by Peter Bogdanovich
November of 1924 a scandal of tremendous proportions occurred
involving some of Hollywood's most elite players, and very
little of it made it into the press and public knowledge.
Thinking of it in today's terms it would be as if Steven
Spielberg were murdered during a wild weekend in the company of
Bill Gates, Tom Cruise and Sharon Stone. It was that big. But
back in those days it was easy for the rich and famous to cover
up such things--there was no internet, no small hand-held
digital video cameras, no CNN.
rich and famous I'm talking about here are multi-millionaire
newspaper king William Randolph Hearst; Charlie Chaplin, the
most famous actor in the world at that time; well-known and
loved actress Marion Davies; director, producer, and movie mogul
Thomas Ince; gossip queen Louella Parsons; and the British
novelist Elinor Glyn.
fateful weekend in 1924 they were all aboard Hearst's yacht, the
Onedin, to celebrate
Tom Ince's birthday. By the end of it, one of them is dead and
the secret of the details has been faithfully kept to this day.
There are many "unofficial" rumours and many versions
of what happened and "The Cat's Meow" shows one
version of events that is most popular.
Dunst plays Marion Davies well, although she is a little too
young. Davies was 27 as the time and Dunst is only about 20, and
it shows in an intangible sense of innocence on her face. Davies
was openly secret lover of W.R. Hearst, played by the wonderful
Edward Herrmann. When I think of Hearst from other film
portrayals, I think of "old, scary man," but Herrmann
makes him so real; using his formidable size to play him
frightening one minute and then the next showing the depth of
his true devotion and love for Marion with beautiful tears.
Herrmann is an actor seen often, but not appreciated enough.
is rumoured to be having an affair with Chaplin at the time, and
Hearst invites Chaplin (Eddie Izzard) aboard to keep an eye on
the two, looking for a shred of credible evidence. Eddie Izzard
is my favourite comedian on the planet and he's always so
overlooked, it's a such a shame because he's an amazing actor.
Finally now with this film he might get the attention he's
always deserved. His portrayal of Chaplin is wonderful, using
his wide range of facial expressions to get across what seems
like is true love for Davies, but Chaplin was a good enough
actor for her to wonder if he just may be lustful for the chase
more than wanting to settle down.
Tilly ends up making gossip columnist Louella Parsons downright
creepy and very cold, something you did not see coming based on
her behavior earlier in the film. But hey, she was a gossip
writer, she had to come off as trustworthy in order to write
such backstabbing stories on people!
Elwes does well as Thomas Ince, which is odd because usually
Elwes is such a bad actor I can't understand how he's still
working. He does well as Ince, but only because he's doing his
"stock 1920s showbiz guy" routine. Watch him in this
film, then watch him "Shadow of the Vampire" and see
what I mean. This guy is particularly UN-talented, and I'm here
to tell ya. It needs to be said. The emperor is naked. Cary
Elwes needs to stop working in films. There, I said it. Now on
to better actors.
know Joanna Lumley best as Patsy from "Absolutely
Fabulous," but she's been acting her butt off for decades.
She also has a memorable cameo in "Shirley Valentine"
(see my review from last month). This woman is awesome and
always looks great. Her Elinor Glyn, Victorian-era novelist, is
superb. She does what any writer does, observes and comments,
and she does it well.
brings me to a new hot guy for me, Welsh actor Ronan Vibert.
He's only been in a few well-known films, and here he plays
Hearst's private secretary Joseph Willicombe. He's hot, baby!
I've seen him before, in "Shadow of the Vampire" (with
Cary Elwes and Eddie Izzard), and he was hot then, too. In
"Cat's Meow" his long-suffering private secretary to
one of the world's most powerful men can be seen to take its
toll on his face as he realizes he must do everything he can to
help cover up this murder. He's conflicted but it's obvious he
genuinely cares what happens to his boss, and his loyalty is
unquestioned no matter how horrific things might get. Did I
mention he's hot? Not in the same way Goran is hot, but there's
something about his intensity that gets me. I'll have to get a
good photo for Tina's Gorgeous Visions, I want to share!
really enjoyed this film, see if you can find it near you. If
not then rent it on video, but keep in mind the lushness of the
beautiful sets and 1920s decor, and the subtlety of the secrets
on the characters' faces will be lost on your small TV screen.
Also, check out the soundtrack, it contains all the biggest hits
of the day--my favourite kind of music.
The above material is considered the property
If you wish to use this article, in part or whole, please contact
for her permission.