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For the Love of Cats

pets, familiars, best friends, movie stars

By Marie WilsonPublished about a month ago Updated about a month ago 3 min read
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Kim Novak With Pyewacket

My grandmother’s name was Olive Valentine Auchterlonie. Back in the 30s she and her family lived across the street from a family called the Alleys. Both families had pet cats.

And the Alleys called the Auchterlonie's cat the Auchtopus, while the Auchterlonies called the Alley’s feline the Alley Cat. This story came down to me through my family - I don't know the real names of those cats - but I love the story - and I love cats.

Mocha, my neighbour's cat

The first cat I remember from my childhood was my sister's beautiful black cat. Her name was Black Velvet but we called her Sam. My dad also loved cats, and many mornings he'd make a piece of toast with peanut butter for Sam. He'd cut it into little squares for her. She loved that treat and we always thought her coat was so sleek and shiny because of the PB.

Later, Sam would become my familiar, as ten-year-old me grabbed a broom and my cape and went with her on midnight adventures. I was a witch then.

I've had quite a few cats since: Sugar Baby, Pyewacket, Grey Malkin, Black Malkin, Thomasina, Boo Boo, Silhouette, Shadow, Cloud, Bell (named by my baseball-loving son for George Bell), Zelda (named for the video game by my kids, but for me it was always for Ms Fitzgerald). And our last cat, Seven, who lived to be 19 years old.

Seven

You might notice that some of the names I gave my cats (when I was a kid) were straight out of the movies. I love cinema as much as I love cats. And here are a few of my fave flicks featuring fabulous felines:

The Three Lives of Thomasina (1963). This Disney effort was my very favourite cat movie. Full of magic and mystery and a cat that came back from the dead (maybe), I loved everything about this motion picture.

Thomasina features a witch - or maybe she's a witch...but there's no doubt about the true witchiness of the characters in Bell, Book and Candle (1958). It is brimming with witches. Long before there was Harry Potter there was Jack Lemmon as a warlock making the streetlamps of Greenwich Village go off and on in the depths of the hushed night.

And there was Kim Novak casting a spell over James Stewart. Stewart and Novak had starred together earlier that same year in Vertigo. Their chemistry warranted another round, so - Ernie Kovaks was cast as a famous novelist, Hermoine Gingold brought her witchy best to the production, and Elsa Lancaster was on board as a witch named Queenie.

The cast created a heady brew and the script was a cauldron full of surprises and wonderment. Add to that potion the mysterious powers of a Siamese cat named Pyewacket and you've got cinematic magic.

Pyewacket belongs to Gillian (Novak), a witch. He is her beautiful and faithful familiar. Pyewacket was also the cat's real name and he's listed on IMDB as an actor, but B,B & C is his only credit. He was brilliant! And won a Patsy (Picture Animal Top Star of the Year) for his performance, although it is rumoured that it took eleven cats to get that performance.

Of Note: Lady Grenadier Sarah played Pyewacket on the New York stage but was too old to take on the role in the film. The producers went looking for a cat with “an Ava Gardner personality.” Yeah, I definitely see Ava in Pye's eyes and sultry movement.

And who doesn't remember Cat from Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)?

Orangey as Cat with Audrey Hepburn

Cat was played by Orangey who won his second Patsy for this role. His first Patsy was for playing a cat named Rhubarb in the 1951 movie of the same name. I love him in BaT.

My all time favourite top cat of the cinematic world is Baby from Bringing up Baby (1938). This delightful screwball comedy stars Kate Hepburn and Cary Grant - and Neissa, the leopard, as Baby.

Other celluloid cats of note:

Tao in The Incredible Journey (1963)

Milo from Milo and Otis (1986)

That sweet alley cat in The Third Man (1949)

Abraham de Lacey Guiseppe Casey Thomas O'Malley, (and all the others) from The Aristocats (1970)

Jones from Alien (1979) and Aliens (1986)

Recent entry: the beautiful and observant feline in Ripley (2024), a gorgeous Maine Coon cat named King who auditioned for the role of Lucio and got it for his ability to play such a chill cat.

Thank you for reading!

cat
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About the Creator

Marie Wilson

Harper Collins published my novel "The Gorgeous Girls". My feature film screenplay "Sideshow Bandit" has won several awards at film festivals. I have a new feature film screenplay called "A Girl Like I" and it's looking for a producer.

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Comments (7)

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  • Shirley Jane27 days ago

    Beautiful writing, beautiful cats! Thomasina - def. one of my all time favourites as a kid, pure magic! Yes, "King" was a brilliant addition to Ripley. Aside, I am a fan of Highsmith and that series did justice to her, for sure.

  • Hannah Moore30 days ago

    Love the opposing family cats!

  • Loved reading about your grandmother’s & your cats… Despite being more of a dog lover, when I was 8, my cat Sylvester died from snake bite & I wrote his story in a small spiral bound notebook 🥺

  • Andrea Corwin about a month ago

    I love cats too and this story you did! Sadly our last pets left us in 2021 and we have not yet been able to take the leap. I have had some characters over the years (cats and dogs) and have baby pictures of me with a Tomcat in a doll high chair and a bib eating.

  • Babs Iversonabout a month ago

    Lots of information and loved your story!!!💕❤️

  • Rachel Robbinsabout a month ago

    Love this I’ve had two cats as an adult that I’ve been allowed to name. The first was called Holly Golightley. And I now have Doris named after Ms Day. My next cat will be called Eartha Kitty. I will never be without a cat.

  • Rachel Deemingabout a month ago

    I now know a lot more about film cats than I did before as well as yours, which is no bad thing at all!

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