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A Hollywood scandal springs to life in Peter Bogdanovich's lively Cat's Meow. In 1924 the immensely powerful publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst held a yacht party that ended with a gunshot. Between Hearst's influence and that of his glitterati guests (including Louella Parsons and Charlie Chaplin), no satisfying account of what happened ever made it to the public. The Cat's Meow reconstructs one of the more whispered-about possible scenarios and has quite a bit of fun doing so. Cast and crew alike skewer 1920s Hollywood decadence and, by extension, today's. Eddie Izzard is a boldly odd casting choice as Chaplin, but he succeeds, refusing to fall back on Little Tramp mannerisms. There are several other good performances, but best of all is the cool-as-sherbet Joanna Lumley as the deliciously jaded Elinor Glyn. The script is a strong one, never stooping to the excesses of its characters--Bogdanovich's take is far from the most lurid allegations of what happened that weekend. --Ali Davis
- 3 stars cuz it was sorta interesting...
This movie was interesting. But what was up with casting Kirsten Dunst as Marion Davies? Nuh-uh. She is so unlike Davies it's like she's being someone else, some other flapper. But the movie was intersting with nice songs. But there's nothing like the good ol' 20s. I'd rather watch the real Davies in a silent than wallow around in this movie with weird portrayls of past stars, but that's just me, an old soul....more info
- Song played during end credits??
Does anyone know the song that's played at the end of the movie during the credits?...more info
- One Account of the Cerebrities in the Jazz Age (with a Gun)
"The Cat's Meow" is purely imaginary accounts on what really happened on the ship owned by William Randolph Hearst, powerful newspaper mogul (now mostly remembered as the inspiration of Orson Wells' "Citizen Kane"). Don't expect Agatha Cristie-like mystry, though -- the film is about these characters in the lavish party held on the ship, and director Peter Bogdanovich is more interested in the frivolous atmosphere of the time than in the plot.
In was in November, 1924, in the middle of the Jazz Age. Hollywood celebrities arrive at Hearst's ship to have a good time. They are -- Charles Chaplin, Marion Davies (actress and Hearst's mistress), Thomas Ince (movie producer who desperately needs jobs), Elinor Glyn (bestselling author, and best known for writing Clara Bow film "It"), Louella Parsons (later known as the 'writer' for Hearst's paper), and Margaret Livingston (actress and Ince's mistress). But before the ship arrives at San Diego, something terrible happened (so the film claims) to one of them.
"The Cat's Meow" is fictional accounts of the 'scandal,' but its own version of the story is, I am afraid, too incredible. Moreover, in order to fully enjoy the film, you have to know some historical backgrounds about these people, and that is not appealing to general audience. (You also remember that director Bogdanovich's career started as a film critic.) The romantic part of the story, or the entangled relations between Hearst, Chaplin, and Davies, is interesting, but the rest of the characters seems practically left out in the story.
I love Kirsten Dunst who plays Marion Davies, but here it is a trouble to me. The real Marion Davies was about 27 years old then, and Kirstin Dunst does NOT look like a 27-year-old woman. She is brilliant in modern setting (see "Bring it on," "Spider-Man" and even "Drop Dead Gorgeous"), but she now looks quite uncomfortable. Put Edward Herrmann (as Hearst) beside her, and he looks more like a grandfather to her. Sorry to say this, but Ashley Judd or Charlize Theron would be much more convincing Marion.
The film's best (and most surprising) role is Eddie Izzard as Chaplin. The casting was a gamble for the director, but it works. He is a great comic, as you know, but now he gives emotional depth to Chaplin who is clearly in trouble (he was then soon to be married second time). Robert Downey Jr, did Chaplin once (and he was great, too), but Eddie Izzzard's portait is more realistic when he describes the pains of the man.
The film's greatest virtue is probably its beautiful photography and gorgeous costumes. The crew did a great job, the photographer Bruno Delbonnel ("Amelie") in particular. Its happy-go-easy jazz music is fun to hear, the riduculously fluffy hats are fun to see, and the witty dialogues are also going to make you grin.
Probably, Peter Bogdanovich was too meticulous in re-creating the atmosphere of the age (even Chaplin's Japanese driver Takano is not forgotten). But I need the central story which has the power to draw us into the world he shows. It's all jazz, I know, and it's fun to see, but there should be more to it.
Some of the characters are also the subject of another film "RKO 281 -- The Battle Over Citizen Kane" starring John Malkovich. Just in case if you're interested in film history....more info
- OF WHISPERED LORES AND LOVES
What really happened during this 'scandal' on a yatch where a film producer met his abrupt end amid a wild weekend of booze, charleston swinging, and dope?
We'll never truly know, but the film is a peppy cavalcade of big name stars playing big name stars. It's a character-heavy motion picture so let's discuss the impersonations.
Dunst is the flavour of the month, she makes Davies look like an attractively complex figure. While reflecting the verve of a young privileged woman at an exciting time, she maintains a moral core without really being certain of precisely what she wants, which rings true.
The flamboyant Eddie Izzard was a surprise in the cast but made an atypically understated Chaplin. You see the intelligence and yearning in his eyes, the sly wit dripping from his casual tilts of the head.
Personally, I felt these two were the only admirable actors in the film. The rest of the crew members acted as though they were in a much dopier movie. Herrmann for instance plays Hearst, the big tycoon, as a buffoon channeled through Bill Murray, huffing and puffing when he feels betrayed, grinning goofily and almost cross-eyed when he appears giddy.
The film overall is a very watchable one though, particularly if you can overlook a needlessly sepia tone across the board giving a pseudo-noir look. The idea clearly was less to weave a murder mystery yarn and more to splice together the interactions among people at the scene of a high-society and thus hush-hush crime. ...more info
- "Othello in Tinseltown"
For at least the first hour, this film is oddly inert, even boring. This is so despite an incessant forced vivacity owing to the desperate overacting of most of the principal players. What we are watching is simply an old Hollywood gossip item here fleshed out (or rather bloated)into an initially reductive, merely surfacy version of Shakespeare's "Othello." Hearst is the jealous Moor, Davies the winning Desdemona, the neglected Ince (even desiring a particular job in Hearst's gift!)the informer Iago, and Chaplin the lascivious Cassio. The unoriginal script and the absence of memorable dialogue are here responsible for the dullness even more than the claustrophobic setting filled with scenery chewers or the too calculated direction.
Then, surprisingly, the principal characters (even Lolly Parsons!) become more than surfaces, and in the cases of Hearst and Davies, even fully rounded enough to be genuinely moving. This movie splits in two: an undistinguished first half is joined to an elegant, pretty wonderful second. It's unfortunate the skills of the latter half are not in evidence throughout....more info
- a olden type movie
This movie takes place in the past, the 50's I think and on a boat. It's just a bunch of actors and writers and rich people. Kirten Dunset plays a young actress, I think Maryln Monroe (I think the other characters call her Maryln). She is very good int his role because it requires her to ACT! SHe has to be both serious and funny when people arent looking. Alos on the boat is an actor named Charlie who is having an affair with Kirsten. Overall a good movie, but its a who dun it?! A who dun it is when theres a crime and nobody knows who did it and the audience has to figure it out like a puzzle. American Beauty was a who dun it and so is this movie. It hink its a cheat cause the writers theysleves dont know who dun it, but if yoiu can ignore that and you are a fan of old movie type ACTING, then The cat's Meow is for you....more info
- It's Just The Cat's Meow
The Cat's Meow is a delightfully entertaining film, set in 1934 on the cruise ship Oneida. The events that took place on board that boat were never actually discovered. This film entertains one of the many theories of how the events transpired that weekend. It's the 43rd birthday of film director and producer Thomas Ince, played nicely by Cary Elwes. Mr. Ince's friend Marion Davies is throwing him a birthday party on board the yacht Oneida which is owned by her lover William Randolph Hearst. Marion's guest list also included her friend and part-time fling, actor and comedian Charlie Chaplin. Hearst is very possessive of Marion and he is not fond of the relationship that her and Mr. Chaplin share. The other guests include Elinor Glyn who was an extremely famous romance novelist, Louella 'Lolly' Parsons a well known up and coming Hollywood gossip columnist, and Ms. Margaret Livingston a not so well known actress who was also Ince's mistress. Now I know what you are thinking all the wrong people are in all the right places for the sparks to begin flying and fly they do.
Though many of us would not have picked such an unknown actor such as Eddie Izzard to portray Charlie Chaplin the results support themselves. In this more serious portrayal of Chaplin, Eddie Izzard did spectacular. Kirsten Dunst plays Marion Davies quite remarkably I must say the on screen chemistry that Dunst and Izzard share is shockingly realistic. The largest downfall for this film would have to be the chemistry between Marion Davies and her lover William Randolph Hearst, or should I say the lack of. Edward Herrmann who portrayed Hearst did wonderful in his own right but the scenes that he and Dunst shared, suspended believability farther than I am willing to allow. There just seamed to be no connection between the two, even though in real life Marion Davies stayed by William Randolph Hearst until his death nearly thirty years later. I just felt that when portraying real people it is quite important to display the connection that they shared, you know for history's' sake and for my own as a viewer.
Alright lets get back to the good stuff. In my opinion the best part about this film has to be the roles portrayed by Joanne Lumley and Jennifer Tilly. Jennifer Tilly plays gossip columnist Lolly Parsons. Jennifer Tilly is such a delight to watch on screen, she has that presence that makes everyone want to giggle the first time that she appears on camera. Her role is quite different from many of her films that she has been in, but she still pulls the role off nicely. My favorite part of the film would have to be Joanne Lumley many of you may not recognize her but she has been around. She plays Patsy on the BBC program Absolutely Fabulous. Joanne plays novelist Elinor Glyn who in the film is the woman who tells it like it is. Elinor has a witty comment or comeback for everyone. Lets just say that Elinor has a way with words, hence her novelist status. Joanne Lumley is perfect for the role, she fits in so nicely that I don't think I could even picture someone else playing Elinor Glyn. Joanne's performance is spectacular, she is a great actress. Peter Bogdonovich did a good job, I especially liked the color changes from full color to black and white and back again they really enhanced the story. Overall the film is well worth watching and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys film as much as I do or anyone that is interested in possible scenarios in history....more info
- Delightful, fun...'cruise' of a tale
Really enjoyed screening Peter Bogdonovich's 'A Cat's Meow' which was certainly not a disappointment. This inventive story/script that was cleverly based on Hollywood myth/legend of a presumed love affair Charlie Chaplin had with William Randolph Heart's mistress, Marion Davies and had my interest fully. I was happy with the performances - namely Eddie Izzard as the dashing and flamboyant Chaplin - and worthy direction but was hoping there could have been shots other than on the yacht...i.e. at the studio or the castle/ranch; that would have been a real treat. But for the twist they presented, I guess it served it's purpose - hence the title of course. A terrible habit I got into during the film was comparing it similarities to Robert Altman of how uses a numerous characters and intertwining story-lines yet at times can lead to disarray and inconsistencies (i.e. 'Ready to Wear', Shortcuts') while Bogdonovich's surpasses the challenge of an ensemble cast to generate and substantiate both the scene to scene intrigue and well-performed drama as well as focusing of the proposed love triangle. This film would be a delight for Caine/Welles enthusiasts and happy to see Bogdonovich triumph with a great film....more info
If you think OJ invented getting away with it, watch this piece of history. It seems, there have always been a different set of rules for the affluent....more info
- An interesting look at a Hollywood mystery
We'll never know what happened that mysterious weekend, and Bogdanovich gives us one viewpoint as to what happened. The cast is superb, as are the sets and score. For film fans, this is a treat. If you don't agree with the synopsis, that's okay. This is a great tale of what COULD have been....more info
- Better than expected
After reading some of the more negative reviews, I thought that this movie would be a dud, but it was not. I found it to be interesting, although a bit predictable. As a historical drama it brings to light a story of which many may be unaware - the murder of a low level movie producer by a publishing magnate.
Good plot, good acting, good story telling and plausible ending make this movie enjoyable....more info
- The Cat's Pajamas!
Peter Bogdanovich's "The Cat's Meow" is without doubt in my mind one of the year's best films. Granted it's been a slow year, but "The Cat's Meow" is a lavish film with lively, colorful characters and proves Bogdanovich is back with a bang!
Most people know what the plot is about, but, just in case. "The Cat's Meow" tells the story of what exactly happened in 1924 on William Randolph Hearst's (Edward Herrman) yacht concerning the death of film producer Thomas Ince (Cary Elwes). The story has of course has never been properly told due to the lack of information concerning all of it. There are some universal truths though. Number one, Ince did die (I believe that's something we could all agree on lol), two, Hearst was never questioned or charged with anything. Three, no one was ever questioned about the incident except for a doctor aboard the yacht. Four, the story was kept out of the press. Why did all of the following happen? That's a good question. And while we may never be completely sure as to what did happen that day screenwriter Steven Peros has given us what we are told, "The Whisper Told Most Often".
Lets for the moment forget that this film is based on rumors and gossip of the past, and just pretend it's all make believe (Because it just very well may be), the film still succeeds due to it's wonderful acting, and I do agree with most when they say this is Kirsten Dunst's best performance. She is truly amazing in this. Bogdanovich's directing is wonderful, showing that his talent has not slipped since the 9 years that passed from his last film. And what about the mood the film creates! Bogdanovich & company have to be given credit for bringing back the feeling of the times. They really recreate the era quite nicely. Which is what I guess really makes the film. So, yes, there is more than the mystic of the film's story to enjoy.
When I first heard about this film I became instantly intrigued to see it. I love hearing stories about the 20's. There's something about the decade that fasicinates me. I also thought that Dunst might not have been a good choice to play Marion Davies. But, once I saw her in the film, I came to realize, you know what? She does sort of look like Davies back in the 20's. A lot of people have a problem with Eddie Izzard as Charlie Chaplin, I don't. I think Izzard did a fine job. Edward Herrman really brought heart to the Hearst character. It was a side of Hearst many people thought didn't exist.
I know it may be early to say this, but, I would love it if this film got nominated for some Oscars like best supporting actress (Dunst), best adapted screenplay (Steven Peros) and best costume design. Also, once you see the movie you may want to buy the soundtrack which includes songs like "The Charlston", "Avalon", "Whispering" & "After You've Gone" to name a few.
Bottom-line: A lively colorful film with vibrant characters demonstrating that Bogdanovich still got it! One of the year's best films....more info
- The Cat's Meow: A Can't Miss
I had the pleasure of viewing this film with the director present at the DC film festival. After enjoying this delightful, almost nostalgic work, Peter Bogdanovich answered questions and offered his thoughts and initial ambitions for making the film. I was particularly taken by the film's energy, and its ability to remove the audience from their own individual worlds, and place them on William Randolph Hearst's yacht for a weekend trip in the late 1920's. The movement and dialogue in the film personify the internal hopes and mind sets of the major characters, each drastically different.
It seems that a viewer of the film should not search for some deep meaning or reflection on society, rather they should be interested in its portrayal of a blanketed mystery that took place years ago and is embedded in irony and revenge, comedy and heartbreak.
Bogdanovich claims to have learned about the story from the nephew of Marion Davies, (Hearst's famous faithful mistress) who told him the mysterious story of a death on the famous print media editor's yacht during a short trip down the coast of California. The story interested Bogdonovich, and later on an urge from a famous film critic, he was inspired to bring the tale to life after he found a screenplay of just this subject in his daily pile of scripts he recieved from writers. The result is a success, a film that effectively portrays the heart wrenching deceit, and jealous revenge that consumed the media lords' world on this extraordinary weekend in 1929.
The characters are magnificent, and in some cases brilliently acted. My personal favorites are Eddie Izzard's (choice British performer), role as Charlie Chaplain, the talented comedien and and writer who's love for Hearst's mistress Marion, tears the proper manner and aristocratic tranquility of the film apart. Joanna Lumley's job as the famous west coast reporter, Elinor Glyn, is charming (i'm a big ab fab fan, she's patsy).
The film is intriquing and enjoyable, beginning and ending in black and white while the characters attend a very mysterious funeral. The black and white scenes illustrate well the reality that the upper class members must face, while the beautifly matstered colored scenes on the yatch portray the fast-paced blur that seemed to be this particular boat tour.
I recommend catching this film if you have the means, and please take time to enjoy Izzard's performance, he's one i'll be watching out for from now on....more info
- entertaining but nothing to get excited about
Peter Bogdanovich's "The Cat's Meow" is an only mildly interesting take on an unsolved scandal that has become a part of early Hollywood folklore. The year is 1924. The setting: a yacht owned by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. The occasion: the birthday celebration of one Thomas Ince, a movie mogol desperate to join forces with Hearst's organization. The guests: Charlie Chaplin, Hearst's mistress, actress Marion Davies, the neophyte gossip columnist Louella Parsons, and famed bodice-ripper writer Elinor Glyn. The mystery: the sudden death of Ince under potentially shady circumstances. It is Miss Glyn, serving as the tale's narrator, who states right up front that most of what we will be seeing in this rendition is pure speculative fiction.
Given the fact that writer Steven Peros (who wrote both the screenplay and the stage play on which it is based) had pretty much a free hand when it came to dreaming up a convincing scenario to explain the tragic events of that November weekend, it seems odd that he basically settled for little more than an updated production of "Othello" played out in a "Great Gatsby" setting. Hearst is, of course, Othello himself, the powerful leader driven into a jealous rage at the thought of his dearly beloved's betraying him with another man. Ince plays the part of Iago, a self-centered opportunist who poisons Hearst's mind against Marian's fidelity, using a combination of whispered innuendo and fabricated circumstantial evidence to achieve his purpose (though his motive for doing all this is never very adequately explained, I must confess). Marian is, of course, the beloved Desdemona - though she seems a less wholly virtuous innocent than the character Shakespeare gave us. Finally, Chaplin plays a considerably less virtuous innocent than the play's Cassio, the man allegedly having an affair with Othello's - that is to say, Hearst's - dearly beloved.
Even without the "Othello" parallels, "The Cat's Meow" never really adds up to very much in the long run. Perhaps, the characters are too broadly drawn to really make us believe that what we are seeing is an actual historical event and not mere dress-up playacting. Hearst (Edward Herrmann) seems like little more than a petulant, befuddled buffoon, hardly a man who would be sitting atop one of the world's great corporate empires. Louella Parsons, as played by Jennifer Tilly, comes across as a hopeless ditz, a nitwit who literally stumbles, through a stroke of "good" fortune, into her long and lucrative career as one of Hollywood's premiere gossip columnists. And Eddie Izzard makes a thoroughly bland and unconvincing Charlie Chaplin. He neither looks nor moves like the legendary performer and seems to be completely devoid of the kind of charismatic persona one would naturally associate with Chaplin, both on-screen and off. Only the lovely Kirsten Dunst makes a mark on the audience's emotions. Her Marion Davies radiates a high-spirited warmth that brings a touch of much-needed humanity to the rather cold, clinical world these characters inhabit. Of course, recreating this world is one of the prime dictums of the film, but it is hardly earth-shattering news at this late date (and especially to anyone who has ever read the works of F. Scott Fitzgerald) to discover that the idle rich of the 1920's were all a bunch of shallow, self-absorbed hedonists without morals, values, direction or purpose. When Glyn gets the chance to sum up the moral lesson for us at the end, we can barely stifle a yawn at the pedestrian nature of the "revelation."
So what makes "The Cat's Meow" worth seeing? Well, it certainly feeds a kind of morbid fascination we have for that long-ago world of early Hollywood, when movies were in their infancy, their creators larger-than-life figures and their scandals made all the juicier by the fact that the press actually played along with keeping the details a deep, dark secret - thereby enhancing the curiosity factor and guaranteeing that a kind of modern, pop-culture mythology would grow up around that industry and that time. It is that mythology that "The Cat's Meow" effectively opens up for us. That, along with the sharply observed details of the period, is what makes the film, flaws and all, into a reasonably diverting drawing room entertainment....more info
- Scandalous Story with Death as Destination...
Cat's Meow is based on events that took place one November weekend in 1924 when the financial mogul William Randolph Hearst (Edward Herrmann) invited a group of celebrities to his yacht. The occasion was to celebrate the birthday of the film producer Thomas Ince (Cary Elwes). Charlie Chaplin (Eddie Izzard) was also among the invitees. There were also some rumors prior to the trip that Chaplin fancied the actress Marion Davies (Kirsten Dunst) who was Hearst's beloved girlfriend. The birthday cruise became an envious love triangle which has death as its destination.
Peter Bogdanovich tells this particular Hollywood scandal in a convincing manner as the story is focused on the love triangle between Hearst, Davies, and Chaplin. The other characters add a lot of intrigue and color to the film as they all have their own motives for being on the yacht. The cast performances are solid and the mise-en-scene elevates the cinematic experience. However, the film never reaches it full potential as similar stories have done in the past where a murder is committed in a remote location. This hurt the integrity of the overall cinematic experience, but the film still offers the audience a good cinematic experience.
- Not a Classic...BUT a Great Movie................
I love Wan-a-beeee's of any kinds. But KarmaPolice....goes to a new Wan-a-be level...of Shut-up. This film is great entertainment....it really proves that the rich have not changed and never will change.....ie. Paris Hilton to name one. The murder of Ince or was it the death of Ince is what this movie is all about...also the decadence the unbridled waste of the the rich...and don't forget the saying "money can buy anything" in this case it was SILENCE. This is not a classic...like "Cat on a hot tin roof"......but in a way it is a free tour of what Money can buy.......So Buyer beware. Great Movie. ...more info
- Memorable Performances, Intriguing Story
Obsession, combined with jealousy, was the impetus for an incident that occurred in November of 1924, aboard the yacht of media mogul William Randolph Hearst, and which in the years since has become the stuff of Hollywood legend and lore. The story has many versions, but the "whisper told most often," is the one recounted in "The Cat's Meow," directed by Peter Bogdanovich, a dramatization of what may or may not have happened during that extended weekend birthday-party cruise in honor of pioneer film director, Thomas Ince, which included an eclectic guest list of the rich, famous and powerful. What is known, is that the party ended with the death of one of the guests, and that foul play and an ensuing cover-up have long been suspected, but never proved. And one thing is certain: Not a single person aboard the yacht at the time has ever spoken of what happened, at least not publicly; but there are those who believe to this day, that someone just may have gotten away with murder.
Once a powerful force in a young Hollywood, Thomas Ince (Cary Elwes)-- who had formed Triangle Films with D.W. Griffith and Mack Sennett, and later founded Paramount Studios with Adolph Zukor-- has fallen on hard times. Once responsible for forty pictures a year, he now struggles to get a single film made. And, his birthday aside, he has decided to mix business with pleasure during this cruise, pitching an idea to Hearst (Edward Herrmann), to combine their resources and make movies together. Hearst, however, has other things on his mind; rumor has it that his mistress, Marion Davies (Kirsten Dunst), is being courted by Charlie Chaplin (Eddie Izzard), and he has brought them together, here, to observe and decide for himself if anything untoward is going on between them. Hearst is not only in love with Davies, but is obsessed with her, as well as the course of her career, and he's not about to let this baggy-pants comic actor interfere. And Hearst, a powerful and controlling man, always gets what he wants-- and what he wants right now is for this business with Chaplin to disappear. So it is, that in the midst of celebration, paranoia overtakes the host of the party, and it's about to cast a pall over the proceedings and ultimately involve everyone aboard in one of the greatest unsolved mysteries ever to come out of Tinsel Town. It's a story that Hearst keeps out of the papers, making sure in his own way that dead men, indeed, tell no tales.
Bogdanovich successfully captures the era, as well as the mendacity of this rich assortment of characters, who are all the more intriguing for the fact that they are real people rather than the product of imagination; and it proves that fact is often more bizarre than fiction. The excesses and overindulgences of many within the Hollywood community during this period rivals anything happening today, and one of the most telling scenes in the film is when novelist Elinor Glyn (Joanna Lumley) offers her take on what Hollywood really is and what it does to those who dwell within. Glyn is also the narrator of the film; a wise choice, as it adds a balanced perspective to the events as they unfold, and are summarily grounded by her often wry and incisive observations. The final words of the film are hers, in fact; a final observation that encompasses so much in so few words, that it provides an impact that makes it the perfect ending. And it makes you realize what a terrific job Bogdanovich did with this film, and how well he brought this material (screenplay by Steven Paros, which he adapted from his own play) to life.
The film is highlighted by a number of excellent and memorable performances, beginning with Herrmann as Hearst. This is possibly the best work he's ever done in his career, perfectly capturing the many facets of this extremely complex man. There's a depth to his performance that conveys not only the bravura of a powerful individual-- and one who delights in using it-- but the vulnerability, as well. He also makes you cognizant of the fact that Hearst is a man capable of almost anything, including creating his own reality, and maintaining it with his limitless resources. It's one of the subtle, underlying nuances that Herrmann brings to his portrayal, which is altogether convincing and believable.
Kirsten Dunst also rises to the occasion, turning in a remarkable performance as Marion Davies. It's a concise reflection of a young actress caught up in a situation that is at once enviable and undesirable, who manages to tactfully negotiate the sensitive issues with which she is faced with a sensibility and maturity beyond her years. And through Dunst, we see the many layers of Davies' personality; the fun-loving girl, as well as the responsible woman, who finds herself in a perpetually tentative environment and selflessly refrains from playing the prima donna or attempting to act as if she is the center of the universe-- something to which too many others who have been swallowed up by the Hollywood lifestyle over the years are prone. It's a comprehensive and convincing performance that proves that Dunst has the stuff to fulfill the promise made by her work in previous films.
The performance that surpasses them all, however, is turned in by Eddie Izzard, as Chaplin. Izzard captures the very essence of Chaplin, physically and emotionally, with a detailed portrayal of the man, created through expression and astute introspection. This is not the on-screen persona, the "Little Tramp," but Chaplin the complex individual and artist who is presented here. Izzard brings him to life with singular nuance and depth, and it's a performance that should, by all rights, earn him an Oscar nomination. Skillfully acted and presented, "The Cat's Meow" is a memorable film that offers some insights into a town and lifestyle that few have ever experienced....more info
- Narcissism and Insecurity: A Volatile Combination
The Cat's Meow held my interest from beginning to end. What I found most interesting was the portrayal of narcissism and insecurity in most of the characters. Each character acts as though his or her life, reputation and desires are the center of the universe. Everyone else is merely a stepping stone toward their fulfillment, or an obstacle in their way.
Hearst, seemingly the most eccentric and powerful character, tries to control everyone in his world. He insults guests and insists that everyone abide by his rules. Oddly, he takes great pleasure in ascending to the yacht's deck each evening at dusk to see the seagulls-and shoot them.
Yet in spite of all of his power, he is insecure about what others think of him. He has a spy glass built into his floor so that he can watch the movements of others, and he has the yacht "bugged" so that he can listen to guests' "private" conversations on his personal radio. His jealousy and insecurity about Marion's love eventually bloom into full-blown paranoia.
Ince, whose career is on the decline, is so narcissistic that he treats his mistress as a toy that he can ignore. Yet he expects her to focus on him and build his ego back up when his own insecurities surface. Those insecurities cause him to fan the flames of Hearst's jealousy for his own benefit. And his own narcissism makes him blind to the danger that even he faces from the time bomb that he is creating.
Chaplin, played quite convincingly by Eddie Izzard, is shown to be such a narcissist that he has absolutely no insight into either himself or others. He believes that each of his fleeting sexual impulses must be satisfied regardless of the consequences, and despite considerable evidence to the contrary, he thinks that the infatuation of the moment will be his love for life. As Chaplin frantically tries to seduce Marion away from Hearst, promising eternal love, she asks him what he will do about his most recent conquest, a teenage actor whom he has impregnated. He sees no contradiction when he dismisses her, saying that she was "a mistake." And his narcissism makes him so oblivious to others that he has no idea how dangerous it is to make the powerful Hearst angry.
Even our narrator, Elinor Glyn, is narcissistic enough to feel that she is above talking to bores and is the only one clever enough to guide the vulnerable Marion into doing what's best. Yet she is so insecure about her reputation that she refuses to leave her automobile when she realizes that she might be early for the party.
Louella Parsons, the most amusing character, starts out embarrassingly loud, brash and insecure among the sophisticates at the party, and turns overnight into the confident, tough negotiator that her reputation leads us to expect.
The acting, costumes, music and direction are great. If you like period pieces-or just studies of human frailty-you'll enjoy this....more info
- Ship of Fools
The fact that Peter Bogdanovich has made an intriguing film here is no small feat. He faces many obstacles in tackling this project. For starters it's based on a play so he has to avoid staginess. The action takes place on a luxury yacht yet the film doesn't feel claustrophobic. It's also a period piece but it doesn't feel like a museum piece. Many people have dismissed Bogdanovich as a has-been but you wouldn't know it here. There are enough artistic fluorishes on display here that suggest his earlier work. The film also is graced with an excellent cast. Noteworthy is a touching performance by Edward Herrmann as William Randolph Hearst and a spunky turn by Kirsten Dunst as Marion Davies. I didn't buy Eddie Izzard as Charlie Chaplin but that is based more on his physical bearing than anything inherent in his performance. Izzard is a terrific actor and I was fortunate to have seen him on stage in London in 1999 playing Lenny Bruce....more info
- Wish I could give it 10 Stars
While there are many different styles of movies that can entertain, this one is pure pleasure to watch and experience. It tells us the story of what may have happened aboard William Randolph Hearst's yacht in 1924, and shares "The Whisper Told Most Often." Of course it may or may not have happened in this exact manner, but you will lose yourself in the magic of that time in our history.
The acting is superb - all of it. Herrmann actually becomes W.R. Hearst. Jennifer Tilly, Eddie Izzard, and Joanna Lumley are perfect. Kirsten Dunst is absolutely luminous as Marion Davies. She brings her to life with a vivacity that makes you want to learn more about the real Marion.
As the story unfolds, you will be mesmerized by not only the acting, but the "to die for" costumes, the wonderful music and the great sets. I've seen the movie 3 times and have ordered the DVD. Can't wait to see it again. I also have the sountrack - great music.
Do yourself and a friend a favor and see if it you can still find it anywhere. If not, order the DVD. You won't be sorry. I've read far more estatic reviews than unfavorable. You would have to be a very "jaded" person to dislike this movie. ...more info
- Bad all around, Avoid it.
I got to agree with the other reviewer here who said this is a bottom of the barrel affair. And it is indeed with negligible redeeming points about it.
First of all its the cast, it doens't work, and you find one miscast after the other. Eddie Izzard as Chaplin is horrible, bland, completely forgetfull. The fact that a person with the physique of Izzard, short, bulky and ugly can aspire romantic love to a young Kirsten Dunst is completely unbelievable, the scenes with the two together are verging to the physically disgusting. Granted, Chaplin was no Carry Grant but you have to find some alluring physical qualities to someone you are going to cast opposite youthfull Kirsten to make this believable. The script doesn't help Eddie Izzard, as Chaplin gains no ground in wittyness that could make up for his physical appearance, going with very few and unimportant lines during the film. Eddie's lack of training as a classical actor is also very obvious and very pronounced in such a miscast role, and with so bad a material script wise.
On the other hand Johanna Lumley does salvage a good performance. As does Kirsten Dunst, who again is miscast here, as what should have been the sultry mistress of Hirst. You can tell she's trying hard to make this work, and i can't deny her talent, but neither co-actors, script or directorship are of any help here. She's also a very bad pairing with the Hearst character.
The cast being so off, luckily for the screen writer, who does a sub par job translating his play into film. If you go over the movie you won't find one memorable line, worse than tv material all around. Is these people are supposed to be devious, faul mouthed, gossipy, influential how come they are portrayed in such a boring, dull way. And besides being off the mark with the characters (Why instead of Hearst the tough mogul do we get a soft, almost pathetic, parody...) the plot goes absolutely nowhere. There's the main movement of Charlie's love affair with Heart's girlfriend and nothing else going on around, just filler, filler, filler. You d expect if not a sub plot, some losely knit stories around the main characters instead of this disjointed, pointless mess. Which, again, would have been excused had the love affair at center stage been at all juice, but the treatmeant it gets here by Peros is beginners guide to script writing type. And Eddie and Kirsten are not what you d call a match made in heaven to lift this up (from below zero) to something decent, on the contrary.
At the beggining Tilly is walking along Charlie at the port, chattering to him, this is an external shot, and the (unintentional) wind is blowing on and off the rim of Tilly's hat so much that it's ludicrous, she says something then bang the hats on her face and you can't see her, then in the middle of the next sentence the hat with its dangling strings is up again, and then slap back on her face. This is pityful...
Another scene I liked was where Izzard is gossiping with Lumley if you look in the background of the frame, on the top corner you ll notice a fire alarm system of the refurbished ship the film people are using to shoot. No one's noticed this to tell them how bad it looks obviously and that they had to do something about it. Which kinda sums up this awful film.
Avoid it, or watch it to get a taste of how bad things can go....more info
- The Dog's Bow-Wow
In one or the other of David Niven's autobiographies ("The Moon's a Balloon" or "Bring on the Empty Horses"), he included a brief item about the strange hold Louella Parsons seemed to have over her employer, William Randolph Hearst. Niven hinted that Louella had witnessed a murder years before on Hearst's yacht, and that the payoff was a job for life.
I remembered that anecdote when I saw the coming attractions for "The Cat's Meow", Peter Bogdanovich's treatment of that very same story. Well, after having seen the movie the other day, I can tell you that the difference between Niven's story and Bogdanovich's is that Niven was a good storyteller and they who are responsible for this movie are not.
I felt that Edward Herrmann's Hearst was all alone in this movie, since nobody else was a good actor. No one appeared really to BE the person we were told they were: Charlie Chaplin was extremely un-funny, Louella Parsons was some sort of hideous drag queen depiction, and Marion Davies was totally unconvincing. I didn't believe she was in an affair for the past seven years with Hearst; I didn't believe she had witnessed a murder; I didn't believe she was familiar with anyone else in the movie, lover or otherwise. Bad casting, bad directing because none of the actors were being made to relate to the other in an appropriate fashion.
Although the picture might look good on the surface, I even take exception to a VERY small detail. There's a scene when Marion is opening the door to her cabin very slowly, so slowly that I had time to contemplate the detailing on the door. What I plainly saw was the joint where two pieces of wood had been stuck together. What that demonstrates to me is shoddy workmanship, the kind of shoddy workmanship that frankly would NEVER have been tolerated in the rarefied environment of a passionate art collector/lover like Hearst. He never would have okayed such a thing. But the fact that the director and everyone else didn't have the sensibility to understand that minor detail is very telling. They don't understand Hearst et alia AT ALL, and that's why this movie falls flat.
No, this movie isn't the cat's meow or even the cat's pajamas. Want to see a movie about the immoral rich? Catch "Gosford Park" instead....more info