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In November of 1924, a mysterious Hollywood death occurred aboard media mogul William Randolph Hearst's yacht. Among the famous guests that weekend were: film star Charlie Chaplin; starlet Marion Davies (who was also Hearst's mistress at the time); silent-film producer Thomas H. Ince (known for creating the first Hollywood-studio facility and for creating an "assembly line" system for filmmaking); and feared gossip columnist, Louella Parsons. Written by
Carol Lewis, Producer
Man in crowd:
Stop pushing! Stop pushing!
[unintelligible yells from crowd]
Man in crowd:
Please, calm down!
In November of 1924, during a weekend yacht party bound for San Diego, a mysterious death occurred within the Hollywood community. However there was no coverage in the press, no police action, and of the fourteen passengers on board only one was ever questioned by authorities. Little evidence exists now or existed at the time to support any version of those weekend events. History has been ...
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The characters, entities, and events depicted and the names used in this motion picture are ficticious. Any similarities to any actual persons living or dead or to any actual entities or events is entirely coincidental and unintentional. See more »
`The Cat's Meow' is a mildly enjoyable telling of a notorious tall story that has been told in Hollywood for nearly eighty years.
Super-magnate William Randolph Hearst (Edward Herrmann) invites a diverse mix of Hollywood biggest names and its oddest fringe dwellers to celebrate the birthday of famed director Thomas Ince (Cary Elwes) aboard his luxury yacht. Things begin to fall apart when Hearst suspects a guest - none other than Charlie Chaplin (Eddie Izzard), the most famous man in the world - of having an affair with his actress girlfriend, Marion Davies (Kirsten Dunst).
Although the film is entertaining, there is something underwhelming about it. Its stage origins are obvious - characters perambulate from plot point to plot point, spouting exposition, never appearing much more than caricatures, and thus failing to evoke much sympathy.
The casting of Eddie Izzard in the pivotal role of Charles Chaplin is a grave mistake, though the script saddles him with a most unsatisfactory characterisation of Chaplin to work with. Chaplin was not a serial romancer, as is implied in the film, but a serial seducer. He would have been the last person to urge a woman to run away with him on the basis of undying love. He spent his most famous years running from women who suggested exactly that, freely admitting to them that while sex was a pleasant diversion, his work came before any woman. It's a casting decision that is an obvious attempt to distance us from the Little Tramp as opposed to Chaplin the real man, but we never get a true sense of either. Ironically, Izzard actually resembles the real Thomas Ince far more than does Cary Elwes, and as a real-life cabaret performer could conceivably have brought the flamboyance and eccentricity of the real-life director to life better than Elwes does.
The film also takes an annoyingly facile view of women, perpetuating the dull cliche that all women spent the 1920s with a bad case of St Vitus' dance and addicted to laughing gas. The grating performances of Claudie Blakley and Chiara Schoras in particular throw the beautifully understated efforts of Kirsten Dunst into high relief. Dunst feels like the only real person in this cast of cartoon characters - beautiful, funny, and vital, she is the best thing in the film. Yet there is never any moment in the movie to suggest the true depth of her dedication and passion for Hearst (portrayed as a roly-poly father figure rather than the hard nosed businessman he was), nor any justification for leaving him for the roguish but uncharismatic Chaplin. Unfortunately, the more interesting conflicts in Marion's life, such as her growing alcoholism and her dissatisfaction with Hearst's insistence on casting her in leaden romances rather than the comedy to which she was so obviously suited, are only touched on lightly.
Though it could have been a thought-provoking and complex experience, as Joanna Lumley's poignant final statements imply (and like `Gosford Park' to which it has been compared), in the end `The Cat's Meow' doesn't feel much more substantial than your average game of Cluedo.
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