The Queen of Cats takes us back to the beginning …
(UPDATED 8/2016: We’re celebrating JULIE NEWMAR’s birthday! For more interviews and features, click here.)
It’s the 50th anniversary of the Batman television show, which debuted Jan. 12, 1966.
How to make it special? We’ve chosen to declare which episode was the series’ best: The Purr-fect Crime/Better Luck Next Time, which you can read about here.
That’s all fine and good but we weren’t there when it happened, at least most of us weren’t.
But Julie Newmar was.
I’ve had the honor and pleasure of talking with Miss Newmar many times over the last few years and she’s always quick with a laugh and a story to tell.
When I asked her about this episode the other day, I was stunned by how quickly it came together for her. I mean, think about what you were doing last Friday and think about what you’re doing tomorrow. That’s about the same amount of time it took for her to make her indelible mark on pop-culture history.
“I don’t know what other actresses were considered for Catwoman,” she told me in her distinctive purr. “Suzanne Pleshette comes to mind. I think I flew out on the weekend after I was contacted in New York, on a Friday.”
Next thing she knew she was in costume fittings and, “If I’m not wrong about all of this, we may have started shooting on Wednesday.”
And the scenes that are most memorable for her, I’m pleased to say, are the ones that are most memorable for fans, as well: the extended death-trap sequence that bridges the two halves of the episode, and the dramatic, climactic chase through a darkened cavern.
“I remember there was quite a scare about females being on in the same studio as these big cats,” she recalled of the tigers used in the episode. “I remember that it was a very expensive shoot because of having those wild animals.”
And then there was the whole cat-and-bat game, with its lady-or-the-tiger payoff:
“That’s a stunning concept,” she said. “And, what will happen when those iron spikes will drive through your magnificent flesh? And the spikes turned out to be rubber.
“That was the episode I had to disappear down a bottomless pit, jumping just below the camera lens,” she added. “I can remember dancing sort of sideways to make it appear that this was a very deep cave that I was in.
“The illusion was to make it a daring trot to the finish — and then “Aaaaaahh!” — holding onto the money as if it were everyone’s favorite pooch,” she added with a pleasing laugh.
The Purr-fect Crime was one of two Catwoman episodes to make our Top 13 Countdown. The other was That Darn Catwoman/Scat! Darn Catwoman (click here), co-starring Lesley Gore. I asked Julie about that one, as well:
“When I look at photographs of her, darling Lesley — who could walk under my own arms stretched out sideways — there she was, this little pussycat. And she was anything but this little pussycat: Smart, clever, brilliant writer of songs that she was. She’d already had big hits in the music scene and was beloved by people,” she said.
But remembering Lesley Gore as her protege, Pussycat, Julie became tickled by something else.
“Everyone that Catwoman hired to do naughty business, or carry out nefarious acts, proved to be incompetent,” she said.
I couldn’t help but laugh. Loudly.
“I know,” she agreed. “And this inwardly delighted me, as Julie Newmar, Catwoman, so much. And even today I’m making appearances, and men in black T-shirts and black masks and these too-small-fitting black bowler hats will sometimes accompany me to these conventions. And on their T-shirts it will say: HENCHMAN.
“Oh I love that so much. It’s so dear to my heart. It’s so genuinely cracks me up. It’s just plain funny: That this so-called brilliant cat-mind has these nincompoops at her beck and call and they’re always doing something wrong.”
In recalling the incongruity of it all, she used a word that — other than, say, seductive or charismatic — could be used to describe her entire time as Catwoman: