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And the Bees Knees!
on 30 November 2009
In "The Cat's Meow," Peter Bogdonovich performs movie magic, recreating the 1920s, when the screens were silent and the stars' lives were private (or, at least, hushed up). His subtle "color scheme of black and white" for the luxurious costumes and opulent settings contributes to the illusion, as does the "tinny" musical score, which brings us early 20th-century favorites, such as "Charleston," and "Ain't We Got Fun?". Al Jolson's rendition of "Avalon" allows us viewers to suspend our collective disbelief and embark on the ill-starred voyage of the "Oneida" with William Randolph Hearst, Marion Davies, and their elegantly dissolute guests, which (according to this scenario) include a hot-to-trot Charlie Chaplin; sensational novelist, Elinor Glynn; has-been Movie Mogul, William Ince; future poisoned-pen columnist, Louella Parsons, and an assortment of starlets and hangers-on.
As Hearst, Edward Hermann portrays the lonely paranoia of power; and Kirsten Dunst gives us a glimpse of the comedienne that Marion Davies might have been if given the right part. Eddie Izzard depicts Chaplin' self-conscious charm; Joanna Lumley, who narrates the story in the 'voice' of an Elinor Glynn novel, is convincing; and if anyone thinks that Jennifer Tilly's interpretation of Louella Parsons is exaggerated, then they have never heard that redoubtable purveyor of gossip on the radio, as, every week, she literally meowed "Hello to All of You From Hollywood!" Bogdonovich has adroitly directed an ensemble cast in which every character is pitch-perfect [The girls playing the starlets are especially commendable.].
Part Agatha Christie mystery and part Hollywood thriller, "The Cat's Meow" is a keeper, which I take off the shelf every year and watch again, always discovering some new detail, to my great enjoyment.