Great Cats of Cinema


by Ryan Davis

Meet the star of the new (and soon to be cult favorite) comedy CHATTY CATTIES, Leonard Fischbein—a wisecracking roommate who tells it like it is. You can catch Leonard on the big screen on three upcoming Friday nights at Northwest Film Forum (Sept. 9th, 17th, and Oct 8th at 10pm). Leonard is part of a long tradition of cinematic cats who, in addition to being cuddly charmers, help serve the plot in a range of ways—whether it be through symbolism, the MacGuffin, character development, or another device. Here’s a list of some my favorite Silver Screen scratchers. Rescue one today—they’re all available to take home from Scarecrow.


Ulysses—the cat from Inside Llewyn Davis (2013). There’s an entire body of literature dedicated to unpacking the significance of this orange fur ball. Much like the unnamed kitty in the recent TV miniseries The Night Of, theories abound, and I won’t begin to explain them all here. Let’s just say that critics agree Ulysses (even his name may be a clue) is more than he seems.

Si and Am—the cats from Lady and the Tramp (1955). These devious chanteuses carry the tradition of evoking something sinister and dark, especially in comparison to lovely Lady. Their stereotypically bad cat behavior also serves the plot—how else could Lady possibly end up in a muzzle if she wasn’t framed?!

Irena Dubrovna—the leading lady of Cat People (1942). (Presumably the cat she turns into is also named Irene Dubrovna.) The symbolism is so blatant it hardly needs explanation: Irene belongs to an ancient tribe of Serbian woman who turn into dangerous cats when aroused. Cats = danger. Sex = danger!

Pyewacket—Kim Novak’s spiritual companion in Bell Book and Candle (1958). Curiously similar in plot themes to Cat People (and arguably the most ill-suited Christmas movie ever made), it’s really not worth explaining the plot to explain Pyewacket’s role. Suffice it to say, the opinion of the cat mirrors Ms. Novak’s fears of falling in love and what the results could be.

Cat—the critter Holly doesn’t have the right to name in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961). This movie has some rather glaring flaws that don’t stand the test of time, beloved that it may be. So, in the spirit of the theme of redemption that Cat helps illustrate, here’s a video that just features the scenes of the Cat. (PS. If you aren’t familiar with Orangey, Holly’s tabby roommate, his Wikipedia page is really worth a visit.

Ryan Davis (@indieartsvoice) is a co-founder and principal at Smarthouse Creative. She has worked in almost every aspect of the film business–from production and festivals to distribution, exhibition and sales. Since moving to Seattle in 2014, Ryan has worked for a variety of nonprofit arts groups and organizations, including heading the marketing departments for Northwest Film Forum and Northwest Folklife, and was assistant director of Couch Fest Films. Her cat is named Shoehorn.
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