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The Cat’s Meow

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The Cat's Meow (2001) starring Edward Herrmann, Cary Elwes, Kirsten Dunst, Eddie Izzard
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The Cat’s Meow (2001) starring Edward Herrmann, Cary Elwes, Kirsten Dunst, Eddie Izzard

The Cat’s Meow is the semi-true story of the Hollywood murder that occurred at a star-studded gathering aboard William Randolph Hearst’s yacht in 1924.


In short, The Cat’s Meow is a fictionalized account of the death of Thomas Ince, a silent film producer. He died on William Randolph Hearst’s yacht … or was murdered. To this day, it’s unclear which.

To this day no two accounts of that weekend cruise are the same, including who, in fact, who was on the boat. There are no logs, you see, no records or photographs of any kind. And not a single person who was there wrote or spoke about that weekend, that is until significantly after the old man’s death, and even then, only in riddles. Soon after Tom’s death, Margaret Livingston’s salary inexplicably jumped from three hundred to one thousand dollars a week. Eventually she retired to manage her husband, Paul Whiteman, the band leader who popularized the Charleston. Lolly got her lifetime contract, and for the next thirty years became the most powerful and feared gossip columnist in America. Three days after Tom’s funeral Charlie married Lita Grey in Mexico. It lasted two years. He did however re-cast her role in “The Gold Rush” and re-shoot all of her scenes. Despite costing a small fortune the picture was a smashing success. It took three more years for W.R. let Marion do a full-fledged comedy. As Charlie predicted, she triumphed. She retired in 1937, but stayed by Hearst’s side until his death at the age of 88.

Elinor Glyn (Joanna Lumley)

Accordingly, this is a heavy mixture of reality and fiction. It’s enjoyable, but it shouldn’t be mistaken for history. It should be said that the acting is truly excellent. The Cat’s Meow is very well done — the costuming, sets, etc. all look beautiful and appropriate to the time period.

Editorial review of The Cat’s Meow courtesy of

Peter Bogdanovich directs this comedy of manners set in 1920s California. The film is a fictionalised account of the death of silent film producer Thomas Ince (Cary Elwes), who died mysteriously following a holiday with media mogul William Randolph Hearst (Edward Herrmann) and Hearst’s lover, starlet Marion Davies (Kirsten Dunst). Aboard Hearst’s yacht as it sets sail from San Pedro harbour is a small, distinguished group of passengers including the wildly talented but self-absorbed and lascivious Charlie Chaplin (Eddie Izzard), sardonic novelist Elinor Glyn (Joanna Lumley), gossip columnist and film critic Louella Parsons (Jennifer Tilly), and pioneering fimmaker Thomas Ince. Witty repartee, deceit and deception follow as the various intrigues and complicated schemings of the passengers unfold.

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