Animated Monday bannerThe Man on the Flying Trapeze (1934)

Fleischer Studios
Starring:
 William Costello, Mae Questel
Directed by: Dave Fleischer

Cat Out of the Bag Alert!  This review contains some spoilers for this film!

Synopsis: Popeye (voiced by William Costello) finds out he has lost his love Olive Oyl (voiced by Mae Questel) to a trapeze artist.

Cartoon Cat: Much of the short is set to the song by George Leybourne, Gaston Lyle and Alfred Lee. After Popeye learns from Olive Oyl’s mother that Olive Oyl has run off, Popeye mopes toward the circus. Three boys and a black cat are looking at a billboard for the famed trapeze artist and greet Popeye as he approaches.

The Man on the Flying Trapeze - sad Popeye approaches kids and cat dancing in front of trapeze artist poster

Seeing Popeye upset, the kids and cat ask what the trouble is. Popeye sits down and tells them the story in song.

The Man on the Flying Trapeze - sad Popeye with concerned kids and cat

The Man on the Flying Trapeze - Popeye sitting on curb telling his story to kids and cat

The Man on the Flying Trapeze - kids and cat looking at photo of Olive Oyl

The Man on the Flying Trapeze - sad Popeye singing to kids and cat while holding picture of Olive Oyl

At the end of his sad story, Popeye busts a hole through the billboard and then takes the kids and cat inside to watch the show. There they see Olive Oyl up on the trapeze with the famed aerialist.

The Man on the Flying Trapeze - Popeye punches hole in billboard for himself, kids and cat

The Man on the Flying Trapeze - kids and cat pointing out Olive Oyl to Popeye

The Man on the Flying Trapeze - Popeye, kids and cat watching aerialists with concern

Eventually Popeye climbs up and has it out with the man in leotards. Olive Oyl is grateful, as she was being misused by the star. Finally Popeye calls for her to jump down to him. At that moment the kids and cat show up to praise him and he turns to them, letting Olive Oyl bounce off the ground before catching her.

The Man on the Flying Trapeze - Popeye holding arms out to catch Olive Oyl as kids and cat approach

With his spinach-induced strength he holds all of them in his arms as the short ends.

The Man on the Flying Trapeze - Popeye holding up kids and cat and Olive Oyl on his arms

Final Mewsings: We didn’t know cats enjoy going to the circus.

Many thanks to Ted Davis for letting us know about the cat in this animated short.


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Kitten Witch (2016)

Kitten Witch poster

Media Design School
Starring:
 Delaney O’Hara, Anthea Hill
Directed by: James Cunningham

Cat Out of the Bag Alert!  This review contains some spoilers for this film!

Synopsis: A kitten named Freda (voiced by Delaney O’Hara) applies for a job as a witch’s familiar.

Cartoon Cat: Freda applies to a witch named Zoe (Anthea Hill) who asks her qualifications. Freda can ride a broom and can also perform some magic of her own, even though she needs more practice.

Kitten Witch - Freda gray kitten outside Zoe's door

Kitten Witch - Freda gray kitten at table with Zoe Anthea Hill

Kitten Witch - Freda gray kitten sitting at table

Kitten Witch - Freda gray kitten at table performing magic on cup

Zoe sends Freda out into the world to collect the ingredients for a potion that will make her the witch’s familiar. The items are rare and hard to find.

Kitten Witch - Freda gray kitten looking at red snail

Kitten Witch - Freda gray kitten pulling on lizard's tail

Kitten Witch - Freda gray kitten sitting on chair

When it comes to one ingredient, Freda is too afraid to get the right thing, so improvises instead.

Kitten Witch - Freda gray kitten in dark cave

Kitten Witch - Freda gray kitten scared in dark cave

Kitten Witch - Freda gray kitten cowering outside cave

When Freda returns, Zoe explains that the potion will turn Freda into a witch herself. Things don’t go exactly as planned (and we won’t spoil the ending here) but things work out okay in this charming short film that blends live action with CGI animation.

Kitten Witch - Freda gray kitten sitting on bench

Kitten Witch - Freda gray kitten close

Final Mewsings: Cats are adaptable.


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The Comedy of Terrors (1963)

The Comedy of Terrors poster

American International Pictures (AIP)
Starring:
 Vincent Price, Peter Lorre
Also Starring:  Rhubarb
Directed by: Jacques Tourneur

Cat Out of the Bag Alert!  This review contains some spoilers for this film!

Synopsis: A dark comedy in which a funeral parlor director named Waldo Trumbull (Vincent Price) strives to drum up business, even when there isn’t any.

Cinema Cat: This film is a major starring role for cat actor Rhubarb (aka Orangey) who holds his own against a bevy of classic film and theatre actors. In this film, Rhubarb plays a female cat named Cleopatra who lives at the funeral parlor. Cleopatra is first seen entering the basement where Trumbull’s lackey Felix Gillie (Peter Lorre) is working.

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cat credit at opening of film

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cat walking down steps into basement of funeral parlor

Gillie pulls a rope taut, causing Cleopatra to hiss and then run upstairs. Gillie was actually just preparing to measure some wood for a coffin.

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cat hissing

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cat hissing at Gillie Peter Lorre with rope animated gif

Upstairs, Cleopatra sits at the breakfast table with Trumbull, his beautiful but tone-deaf wife Amaryllis (Joyce Jameson) and her ancient father Amos (Boris Karloff).

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cat close up at table

Cleopatra hangs around until Amaryllis starts to sing, at which point she takes off running.

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cat sitting on table

Cleopatra likes to sleep with Amos, but on one occassion goes out with Trumbull and Gillie on the hearse. At the end of their ride Trumbull gets off and basically knocks poor Cleopatra right off the seat!

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cat sleeping on Amos Boris Karloff

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cat sitting on seat of hearse coach with Gillie Peter Lorre and Trumbull Vincent Price

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cat sitting on seat of hearse coach with Gillie Peter Lorre and Trumbull Vincent Price

Trumbull has come up with a plan to kill his landlord Mr. Black (Basil Rathbone), thereby eliminating the debt the man holds over him and making some money on the funeral to boot. Cleopatra comes along as they approach the man’s mansion.

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cat walking towars mansion with Gillie Peter Lorre and Trumbull Vincent Price

Cleopatra watches as Gillie climbs a precarious rooftop to reach a second story window. She also watches as Gillie comes sliding down later (achieved with some very clever reverse footage).

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cat looking up through bars

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger watching Gillie Peter Lorre sliding down roof animated gif

When they return to the funeral parlor, Cleopatra is sitting on top of the hearse.

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cat sitting on top of hearse coach with Gillie Peter Lorre and Trumbull Vincent Price

Amaryllis sings at Black’s funeral, which causes Cleopatra to cringe (also using reverse motion footage).

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cat holding paw over ear

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger putting paw over ear animated gif

Later Cleopatra watches as Gillie and Amaryllis (who have feelings for each other) dance and celebrate while Amos plays the violin. Amos eventually wears himself out and falls asleep on the floor.

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cat on top of clock

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cat sitting on top of Amos Boris Karloff

The cat actor in these scenes is such a pro that they don’t move an inch, even when Amaryllis and Gillie both step over them.

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cat sitting on top of Amos Boris Karloff with Amaryllis Joyce Jamison and Gillie Peter Lorre in foreground

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cat about to be stepped over

From this point, Cleopatra is seen only occasionally until the end when a strange series of circumstances leaves Black lying on the living room floor. As the cat sniffs at him, Black sneezes.

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cat sitting on top of Black Basil Rathbone

The end credits are especially nice, since Cleopatra is given the last credit and is seen licking her paw.

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cat end credit as Cleopatra inside wreath

Cleopatra, or rather Rhubarb, then steps through the wreath and walks around the funeral parlor set as the credits role. There are also some nice shots from beneath the coffin (which has a glass bottom) when Rhubarb climbs inside.

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cat end credit stepping out of wreath

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cat end credit walking around funeral parlor

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cat in coffin from below

At the very end the coffin lid starts to fall and the cat leaps out in the nick of time.

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cat climbing out of coffin

What’s especially notable about this film is the star billing Rhubarb received for his role. He was not only listed in the opening and closing credits but in newspaper listings which included the film’s cast. The casting of Rhubarb was even reported in newspapers. The New York Daily News reported on August 25, 1963, “The role of Cleopatra in American International’s ‘The Comedy of Terrors’ has been bestowed upon Rhubarb, veteran feline character actor.” Someone at the Daily News must not have gotten the memo because the same news was also reported in the gossip column on November 3, 1963, pointing out that Rhubarb is a he instead of a she.

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cat Rhubarb ginger cat end creditstepping out of wreath

Part of the reason Rhubarb’s casting in this film made news was because the prolific cat actor was returning to film work as a veteran (much the same as many of the human actors in the movie). As The Los Angeles Times reported on January 20, 1964, “Hollywood’s award-winning feline star, Rhubarb, returns to films in ‘The Comedy of Terrors.’ Rhubarb, at the advanced cat age of 18 (which is equivalent to 126 human years), co-stars with Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, Joyce Jameson, Joe E. Brown and Basil Rathbone in the terror comedy which opens next Wednesday in a citywide run.”

The Morning Call newspaper in Allentown, Pennsylvania, gave Rhubarb a special mention in their review of the film on February 9, 1964, stating at the end, “and an added eerie performance is given by Rhubarb the cat.”

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cat on top of clock

Rhubarb’s trainer, Frank Inn, proudly discussed Rhubarb’s return to film in an article published in The Evening Sun (Baltimore, Maryland) on March 10, 1964, when Rhubarb, then 19 years old, was still landing roles. Inn explained that Rhubarb was making $1,000 a week and was much in demand even after already making 500 movie and television appearances.

This “return” to film seems a bit confusing when you take into consideration all of the acting roles that seemed to be done by Rhubarb, who also went by the names of Orangey, Rusty and Minerva (all of whom were credited as being trained by Inn.) Did Rhubarb really retire and then return to acting after an absence?

What is rarely discussed (although we have touched upon it many times on this site) is the fact that cat actors are usually played by teams of cats. As Inn explained in the same article for The Evening Sun, “No single cat could master all the tricks the writers think up.” Indeed, Rhubarb, Orangey, et al. was actually a team of cats. Orangey was the stand-out star of Rhubarb (and adopted the name Rhubarb on some credits after that time) and it’s possible other members of the team took a more prominent role in later Orangey / Rhubarb appearances, explaining the “return” of Rhubarb. Another possibility is that Inn simply decided to revisit the name Rhubarb to give more publicity to the team’s projects.

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cat on carpet

There is a wonderful publicity still for The Comedy of Terrors which seems to bear out this theory. It shows a group of nine tabby cats sitting in a coffin. We believe this is one of the only photos of the entire Rhubarb team, and specific cats are recognizable from their roles in films and TV shows over the years credited to Orangey.

The Comedy of Terrors - Rhubarb Cleopatra ginger cats team nine cats in coffin publicity photo

Final Mewsings: Cat actors are team players!


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My Sister Eileen (1942)

My Sister Eileen poster

Columbia Pictures Corporation
Starring:
 Rosalind Russell, Richard Quine
Directed by: Alexander Hall

Cat Out of the Bag Alert!  This review contains some spoilers for this film!

Synopsis: Sisters Ruth (Rosalind Russell) and Eileen Sherwood (Janet Blair) leave Ohio and move to New York City to pursue their careers.

Kitty Cameo: The sisters move into a basement apartment where many zany things happen to them. During one scene a young man named Frank (Richard Quine) comes to call on Eileen. As he is remarking on how he has always wanted to live in such an apartment, a tabby cat jumps in through the window followed closely by a dog.

My Sister Eileen - Frank Richard Quine standing in front of basement window where tabby cat is entering

My Sister Eileen - Frank Richard Quine standing in front of basement window where tabby cat is entering

My Sister Eileen - Frank Richard Quine standing in front of basement window where tabby cat is entering

The dog chases the cat through the apartment.

My Sister Eileen - tabby cat running into hallway

My Sister Eileen - tabby cat jumping into apartment behind Frank Richard Quine and going into hallway animated gif

A musical version of this film was made in 1955 and also includes the scene with the cat.

Final Mewsings: Cats assume people won’t mind if they drop in unexpectedly.


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The Love Light (1921)

The Love Light poster

Mary Pickford Company
Starring:
 Mary Pickford, George Regas
Directed by: Frances Marion

Synopsis: War touches the lives of lighthouse keeper Angela (Mary Pickford) and her brothers.

Purr Blur: The film opens in the little town where Angela lives. A rising young profiteer named Tony (George Regas) is seen selling fish. There is a disagreement between a customer and Tony when Tony’s monkey is seen pulling down the scale. Tony gets angry and the crowd of children gathered around his table scatter, revealing a tiny tabby kitten in front of the stand.

The Love Light - tabby kitten in front of fish stand with Tony George Regas

The Love Light - tabby kitten in front of fish stand with Tony George Regas

Final Mewsings: Kittens are not easily scared away from fish.


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