November 21, 2011

Felines on Film: The Black Cat Auditions in Hollywood, 1961

“The biggest invitation to bad luck ever seen in one place” - LIFE magazine, 1961
Cats hate being on leads at the best of times, so what’s going on in these curious photos of kitties on leashes lined up with their owners?

These photos were taken by legendary LIFE photographer Ralph Crane in 1961. They show over 150 of the cutest and fluffiest of budding actors auditioning for a starring role in the film adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Black Cat.

In the story, the cat’s owner plasters him into a wall, along with his murdered wife. Eventually, the animal’s mewing from beyond the grave leads investigators to the woman’s body. The film adaptation, which would appear in the 1962 horror compilation Tales of Terror, adjusted the storyline by weaving in elements of another Poe tale.

Exactly 152 cats showed up for the audition, all of them “considerably less nervous than their owners.” Several were disqualified thanks to white paws or noses, but even for those left in the running, the day left dreams largely dashed. The lead role, it turned out, had already been filled by “a well-known professional cat.” Seven lucky extras, selected on account of having the meanest looking faces, were chosen as understudies.

Their owners, whose ambitions for their pets might just have exceeded those of the pets themselves, couldn’t help but let superstition get the best of them. Although they acted naturally around their own cats, “many took pains not to let any strange black cats cross their paths.”




















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