Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

10 great movie cats for International Cat Day

Hey it’s silly season. What do you expect? Reasoned thought?

Mon, Aug 8, 2016, 19:15


Somebody seems to have decided that it is international cat day today. I don’t know if there is an international body that determines these things, but, if the internet is to be believed, it’s all about the felines today. We thought therefore that it might be right to put together a list of 10 great movie cats. As is always the case with these things, we are not suggesting that these are the best cats in the movies. That would be an impossible feature to compile. But here are some fine cats through the ages. We have one rule. These are all domestic cats. So we have no space for Bringing Up Baby or The Jungle Book or The Lion King. These are the sorts of animals that wake you up at three o’clock in the morning to demand that the door be opened or that they receive another hundredweight of KittySnax.

Some stand out as particularly charming (or horrid) animals. Others earn their place as historical phenomenon. They are in no particular order. Enjoy ICD, everyone.

THE SICK KITTEN (George Albert Smith, 1903)

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Aw look at this guy. Smith, also an illusionist, was a pioneer of British cinema. His 1903 short shows a young girl taking care of her ill cat with a big bottle of medicine. Featured an early example of a cut from long to medium shot. More importantly, it had a great cat. (This is the whole film, by the way.)

THE THIRD MAN (1949, Carol Reed)

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The shadowy unveiling of Harry Lime is among the most famous scenes in cinema history. He’s not there. He’s there. The cat plays a vital part in the reveal. Or do several cats? Cat-loving film boffin Anne Bilson argues for (appropriately enough) the appearance of three felines in the flick. Read her analysis here.

INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS (2013, The Coen Brothers)

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Well, obviously. Ulysses, the cat in the Coens’ great folk odyssey, is rare in that he actually does drive the action. When the title character accidentally locks him out Llewyn shows uncharacteristic decency by taking care of the beast through the foulest weather and the worst circumstances. Our first ginger cat.

HARRY AND TONTO (1974, Paul Mazursky)

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Tonto actually got his name in the title, but the ginger cat lost the Oscar to his co-star Art Carney. A big hit at the time, the film is somewhat forgotten now, but it does well in communicating the awkward love that can exist between man and cat. Carney plays an elderly man who flees with his pal after being evicted.

THE GODFATHER (1972, Francis Ford Coppola)

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The film begins with the Don cradling a kitten while he grants favours on the day of his daughter’s wedding. The story goes that Marlon Brando found the cat on set and spontaneously decided to bring the animal into the scene. The cat appears to get on very well with Brando. Not everyone did.

THE LONG GOODBYE (1973, Robert Altman)

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I’m not sure if the slightly prissy Marlowe in Raymond Chandler’s source novel would have bothered taking care of a cat, but the animal suits the slightly warmer character in Altman’s adaptation very nicely. Most cat owners will sympathise with the PI’s frustration at the animal’s refusal to eat only the posh food.

LADY AND THE TRAMP (1955, Clyde Geronimi)

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I can sense cat owners bristling (their hair standing up along their spine) as I write this. Si and Am are the ultimate evil house cats. Among the most sinister — and, let’s be frank, racist — creations of Disney’s golden age, they are sneaky and dishonest where Lady is gentle and supportive. They’re also a lot more exciting. Lady is such a godawful bore. Right?

BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S (1961, Breakfast at Tiffany’s)

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The film doesn’t hold up quite so well as you think, but it retains a gorgeous style and features one of the most famous of cats in cinema. Aside from heightening Holly’s eccentricity, the beast also manages to give the film a neat narrative full stop. As essential to the look as that little black dress and cigarette holder.

THE CAT RETURNS (2002, Hiroyuki Morita)

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You can’t beat Studio Ghibli for stubborn strangeness. The company’s 2002 film concerned a small girl who saves a cat, Lune, from certain death and receives reward in the form of presents and, ultimately, transformation to a very strange world. It transpires that Lune is Prince of the Cats. We pay due respect.

ALIEN (1979, Ridley Scott)

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We said that there is no sort of order here, but it’s hard to beat Jonesy in Ridley Scott’s still irresistible second film. Ripley’s brave cat is no happier to see the alien advance than anybody else. As the film closes, the animal confirms who a girl’s best friend really is. Jones is the great cinema cat.

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