The Curse of the Cat People (1944)

70 mins | Drama | 1944

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HISTORY

Although a HR production chart lists Mark Robson as director, Robson's name does not appear in any other source. This picture marked the feature-length directing debut of former short subject director Gunther Fritsch. According to HR news items, when Fritsch began to fall behind schedule, film editor Robert Wise (1914--2005) stepped in to direct, thus earning his first directoral credit. According to the RKO Production Files contained in the UCLA Arts Library--Special Collections, the picture was completed nine days behind schedule and was so over budget that the studio had to recalculate the entire budget upwards from $147,000 to $212,000.
       RKO tried to exploit the popularity of Val Lewton's 1942 film Cat People (see above) by titling this film Curse of the Cat People and hiring Simone Simon, Kent Smith and Jane Randolph to reprise their roles from the earlier film. Although the characters were the same in both pictures, The Curse of the Cat People was more of a fantasy than horror film and did not include the transformation of humans into cats. In an interview printed in a modern source, screenwriter DeWitt Bodeen, who wrote both films, claimed that Lewton wanted to retitle this picture Amy and Her Friend , thus eliminating any reference to the earlier film, but was overruled by the studio. A HR news item adds that scenes for the film were shot at Malibu Lake, ... More Less

Although a HR production chart lists Mark Robson as director, Robson's name does not appear in any other source. This picture marked the feature-length directing debut of former short subject director Gunther Fritsch. According to HR news items, when Fritsch began to fall behind schedule, film editor Robert Wise (1914--2005) stepped in to direct, thus earning his first directoral credit. According to the RKO Production Files contained in the UCLA Arts Library--Special Collections, the picture was completed nine days behind schedule and was so over budget that the studio had to recalculate the entire budget upwards from $147,000 to $212,000.
       RKO tried to exploit the popularity of Val Lewton's 1942 film Cat People (see above) by titling this film Curse of the Cat People and hiring Simone Simon, Kent Smith and Jane Randolph to reprise their roles from the earlier film. Although the characters were the same in both pictures, The Curse of the Cat People was more of a fantasy than horror film and did not include the transformation of humans into cats. In an interview printed in a modern source, screenwriter DeWitt Bodeen, who wrote both films, claimed that Lewton wanted to retitle this picture Amy and Her Friend , thus eliminating any reference to the earlier film, but was overruled by the studio. A HR news item adds that scenes for the film were shot at Malibu Lake, CA. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
19 Feb 1944.
---
Daily Variety
17 Feb 44
p. 3.
Film Daily
21 Feb 44
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Aug 43
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Sep 43
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Sep 43
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Sep 43
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Nov 43
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Feb 44
p. 4.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
15 Jan 44
p. 1715.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
19 Feb 44
p. 1762.
New York Times
3 Mar 44
p. 11.
Variety
23 Feb 44
p. 10.
DETAILS
Premiere Information:
New York opening: week of 2 March 1944
Production Date:
26 August--4 October 1943
addl scenes week of 21 November 1943
Copyright Claimant:
RKO Radio Pictures, inc.
Copyright Date:
17 February 1944
Copyright Number:
LP12595
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
70
Length(in feet):
6,299
Country:
United States
PCA No:
9618
SYNOPSIS

Six-year old Amy Reed inhabits a fantasy world in which butterflies are her friends. Amy's fancy troubles her father, Oliver Reed, because her behavior reminds him of his first wife Irena, whose madness drove her to death. After Oliver discovers that Amy has placed the invitations to her birthday party in a "magic tree" mailbox, he asks her to promise to make friends with the neighborhood children. Amy's attempt at friendliness is spurned by the children, who run away from her. Amy follows them, and as she pauses at the gate of an old house, an old woman's voice beckons her into the garden. From the window, the woman drops a ring wrapped in a handkerchief. Amy takes the ring, but the handkerchief is snatched from her by Barbara Farren, the old woman's sinister daughter. When Amy returns home and tells her father about the voice from the window, he refuses to believe her. Alice Reed, Amy's mother, disagrees with his assessment of their daughter, and the two argue. While playing in the garden one afternoon, Amy wishes for a friend. Suddenly, leaves begin to fall from the trees, the light glistens and Amy begins to run and play with her imaginary friend. That night, Alice tells Amy that she must return the ring, and the next day, the little girl goes to the Farren house. There she meets Julia Farren, Barbara's demented mother, who insists that her daughter is dead and that Barbara is a spy. As the theatrical Julia terrifies Amy with the story of the headless horseman, Edward, the Reeds' servant, arrives to take the little girl home. ... +


Six-year old Amy Reed inhabits a fantasy world in which butterflies are her friends. Amy's fancy troubles her father, Oliver Reed, because her behavior reminds him of his first wife Irena, whose madness drove her to death. After Oliver discovers that Amy has placed the invitations to her birthday party in a "magic tree" mailbox, he asks her to promise to make friends with the neighborhood children. Amy's attempt at friendliness is spurned by the children, who run away from her. Amy follows them, and as she pauses at the gate of an old house, an old woman's voice beckons her into the garden. From the window, the woman drops a ring wrapped in a handkerchief. Amy takes the ring, but the handkerchief is snatched from her by Barbara Farren, the old woman's sinister daughter. When Amy returns home and tells her father about the voice from the window, he refuses to believe her. Alice Reed, Amy's mother, disagrees with his assessment of their daughter, and the two argue. While playing in the garden one afternoon, Amy wishes for a friend. Suddenly, leaves begin to fall from the trees, the light glistens and Amy begins to run and play with her imaginary friend. That night, Alice tells Amy that she must return the ring, and the next day, the little girl goes to the Farren house. There she meets Julia Farren, Barbara's demented mother, who insists that her daughter is dead and that Barbara is a spy. As the theatrical Julia terrifies Amy with the story of the headless horseman, Edward, the Reeds' servant, arrives to take the little girl home. That night, Amy has a nightmare about the headless horseman and calls to her friend to comfort her. Summoned by Amy's call, a gentle wind followed by a shadow enters the room. The next morning, Amy finds an old photo of Irena in a desk drawer, and when she goes into the garden and calls to her friend, Irena appears. Fall passes into winter, and on Christmas Eve, Amy slips out of the house to present Irena with her gift. Amy also has a gift for Julia, who delights in the little girl's visit, while denouncing her own daughter. Later, Amy finds a photo of Oliver and Irena and announces that the woman in the picture is her friend. Alarmed, Oliver accompanies Amy to the garden and tells her to summon her friend. When Amy insists that Irena is standing under a tree, Oliver punishes the little girl. As Amy, chastened, sobs in her room, Irena appears and tells her that she must leave forever. After bidding Amy farewell, Irena disappears into the shadows. Looking for Irena, Amy sneaks out of the house and wanders into the woods just as snow begins to fall. Amy's teacher, Miss Callahan, has been visiting the family and disagrees with Oliver's punishment of his daughter, urging him instead to become the little girl's friend. When Oliver goes to Amy's room to apologize, he discovers that she is missing, and after he calls the police, they begin to search the woods. Meanwhile, Amy, who is caught in a raging blizzard, remembers the story of the headless horseman and hears hoofbeats in the distance. Amy cringes in fear as the sound of hoofbeats turns into the rattling of an old car, sending the little girl scurrying to the Farren house for refuge. Barbara has vowed to kill Amy if she returns to the house, and consequently, when Amy knocks at the door, Julia tries to hide her upstairs, but collapses and dies on the staircase. Suddenly appearing at the foot of the stairs, Barbara menacingly advances toward Amy until the little girl calls for her friend. In Amy's eyes, the image of Barbara is replaced with that of Irena, and the child embraces her antagonist. Amy's embrace disarms Barbara, who hugs the child. At that moment, Oliver and the police arrive at the house, and Oliver promises to be Amy's friend and accept her imaginary companions. No longer needed, Irena disappears. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.