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Fri April 26, 2002
The Cat's Meow
This film depicts "the whisper heard most often," a tale of murder not quite so foul as foolish...
By John DeSando, WCBE's
"Rosebud" is a puzzle worth exploring in one of the world's great films, "Citizen Kane." The murder in "The Cat's Meow" is much less a mystery, and the William Randolph Hearst played by Edward Hermann is dull and lumbering by contrast with Welles' commanding magnate, Charles Foster Kane. "The Cat's Meow" is like a bunch of flappers trying to amuse themselves intellectually on a desert island with no hope of escape. It?s uncreative and hopeless.
History has it that in the 1920s someone died aboard Hearst's "Oneida;" of the many versions, this film depicts "the whisper heard most often," a tale of murder not quite so foul as foolish.
A Hearst -- Marion Davies -- Charlie Chaplin triangle is an intriguing possibility, but in the arthritic hands of Peter Bogdanovich, it seems more a Victorian stage clich? than a real-life romantic tumble. People skulk around the boat as if they were looking for a decent script, not to be found here.
Kenneth Anger's "Hollywood Babylon" treated this scandal far more boldly but of course could not replicate the dark beauty of cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel. Just as the boat interior gives the requisite twist and turns for a mystery, the camera effortlessly tracks forward and back as if dancing with the actors. It is surprisingly lithe, yet the metaphorical "Charleston" awkwardly danced by the rioters is ironically cumbersome.
Photography doesn?t alone a movie make. This ship sank, cat and all.
John DeSando co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time" and vice-chairs the board of The Film Council of Greater Columbus.