RKO Radio Pictures
Starring: Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, Eve Arden
Directed by: Gregory La Cava
Cat Out of the Bag Alert! This review contains some spoilers for this film!
Synopsis: A screen adaptation of the play by Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman. A collection of young girls, all Broadway hopefuls, share laughs, loves and tears in the Footlights Club boarding house.
Cinema Cat: This film boasts an all-star cast but one pair stands out in particular. Present for many of the scenes in the boarding house is a young Eve Arden playing Eve (the actress would say that this film was her big break) and with her is another major movie star, none other than Whitey the cat, already a veteran feline actor, this time playing a cat named Henry.
Eve is often seen throughout the movie with Henry, either sitting with him in her lap …
…carrying Henry around …
… or most notably wearing Henry like a fur stole in an early moment in the film.
Whitey is exceptionally calm throughout the film, sitting quietly as Eve pets or even brushes him.
Several specific jokes are told about Henry, such as when Eve points out to him what will happen if he is a bad cat, making him eye a white fur coat.
At the very end of the film Eve is seen without Henry and it is explained that Henry is in the pet hospital . . . having had a litter of kittens!
Whitey received some press for his role. One article in The Milwaukee Journal from July 4, 1937 stated:
There is one veteran on the set whose name probably will not appear on the credits. He is Whitey, an ordinary white alley cat, whose salary is $25 a day. Whitey was a “find” of a master who, in a burst of generosity, paid 25¢ for him as a kitten. He has been trained for two years and apparently has no nerves. Being white, he can be (and has been) painted in several designs. He responds to silent signals and will meow or purr readily on cue.
There was a bit of a mixed message regarding what Whitey was like to work with. While articles covering some of his other film appearances usually focused on his tendency to run or hide during filming, the Ottawa Citizen from October 17, 1944 commented on how Eve Arden supposedly adopted the cat after filming, stating:
Eve Arden, who got her start in “Stage Door” seven years ago, is celebrating the anniversary this week with a novel luncheon for members of the original cast. As a wise-cracking chorus girl, it may be remembered that Eve wore a live cat as a fur piece in that movie. She has kept the cat as a good-luck house guest through all the years and at the luncheon it will be honor guest [sic]. Other guests will be Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, Gail Patrick, Ann Miller, Andrea Leeds and Lucille Ball.”
But only a few months later The Milwaukee Journal on December 31, 1944, referred to Whitey in an article about Eve this way:
She wore a bad-tempered cat around her neck as a fur piece in ‘Stage Door’ and it scratched her every day.
It seems doubtful that Eve Arden took home Whitey after acting with him, since Whitey continued to work on films for some time afterwards. But given Whitey’s fiery temper while on many sets the scratching part may not be as hard to believe.
Final Mewsings: Whitey’s acting ambitions probably never included playing a neckpiece.
To discuss this film and other cats in movies and on television, join us on
Facebook and Twitter.