Friday, August 8, 2014

Orangey the Cat, Feline Film Star

Orangey with Rhubarb director Arthur
Lubin and costars Jan Sterling and Ray

Today is World Cat Day so it seems as fitting a day as any to write a post about one of the few cats to achieve stardom in movies. Orangey was a male marmalade tabby with a remarkably long career in film and television. He may be best known as Cat in Breakfast at Tiffany's, but he also appeared in such films as This Island Earth (1955), The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), The Diary of Anne Frank (1959), and Village of the Giants (1965).

Orangey would be the first real success for famed animal handler Frank Inn. Frank Inn had served as an assistant to Rudd Weatherwax, who trained Pal, the star of the early "Lassie" fiilms (starting with Lassie Come Home in 1943). He would later go onto train Higgins, the dog who starred on Petticoat Junction and the film Benji (1974), as well as a host of animals for other TV shows and films.

Orangey made his film debut in the 1951 comedy Rhubarb. Orangey played the cat of the title, who inherits a baseball team from his owner, eccentric millionaire Thaddeus J. Banner (played by Gene Lockhart). Not only was Orangey the first cat to play a title role in a film, but he also won a PATSY for his performance as Rhubarb (the PATSY is the equivalent of an Oscar for animal actors). It was the start of  a rather long and illustrious career for Orangey, who would appear in films and TV shows for the next fourteen years.

Orangey would perform on both television and in film. Despite the fact that he was male, Orangey played Minerva,  a cat belonging to Connie Brooks' landlady on the TV show Our Miss Brooks. He had a significant role in The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) as Butch, the cat who threatens his miniaturised owner. Of course, his most famous role would be that of Cat in Breakfast at Tiffany's. He also appeared in the films This Island Earth (1955), Visit to a Small Planet (1960), and Gigot (1962). His television work included an episode of Shirley Temple's Storybook, episodes of My Favourite Martian, and playing Rusty the Cat on The Beverly Hillbillies. His last role was as a giant cat in Village of the Giants in 1965.

Like many movie stars Orangey had several "stunt doubles". Because cats can be notoriously hard to train, multiple cats often stood in for Orangey in the films in which he starred. For Rhubarb Frank Inn used 36 cats, teaching each one of them one or two tricks necessary to the film. In Breakfast at Tiffany's twelve different cats were used. Indeed, although Orangey is often credited with playing Cleopatra in The Comedy of Terrors (1963), it seems likely that the primary cat used in the film was one of his doubles. teh kitteh antidote has a post discussing how Cleopatra in The Comedy of Terrors looks different from Cat in Breakfast at Tiffany's.

Also like many movie stars, Orangey had a reputation for being difficult. Although he was known to behave during scenes, it was not unusual for him to scratch or bite his co-stars the moment the scene was over. A studio executive actually called Orangey "the world's meanest cat". And while Orangey was known to stay on set while his scenes were being shot, even if it meant being around for hours, he was also known to flee the set the moment his scenes were over. Of course, this often meant shooting had to be shut down while he could be found. Once Frank Inn actually posted guard dogs at the exits of the studio to prevent Orangey from attempting one of his usual escapes!

It is often the case that the most difficult actors are often the most talented, and this was true of Orangey as well. Not only did he have a long career for a cat, but he was also the only cat to ever win two PATSY Awards, one for Rhubarb and one for Breakfast at Tiffany's.

Orangey's last film was Village of Giant's in 1965. While I have been unable to determine when Orangey died, given the average lifespan of cats it might not have been too long after that. Regardless, Orangey would be given a final resting place befitting the star he was. Reportedly his ashes were buried with Frank Inn in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Los Angeles. One can only hope he gets along better with his co-stars in the afterlife than he did while making movies.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

TV Writer Rick Mittleman R.I.P.

Rick Mittleman, a television writer nominated for Emmy Awards for his work on The Red Skelton Show and Arnie, died on 30 July 2014 at the age of 84.

Rick Mittleman began his career in the Fifties as a producer on the show You Asked for It. During the 1962-1963 he went wrote for The Red Skelton Show. In the Sixties he worked on several different sitcoms. He wrote several episodes of Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C., as well as episodes of such shows as The Flintstones, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Petticoat Junction, I Spy, Good Morning World, Get Smart, The Courtship of Eddie's Father, That Girl, My World and Welcome to It, Arnie, Mary Tyler Moore, and Arnie. He served as a producer on Arnie and a script consultant on McHale's Navy.

In the Seventies Mr. Mittleman wrote for such shows as Bridget Loves Bernie, Roll Out, Dusty's Trail, The Odd Couple, Emergency, Welcome Back Kotter, M*A*S*H, Sanford and Son, Alice, and What's Happening. He served as a script consultant on What's Happening. In the Eighties he wrote for such shows as CHiPs, Remington Steele, Matlock, and MacGyver. He served as a script consultant on Remington Steele and MacGuyver, as well as a producer on Simon and Simon. In the Nineties he wrote episodes of Murder, She Wrote and Early Edition.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Make Up Artist Dick Smith Passes On

Dick Smith, the legendary make-up artist who worked on such films as Little Big Man, The Gofather, and The Exorcist, died on 30 July at the age of 92.

Dick Smith was born in Larchmont, New York on 26 June 1922. He attended Yale University with the intention of becoming a dentist. While he was there, however, he found a book entitled  titled Paint, Powder and Makeup. Fascinated by the subject, he began experimenting with make-up and even did make-up for Yale's drama department. His first film work was on the movie The Cowboy and the Blonde in 1941. During World War II he served in  the United States Army. Following the war he went to work at WNBC-TV. He served as the head of its make-up department for 14 years. In the late Forties he worked on such films as Captain Eddie (1945), Call Northside 777 (1948), The Iron Curtain (1948), Down to the Sea in Ships (1949), and  House of Strangers (1949).

During the Fifties much of Mr. Smith's work was in television. He worked on such shows as Fireside Theatre, The Philco-Goodyear Playhouse, Kraft Theatre, Robert Montgomery Presents, and Hallmark Hall of Fame (specifically, their production of "Alice in Wonderland"). He worked on the films From Hell to Texas (1958), The Flame Barrier (1958), and The Alligator People (1959).

In the Sixties Dick Smith's career shifted more towards film, although he did still work in television. He did make up for episodes of Way Out, The Untouchables, Dark Shadows, and a 1968 television movie adaptation of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  That having been said, the majority of his work during the decade was in film. He worked on such films as The Cardinal (1963), The World of Henry Orient (1964), What a Way to Go! (1964), Midnight Cowboy (1969), House of Dark Shadows (1970), and Little Big Man (1970).

In the Seventies Mr. Smith worked on such films as The Godfather (1972), The Exorcist (1973), The Godfather: Part II (1974), The Stepford Wives (1975), The Sunshine Boys (1975), Taxi Driver (1976), Marathon Man (1976), The Deer Hunter (1978), and Altered States (1980). In the Eighties Dick Smith worked on such films as The Fan (1981), Ghost Story (1981), The Hunger (1983), Amadeus (1984), Starman (1984), Sweet Home (1989), Dad (1989), and Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990). He worked some in television, including the miniseries North and South and its sequel North and South Book II, as well as the TV shows Monsters and Golden Years.

In the Nineties Mr. Smith worked on the films Death Becomes Her (1992), Forever Young (1992), and House on Haunted Hill (1999).

Dick Smith was quite simply the one of the greatest make up artists of all time. He was a true pioneer in the field. He was one of the first make-up artists to make prosthetics in multiple pieces rather than a single piece, as had been usually done before. Dick Smith's method of creating multiple foam latex pieces is now the industry standard. What is more, Dick Smith certainly achieved results with his work. He transformed Dustin Hoffman into a 110 year old man in Little Big Man and created the spectacular makeup effects for The Exorcist. It should be little wonder that Dick Smith won an Oscar for his work on Amadeus, although arguably he should have won many times more.

Of course, many make-up artists could achieve spectacular results with the budget of a major motion picture, but Dick Smith could be impressive working on very small budgets as well. He did make-up for three episodes of Dark Shadows in which the vampire Barnabas Collins, undergoes a treatment to cure his vampirism and finds himself ageing at an accelerated rate as a side effect of the treatment. The effects were as incredible as any Mr. Smith did for major motion pictures. He also did a good deal of make-up work on the short lived series Way Out, creating impressive work on a budget that was low for television even in 1961. Dick Smith was incredibly talented and revolutionised make-up in film and television. Indeed, his make-up effects stand up against any CGI effects done today.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Thank You for a Successful Blogathon!

I just wanted to thank everyone who participated for making the British Invaders Blogathon a success. I enjoyed reading all of the entries and even learned quite a few things. While many of the posts covered some of my very favourite films, there were others that covered movies that I have never seen. I was also pleased with how much British film history the posts actually covered. The earliest film dealt with in one of the blogathon's posts was made in 1929. The latest film dealt with in a post was made in 1983. The posts also covered a number of different genres, everything from war films to horror films to musicals to kitchen sink dramas.

Given the success of the British Invaders Blogathon I am seriously thinking of making it an annual event. You might want to mark  your calendars for the first weekend of next August then! Again, thanks to everyone who took part!