Monday, March 24, 2008

Cats as Fashion Accessories

Eve Arden lounges in the parlor of the rooming house for aspiring actresses in “Stage Door” (1937) while a cat lounges on her, draped around her neck like a scarf. He is named Henry, long and lazy and makes an obliging fur piece. He barely flexes as Eve strolls about casting wisecracks like a flower girl casting petals. He doesn’t move a muscle. He may not have any. He clearly has no bones, as floppy as a child’s old stuffed animal.

“Bell, Book and Candle” (1958) stars Kim Novak and another feline which doubles as part friend, part security blanket, all fashion statement. Pyewacket the cat consents to being pulled from hiding places and draped across Kim Novak’s shoulders or sliding seductively down her body, the two of them like an ice dancing pair. He is her partner in crime, but also a fashion accessory.

Cat, the unimaginatively named feline in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1961) isn’t used as a scarf or a stole or a furry boa. He’s too tough for that. He might pounce on George Peppard from boredom, but he’s nobody’s fashion accessory. But unlike Pyewacket and Henry, he takes center stage in the pivotal climatic scene when the lovers reunite in the rain, with the rain-soaked cat nestled between them, trying to stay dry under their chins.

Perhaps it is their stillness, even more than their flexibility that makes them such good props.


Rebecca said...

Interesting that cats were the fashion accessory of choice in classic Hollywood. Apparently, writers thought they were sexier accessories than dogs. Even Marlon Brando in "The Godfather" owned a cat.

Now you're more likely to see people with those little teacup dogs that fit into a purse than a cat. It's interesting how times change!

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Hi, Rebecca, thanks for stopping by. That scene with Brando in "The Godfather" is amazing. He plays so gently with the cat while discussing a proposed murder, and the cat appears so relaxed and comfortable with him. A stunning scene, you listen to the business of murder, all the while watching the sweetness of his relationship with the cat. In a funny way, I guess, I find it one of the most shocking scenes in the movie.

Campaspe said...

I saw one of the most memorable cat scenes again the other night, in the opening of The Strange Love of Martha Ivers ... poor, poor kitty, but a brilliant scene.

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Yikes, I forgot about the unfortunate cat in that one. Judith Anderson got bumped off, and then the innocent guy who was hanged, and then more deaths at the end, so I guess it was the murder of the cat that started the ball rolling.

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