The LEE MERIWETHER INTERVIEWS: The actress recounts how she got the Catwoman gig — and what it was like being part of the Fearsome Foursome.
UPDATED 5/27/21: Lee Meriwether turns 86! Enjoy this morsel from 2017’s THE LEE MERIWETHER INTERVIEWS! Oh, and if you want your own United Underworld playset, click here. — Dan
In the first entry of The LEE MERIWETHER INTERVIEWS, Batman’s second Catwoman went out on a limb and picked her favorite Feline Fatale. (Click here to see which actress got the nod.)
In this installment, the gracious Lee Meriwether talks about how she got the Catwoman gig to begin with, how rewarding it was to work with her fellow villains — and what she learned.
NOTE: Parts of the interview are edited and condensed for clarity.
Dan Greenfield: For readers who are unaware, how did you end up with the role? Of course, Julie Newmar played Catwoman in the first season and the film was in between the first and second seasons…
Lee Meriwether: Well, Julie got a film job long before they were doing the movie and so she was already ensconced in that and couldn’t get out of it. So they had women reading for the part and I read for the part. And luckily I got it.
Dan: What do think it was that sold them on bringing you on?
Lee: Well, luckily I grew up with cats. I love cats, and so I sat in a chair — it was wonderful that they gave me a rather big armchair, so that I could kind of snuggle up. And I started kneading my knees and licking my hands (laughs), brushing my face and everything while I was talking to them and reading the part.
I’ve been lucky in that I can pretty much fake most accents (from) playing them in different plays and all that, so that it was relatively easy to do Kitka — Kitanya Irenya Tatanya Kerenska Alisoff.
Dan (laughs): That’s great that you even remember that off the top of your head. I don’t even think I could remember the whole name.
Lee: It took me 15 minutes to learn it on set. They changed the (shooting) sequence. And all of a sudden they were doing a scene that I hadn’t really worked on. And there it was, it’s when I say that name and I said, “Oh, please give me 10 minutes, please can I have 10 minutes?” And they said, “Sure, go.” And so in 10 minutes I learned “Kitanya Irenya Tatanya Kerenska Alisoff.” Every once in awhile it comes back to me again.
Dan: What else do you remember about being on the set of the movie?
Lee: I just loved working. I think I’m the luckiest Catwoman ever because I got to work with Burgess Meredith, Cesar Romero and Frank Gorshin. And Adam and Burt, of course. But, those three gave me so much in how they comported themselves around the set. How they came prepared. How they would work on bits.
For example, Burgess, when we were in the submarine, he had his ever-present cigarette holder and the cigarette hanging from his mouth. And I watched him, and he’s off in the corner (mimes Meredith’s Penguin growl practicing the line): “Run silent. Run deep.” And he’s trying to get the holder to fall on “deep,” but not lose it out of his mouth.
And he’s doing it (repeatedly) and I watch and I thought that is dedication. That is dedication.
And then Cesar Romero worked any number of times with his buzzers that make sparks and things like that. And he was trying to figure out how he was going to do it too. He worked out (the gag). And I thought, “Oh, this is wonderful.” I’m being schooled in technique.
Dan: When was the last time you actually saw the movie?
Lee: Just a very short time ago, here in Los Angeles, they played it as part of a film festival here and Adam and I were interviewed afterwards. It was fun. It was really great.
Dan: What do you think of it now, 50-plus years later?
Lee: I still laugh at it. I mean I still have great memories of it and thinking about Burgess and Cesar and Frank gone now, and it was a joy to see them yet again just really there and having fun and all those wonderful memories. I count myself as being very fortunate to have had that experience. I really do.
MORE From THE LEE MERIWETHER INTERVIEWS
— Meow! LEE MERIWETHER Picks the Greatest CATWOMAN. Click here.
— LEE MERIWETHER on the Sadness of VICTOR BUONO. Click here.
January 30, 2017
Lee originally stated, years ago, Julie hurt her back which is why she wasn’t in the film. Entertainment sources, like Variety, also stated, in 1966, Julie couldn’t do the film because of an “injury”. Julie was originally cast as The Catwoman in the film so the reason she was doing another movie is shaky at best.
May 27, 2020
I believe she was committed to McKenna’s Gold (with Gregory Peck?)
February 4, 2022
I met Lee some years back and I got her to confirm something I’d suspected for years. As she and Burgess Meredith are on the floor, sweeping dehydrated goons into test tubes, he reminds her “Every one of them has a mother”. You can see her eyes close, and the corners of her mouth start to curl.
“Were you about to burst out laughing?” I asked her, and the memory made her burst out laughing all over again. Burgess had slipped that ad-lib in there, and they had JUST enough frames of film to save the take.