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Written by Timothy Sexton
Simone Simon was enjoying a popularity as a rising star in French cinema when Darryl F. Zanuck signed her to a Hollywood contract in 1936. Things did not quite work out and she returned to France seemingly destined to be less than a footnote in Hollywood history. That footnote was added forever when she was perfectly cast in the role of the woman whose sexuality causes her to transform into a leopard in Cat People. Although Irena dies at the end, Simon appears again in the role just two years later in one of the strangest sequels in history: The Curse of the Cat People. The film is a beautiful fantasy about the imaginary friend (or is she) of a young girl rather than a lyrical horror film like its predecessor.
Poor Smith. How on earth was he supposed that when he took on the role of Oliver Reed in Cat People there was a toddler scampering across the floor of his parents’ home in Wimbledon who would go on to become a much more famous film actor sharing the same name? If you are familiar with Oliver Reed, it is very difficult not to smile every time you hear Smith’s character called by name.
Randolph arguably is the star of the two best scenes in Cat People: the scene where she is walking alone to the bus stop and the scene where she is terrorized by sound inside the swimming pool. Randolph’s also appeared Alice—now married to Smith’s Oliver—in the horror-fantasy sequel. Her final major screen appearance was in the classic horror spoof Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.
Dr. Louis Judd
Tom Conway lets up a bit on the George Sanders impression in Cat People. Actually, Conway and Sanders were brothers and since Sanders got the meatier roles, his brother has been destined to legacy of seeming to be a poverty-row knockoff. In fact, as he proves here and even more impressively in I Walked with a Zombie—another film from the same producer-director duo—Tom Conway at this best was every bit as good as his brother.
The Cat Woman
Russell has just one scene in Cat People, but makes the most of it. Looking even more feline than Simone Simon---hence her role being a description rather than an actual name—she delivers an appropriately eerie and even menacing persona during her brief period on screen. Interestingly, Russell has a much bigger part in the sequel, although there is no indication that she is playing the same character.
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