according to British film critic Ann Billson who writes for The Telegraph. Billson also noted that the Coen brothers, who produced the film, were so successful because they applied one of the truisms of the Seventh Art: There are few films that are not improved by the presence of a cat.
I would take it one step further and say that many films are only remembered because of their feline stars.
I don’t remember much about “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” except that Audrey Hepburn’s character had a cat. Nor do I remember much about the dysfunctional Focker family shenanigans in both movies, but I do remember Jinx, the cat. The movie “The Heat” was one big catfight between the Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy characters, but the scene-stealer was the ginger tabby Pumpkin. “Cloud Atlas” is a blur, but the sleeping grey tabby that the naked man grabbed and used as a modesty shield until its claws came out made this movie memorable to me. Go tabby!
Not surprisingly, ginger tabbies are definitely movie favorites. The opening sequence of “The Long Goodbye,” Robert Altman’s revisionist update of Raymond Chandler’s private-eye story, depicts Marlowe (Elliott Gould) being woken up by his cat, which tramples all over him and meows nonstop till it gets what it wants. Billson claimed the film as having “a fine bit of Method acting from the ginger cat.”
Billson’s critiques are very cat-centric. She also gives kudos to Jones in “Alien” another handsome ginger puss that performed multiple functions. He is a catguffin—a pretext for characters to go wandering off by themselves. He is a catpanion for Ripley to talk to, provides several moments of catshock by suddenly jumping out at people and remains a wild card to the end because the audience is never quite sure if an alien has infected him.
The James Bond movies are often an intellectual muddle between good and evil but everyone remembers Ernst Stavro Blofeld’s white Persian who made her first appearance in “From Russia with Love,” and returned to nestle in the archvillain’s lap in “You Only Live Twice.” Not to mention the Austin Powers spoof where the white glamorous Persian is replaced by a sphynx named Mr. Bigglesworth.
There is no question that dogs are easier to train for the movies; however, cats, even if they work on cue, add their own special feline mystique that make them scene stealers. And when it comes to cartoon cats, such as Garfield or Puss in Boots, or any one of the memorable Disney movies such as “The Aristocats,” the felines aren’t the sidekicks; they are where all cats belong: in the spotlight center stage as the star.
About the Author: Sandy Robins is the 2013 winner of the “Excellence in Journalism and Outstanding Contribution to the Pet Industry Award.” Her work appears on many of the country’s leading pet platforms, such as MSNBC.com, MSN.com and TODAYShow.com. She is a regular contributor and columnist in multiple national and international publications, including Cat Fancy, as well as the author of the award-winning books “Fabulous Felines: Health and Beauty Secrets for the Pampered Cat” and “For The Love of Cats.” Learn more about Sandy on her website or Facebook page. #welovecats