Saturday, May 28, 2016

Cat in Breakfast at Tiffany's

(This blog post is part of the "Animals in Film" Blogathon hosted by In the Good Old Days of Hollywood)

My sister has never liked Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961).  For her it comes down to the treatment of Cat (played by Orangey) by the film's protagonist Holly Golightly (played by Audrey Hepburn). Cat is easily my sister's favourite character in the movie. He is one of my favourites as well, although I have always had a weakness for Audrey Hepburn, so I tend to overlook Holly's actions with regards to Cat.

Cat plays a central role in Breakfast at Tiffany's. For those who have never seen the film, he is more or less a stray who has adopted Holly as his own. Unfortunately Holly really can't (or won't) develop any sort of emotional attachment to anything or anyone. Indeed, she won't even give Cat an actual name. He simply remains "Cat". That having been said, her friendship with Cat is as close to a real relationship as she has ever gotten. She cares for him and feeds him, and he remains her companion throughout the movie. It is ultimately her relationship with Cat that makes Holly realise she essentially has a fear of commitment, even to the cat for whom she had cared for some time.

Cat was played by Orangey, possibly the most successful feline star of all time. By the time he starred in Breakfast at Tiffany's he was already a star with a good deal of experience. He had made his film debut in the title role of the film Rhubarb in 1951. This made him the first cat ever to play a title role in a film. What is more, he won a PATSY for his performance as Rhubarb (the PATSY is the equivalent of an Oscar for animal actors). Orangey (sometimes billed as Rhubarb) would have a very busy career over the next few years. He was Connie Brooks's landlady's cat Minerva on the sitcom Our Miss Brooks (even though Orangey was male). He played Butch, the cat in The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957). He also appeared in the films This Island Earth (1955) and Visit to a Small Planet (1960).

Orangey was 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 many other animals for TV shows and films.

While Orangey was trained by one of the best known animal trainers in film and television history and Orangey himself would see a good deal of success, he was not always the most pleasant actor to work with. Orangey would behave himself while a scene was being shot, but once it was over it was not unusual for him to bite or scratch his co-stars.  A studio executive actually called Orangey "the world's meanest cat".  And while he would stay on the set while his scenes were being filmed, even if it was for hours,  he was known to flee the set once his scenes were over. Shooting would then have to be suspended until he was found. Frank Inn once posted guard dogs at the exits of the studio to stop Orangey from attempting one of his usual escapes!

Here it must be pointed out that Orangey had a number of "stunt doubles" in most of his films. This was no less true of Breakfast at Tiffany's. While some sources claim that were nine cats used in the filming of Breakfast at Tiffany's, it seems more likely there were only two. In addition to Orangey, who was a mackerel tabby, there is also a classic or marbled tabby. Regardless of how many other cats played Cat, it was Orangey who got all the credit. He won another PATSY for his performance in Breakfast at Tiffany's. He then became the only cat to ever win two PATSYs.

Orangey was not a particularly young cat when he starred in Breakfast at Tiffany's. Regardless, he continued to work steadily, playing Rusty the Cat on The Beverly Hillbillies and appearing in the film Gigot (1962). His last film credit was Village of the Giants in 1965. It is not known precisely when Orangey died, but it was probably not long after that given the lifespans of cats. He would be given a final resting place worthy of the movie star he was.  Reportedly his ashes were buried with Frank Inn in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Los Angeles. To this day Orangey is probably best remembered as Cat in Breakfast at Tiffany's, despite having played many other roles. And I have to suspect that there are many people like my sister for whom Cat is their favourite character in the whole movie.



As you mentioned, I like how Cat is a symbol for Holly's fear of commitment - and also a symbol for when she realizes she can change.
Wonderful info about Orangey - I didn't know he was the same cat from The Incredible Shriking Man! He was kind of a diva, but a memorable animal actor.
Don't forget to read my contribution to the blogathon! :)

KC said...

I love this! Though the credit "Frank Inn trainer" is familiar to me after many viewings of Breakfast at Tiffany's, I never gave much thought to the cat. What a busy guy he was. It cracks me up that he was a temperamental star!

Quiggy said...

To others he may have been "best remembered" as the cat in "Breakfast". For me he will always and forever be the cat in "Shrinking Man". Mainly because I wouldn't watc "Breakfast" om a dare... I might if a significant other begged me just right, though...

Flapper Dame 16 said...

I loved reading your post- I also love Audrey and even though I'm a DOG person- I have a soft spot for this "Cat". I just thing Orangey is an adorable name!

Unknown said...

I read elsewhere that Audrey Hepburn thought abandoning the cat was one of the most "distasteful" things she has ever done in a movie. I think would have thought that appearing in a movie with such a racist depiction of Asians, (Mr. Yunioshi, played by caucasian Mickey Rooney) would be the most distasteful.