Cats in Historical Costume Movies

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Someone (ehem, Kendra) is kind of obsessed with puppies in historical costume movies and TV shows. But the other two of us know that cats rule, dogs drool. And kitties are really the best company in the sewing room, so cats and costumes go together much better than dogs, bleh. However, Kendra does have a point that cats don’t show up on screen as often. Obviously, cats aren’t as dumb and easily trained, they’re not going to deal with the endless takes and re-shoots required for a movie. So they don’t get the big parts in Hollywood movies and other productions.

People often think of cats in horror flicks, especially black cats, but when it comes to historical themes on screen, felines show up as family friends just as often as they’re portrayed as evil familiars. So let’s look at all kinds of cats in historical costume movies and TV shows, chronologically from oldest to newest!

 

Nosferatu (1922)

Nosferatu (1922)

The heroine of this silent Victorian-esque classic loves her cat, but alas, nothing will protect her from the vampiric Count Orlock.

Nosferatu (1922)

 

Little Women (1933)

Little Women (1933)

Beth’s kittens are a key plot point in the novel of Little Women, so appropriately enough, filmed versions usually include a good kitty scene, starting with Katharine Hepburn, as Jo Marsh, and basket of adorable tabbies.

 

Quality Street (1938)

Quality Street (1938)

Spinsters, knitting, and a cat, in 1810s. OK, so it’s a stereotype, but it could be worse.

 

Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)

Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)

In between Judy Garland’s songs, there’s a big fat cat hanging out in the kitchen with the fam.

 

The Three Musketeers (1948)

The Three Muskateers (1948)

Vincent Price and a big tabby cat. If this is bad, I don’t want to be good!

 

Little Women (1949)

Little Women (1949)

Another Louisa May Alcott adaption, now with Elizabeth Taylor, as Amy, and a sweet lil’ kitty.

 

Gone to Earth (1950)

Gone to Earth (1950)

A wild-child in late Victorian England loves her animals, including a big black cat.

 

The Life of Oharu (1952)

The Life of Oharu (1952)

A tragic tale of a woman exiled from the imperial court at Kyoto. At least she had her cat.

 

Robinson Crusoe (1954)

Robinson Crusoe (1954)

I would be pretty damn happy if I had a cat with me on shipwrecked island.

 

Footsteps in the Fog (1955)

Footsteps in the Fog (1955)

A portrait of the murdered wife in Victorian London, but the black cat lived — perhaps kitty is the one who told the maid the truth?

Footsteps in the Fog (1955)

 

Gigi (1958)

Gigi (1958)

First, Gigi ignores her beautiful silver cat while she’s being tutored to be a high-class prostitute. Later, Gigi sings to her cat as she contemplates love vs. the high life.

Gigi (1958)

 

Maverick (1959)

Maverick (1959)

A whole episode “The Cats of Paradise” of this western TV show revolved around selling cats to deal with the rat population in a mining town. No, that’s not at all weird…

 

True Grit (1969)

True Grit (1969)

I always love a shop where there’s a cat on the counter.

 

The Godfather (1972)

The Godfather (1972)

This stray cat made his way onto the Paramount lot during filming and into Don Vito Corleone’s heart.

 

The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (1974)

The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (1974)

An odd West German film set in the 1820s, apparently with cat dancing?

 

Novecento (1976)

Novecento (1976)

As the name implies, this movie takes place at the turn of the 19th century in Italy, and here we see Robert DeNiro with a kitty.

 

The Uncanny (1977)

The Uncanny (1977)

Three linked stories in this flick make cats the evil-doers in 1912, 1936, and 1975. Hiss!

 

True Confessions (1981)

True Confessions (1981)

A 1940s murder mystery, loosely based on the Black Dahlia case. Looks like this black and white feline is an innocent bystander.

 

Pale Rider (1985)

Pale Rider (1985)

Wild west, general store, buyin’ yer goods, pettin’ the cat. As you do.

 

Blackadder Goes Forth (1989)

Blackadder Goes Forth (1989)

Adorbs kitten helps out in the trenches of World War I, for king and country!

 

Little Women (1994)

Little Women (1994)

More Little Women, more kittens — marmalade kitty, brown tabby, and a white kitty who we see again with Meg.

Little Women (1994)

 

Oscar and Lucinda (1997)

Oscar and Lucinda (1997)

A quirky, slightly sad movie about an odd pair in Victorian Australia. Lucinda’s big stripey cat makes many appearances.

 

The Mummy (1999)

The Mummy (1999)

Set in 1920s Cairo and mucking around with faux Egyptology, this cat is the best part of the whole movie.

 

A Very Long Engagement (2004)

A Very Long Engagement (2004)

Audrey Tatou gets feline comfort while looking for her lost lover during World War I.

 

The Prestige (2006)

The Prestige (2006)

It’s about Victorian magicians, so, of course, there’s a black cat!

 

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006)

Perfume: the Story of a Murderer (2006)

Ugh, no, I can’t watch what they do that to the poor kitty in this 18th-century flick. Unfair.

 

Masters of Horror: The Black Cat (2007)

Masters of Horror: The Black Cat (2007)

Part of a TV anthology, this show tells of Edgar Allen Poe, in 1840, and his wife Virgina’s black cat.

 

Bright Star (2009)

Bright Star (2009)

Fanny Brawne’s sweet socks cat livens up her doomed romance with the poet John Keats in 1818.

Bright Star (2009)

 

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

Another one I hate to include, but I like to think Kovacs was a good owner to his doomed cat — he did take the cat with him to a fancy hotel in the 1930s, after all.

 

Wolf Hall (2015)

Wolf Hall (2015)

Cardinal Woolsey finds a box of little black kittens and tells Cromwell to take them. Dawwwww!

 

Where are your favorite cats in historical costume movies and TV show? Did I miss a good one?

 

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About the author

Trystan L. Bass

Twitter Website

A self-described ElderGoth, Trystan has been haunting the internet since the early 1990s. Always passionate about costume, from everyday office wear to outrageous twisted historical creations, she has maintained some of the earliest online costuming-focused resources on the web. When she’s not dressing up in costumes, she can be found traveling the world with her sweetie and, occasionally, Kendra and Sarah. Her costuming and travel adventures are chronicled on her website, TrystanCraft. She also maintains a popular fashion blog, This Is CorpGoth, dedicated to her “office drag.”

20 Responses

  1. Donna

    Novecento … the picture you have is Donald Sutherland, not De Niro. Sutherland is evil and vile in this film … and you don’t want to see what happens to that kitty as the scene progresses. Really. You don’t. Apparently Sutherland is even scared by the guy he plays in this film.

    Reply
  2. Susan Pola

    Pyewacket in Bell, Book and Candle. Cat steels scene from the likes of Kim Nova and James Stewart also known as Jimmy Stewart. Film has Elsa Lancaster and Hermione Gingold too.

    Reply
  3. Kay

    In regards to The Three Musketeers, apparently the real Cardinal Richelieu was a cat lover and had fourteen cats and provided for their upkeep in his will.

    This version of The Three Musketeers has always been my favorite, not least of which is because Vincent Price was wonderful and has his cat, but the costumes are beautiful too, though not entirely accurate.

    Reply
  4. LindaS

    One of my favorite movies with a cat is Disney’s “The Three Lives of Thomasina,” (1963) which is set in turn-of-the-century Scotland but features 60’s versions of hairstyles. It is a touching movie with one scene set in cat heaven — golden stairs and a statue of Bast. I would post a photo of the movie poster here but I don’t see a way to do so.

    Reply
    • Kathleen

      THANK YOU for citing Thomasina! Best. Kitty. Movie. Ever. That film makes me weep.
      My Mom saw that movie in the theater when it 1st came out, and I have such good memories of watching it growing up. Its a gem, and taught me to love & respect animals at an early age, especially cats.
      I remember her telling me that when the movie was first released, the scene of Thomasina going to kitty heaven and seeing Bast was not included. Censorship at the time deemed it “too Pagan” but it was added back when released for TV/VHS. That movie was ahead of its time, and dealt with some heavy sh*t, yet had a happy ending.
      Hooray for kitties & costumes…great post!

      Reply
  5. MoHub

    Need a picture of one of Mrs. Lovett’s meat pies from before Sweeney Todd supplied her with “better” meat.

    “Them cats is fast.”

    Reply
  6. Saraquill

    It’s hard to look away from that Maverick picture. I thought boob socks only existed in badly drawn media.

    Reply

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