The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing (1973)

PG | 114-115 mins | Western | July 1973

Writer:

Eleanor Perry

Cinematographer:

Harry Stradling, Jr.

Editor:

Tom Rolf

Production Designer:

Edward C. Carfagno

Production Company:

Hollane Corporation
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HISTORY

In the opening cast credits, the principal cast names appear before the credits, ending with a title card reading "And George Hamilton as Crocker." The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing was based on the best-selling 1972 novel of the same name by first-time author Marilyn Durham (1930--). Following positive reviews and large sales of Durham's novel, her personal story, that of a housewife who loved to read suddenly deciding that she could write a novel better than most of what she read, became a news phenomenon in the early 1970s. Durham published two additional books, Dutch Uncle in 1973 and Flambard's Confession in 1982, neither of which attained the critical or financial success of The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing . The film's plot generally follows that of the novel, with two significant changes: First, in the novel, it is revealed that "Cat Dancing" dies in "Jay Gorbart's" arms after revealing the identity of the men who brutally raped and left her for dead. Jay then killed the men and was subsequently sentenced to ten years in prison for the crime. The second major difference is that, while in the film Jay lives after being shot, in the novel, he dies just before "Catherine 'Cat' Crocker" kills her husband. "Harvey Lapchance" then goes to her to offer comfort.
       HR production charts and other contemporary sources confirm that the picture was filmed on location in Kanab, UT and Arizona, with much of the location shooting taking place near Gila Bend, AZ. A HR news item on 17 Nov 1972 reported that Brian ... More Less

In the opening cast credits, the principal cast names appear before the credits, ending with a title card reading "And George Hamilton as Crocker." The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing was based on the best-selling 1972 novel of the same name by first-time author Marilyn Durham (1930--). Following positive reviews and large sales of Durham's novel, her personal story, that of a housewife who loved to read suddenly deciding that she could write a novel better than most of what she read, became a news phenomenon in the early 1970s. Durham published two additional books, Dutch Uncle in 1973 and Flambard's Confession in 1982, neither of which attained the critical or financial success of The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing . The film's plot generally follows that of the novel, with two significant changes: First, in the novel, it is revealed that "Cat Dancing" dies in "Jay Gorbart's" arms after revealing the identity of the men who brutally raped and left her for dead. Jay then killed the men and was subsequently sentenced to ten years in prison for the crime. The second major difference is that, while in the film Jay lives after being shot, in the novel, he dies just before "Catherine 'Cat' Crocker" kills her husband. "Harvey Lapchance" then goes to her to offer comfort.
       HR production charts and other contemporary sources confirm that the picture was filmed on location in Kanab, UT and Arizona, with much of the location shooting taking place near Gila Bend, AZ. A HR news item on 17 Nov 1972 reported that Brian G. Hutton had been signed by M-G-M to direct the picture, but a Var article on 27 Dec 1972 reported that Richard C. Sarafian was taking over as director because Hutton had to withdraw from the project, as post-production of his other 1973 film, Night Watch (see below), was still ongoing. According to a press release, as well as a DV news item on 2 Apr 1973, Debora Harper, a seventeen-year-old high school student from Norwalk, CA, who was of Chippewa Indian descent, had been signed to portray "Cat Dancing." Although the actress' name was included in some HR production charts, neither the actress nor the character of Cat Dancing was in the released film. A DV news item on 2 Apr 1973 reported that Mesa Bird would be protraying Shoshoni Chief Washakie, as well as acting as a technical advisor for the film. Although there is a Shoshoni chief within the story, it has not been confirmed that Mesa Bird played the role or acted as a technical advisor.
       A 20 Apr 1973 HR news items reported that composer Michel Legrand was set to write the score, which ultimately was written by John Williams. A song entitled “Dream Away,” which was based on Williams’ theme for The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing , with lyrics added by singer-songwriter Paul Williams, was introduced on NBC’s The Tonight Show on 17 Jul 1973 according to a 23 Jul Box article. The song was also included on the 1973 Frank Sinatra album Ol’ Blue Eyes Is Back .
       Both during and after principal photography, the production was plagued by problems, some of which garnered international headlines. As noted in numerous contemporary articles, on 11 Feb 1973, the body of twenty-six-year-old David A. Whiting, the manager of lead actress Sarah Miles, was found dead in the bathroom of Miles's Gila Bend, AZ motel room. An inquest into the death was called and, although news items reported that both Miles and star Burt Reynolds refused to testify, Whiting's mother successfully pursued a court order to compel them to testify.
       Much of the testimony of Reynolds and Miles was quoted in the press, leading to speculation about the details surrounding the death. Jurors at the inquest ruled that Whiting had died of an overdose of drugs but, according to several NYT articles, were unable to conclude whether his death was due to suicide or an accidental overdose. According to a 16 Mar 1973 NYT article, local Justice of the Peace Mulford Winsor IV stated that he was unsatisfied with the ruling and said that there were "a lot of unanswered questions" about Whiting's death, fueling even more speculation in the press, but nothing beyond the inquest's original findings were ever verified.
       Several weeks after Whiting's death, the production had to shut down for a week to allow Reynolds to recuperate from an emergency hernia operation. According to a 5 Apr 1973 DV article and other sources, Reynolds, who did his own stunts, injured himself during a two-day fight scene with actor Jack Warden.
       Just prior to the film's release, a dispute arose over credit for the screenplay. According to a 27 Jun 1973 Var article, and other contemporary sources, M-G-M initially had given writer William Norton shared screenwriting credit with producer-writer Eleanor Perry, but Perry protested the joint credit and sought arbitration of the matter from the WGA. According to various contemporary sources, Norton was in Italy when the WGA issued their ruling that Perry should have sole screenwriting credit. Norton subsequently filed a protest on 12 Jun 1973. According to the 27 Jun 1973 Var article, the WGA credits and arbitration committee denied the request for review by Norton, whose petition stated that he wrote "'in major portion the substance of the final screenplay'" and claimed to have been asked by M-G-M to write a new version of the screenplay by returning to Durham's novel. Norton also stated that screenwriter Robert Bolt (Miles’s husband), and Tracy Keenan Wynn had made "later additions" but that it was "my work that made the essential translation of the book to the screen."
       The issue of the screenplay generated additional controversy following publication of a 29 Jul 1973 NYT feature article by Judy Klemesrud, entitled “The Woman Who Hated Cat Dancing .” In the article, Perry was quoted as charging that M-G-M had “arbitrarily” replaced her with Norton, and further implied that sexism played a large part in the hiring of Norton and other writers. Producer Martin Poll wrote a lengthy rebuttal letter to NYT that was published on 23 Sep 1973, refuting the charges of sexism and stating, “Ms. Perry was not arbitrarily replaced in the rewriting of the script. She was offered, and accepted, the opportunity to collaborate with Bill Norton.” Poll also stated in his letter that neither actor George Hamilton, Bolt, Hutton nor Steve Shagan had contributed to the screenplay. Shagan had himself written a letter to the editor that was published in DV on 9 Aug 1973 stating that he “was never engaged to write a single word and had nothing whatsoever to do with this picture.”
       The studio-proposed advertisements for the film also led to numerous articles in the press. According to various contemporary news items, when the publicity campaign was initiated, M-G-M, possibly in an attempt to capitalize on the notoriety of Whiting's death and rumors of a relationship between Reynolds and Miles, reportedly “sexed up” the text for the film’s ads. According to a 9 Aug 1973 DV article, Reynolds objected to the fact that M-G-M executives had been informed, erroneously, that he had given approval for ad copy that read “Burt and Sarah (Miles) in the torrid love story that shocked the country!” The article went on to report that, when informed of Reynolds’ objections, the ads were changed to read “Burt and Sarah in a torrid love story that shocked the Old West!”
       When the film opened, despite the amount of publicity surrounding the production and Reynolds’ increasing popularity, it was not well received by the public or critics. While some reviewers praised the performances of Reynolds and Miles, as well as what was perceived as the story's pro-feminist point of view, many critics were negative, and the film did not do well at the box office.

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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
9 Jul 1973
p. 4606.
Box Office
23 Jul 1973.
---
Daily Variety
2 Apr 1973.
---
Daily Variety
5 Apr 1973.
---
Daily Variety
27 Apr 1973.
---
Daily Variety
19 Jun 1973
p. 1, 8.
Daily Variety
21 Jun 1973
p. 1, 7.
Daily Variety
9 Aug 1973.
---
Daily Variety
13 Aug 1973.
---
Daily Variety
15 Aug 1973.
---
Hollywood Reporter
17 Nov 1972.
---
Hollywood Reporter
2 Feb 1973
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Apr 1973
p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Jun 1973
p. 3, 10.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Aug 1973.
---
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
27 Jun 1973.
---
Los Angeles Times
27 Jun 1973
Section IV, p. 11.
Los Angeles Times
8 Jul 1973
View, p. 1, 23-24.
New York Times
4 Mar 1973.
---
New York Times
15 Mar 1973.
---
New York Times
16 Mar 1973.
---
New York Times
23 Mar 1973.
---
New York Times
29 Jul 1973
Section II, p. 1.
New York Times
23 Sep 1973
Section II, p. 9, 46.
New York Times
30 Sep 1973
Section II, p. 1.
Newsweek
16 Jul 1973
p. 85.
Publishers Weekly
10 Jan 1972.
---
Time
26 Mar 1973.
---
Time
23 Jul 1973.
---
Variety
27 Dec 1972.
---
Variety
27 Jun 1973
p. 20, 32 and 34.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Martin Poll Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Action scenes coord
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Contr wrt
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
COSTUMES
Cost des
MUSIC
MAKEUP
Hair styles
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit prod mgr
Talent consultant
Unit pub
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing by Marilyn Durham (New York, 1972).
DETAILS
Release Date:
July 1973
Premiere Information:
World premiere in Los Angeles: 26 June 1973
Los Angeles opening: 27 June 1973
New York opening: 29 August 1973
Production Date:
29 January--late April 1973 in Arizona and Utah
Copyright Claimant:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.
Copyright Date:
26 June 1973
Copyright Number:
LP42368
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Metrocolor
Widescreen/ratio
Panavision
Duration(in mins):
114-115
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

As English woman Catherine “Cat” Crocker, dressed in a proper riding habit rides through the desert in an attempt to run away from her husband, Willard Crocker, train robber Jay Grobart boards the train at Wamsutter while his accomplice, Billy Bowan, wedges dynamite into the rails down the tracks. After completing his task, Billy climbs the telegraph pole and is busily cutting the lines when Cat rides up and asks if the train stops there. Meanwhile, onboard the train, Jay and his other accomplices, Dawes and Indian Charlie, rob the baggage car of $100,000. When the train reaches the telegraph pole, Billy ignites the dynamite, blowing up the tracks, while the other robbers hop off and Jay orders the engineer to drive the train in reverse at full speed. Meanwhile, Harvey Lapchance, a Wells Fargo agent, is waiting for the train at its next stop. When it fails to arrive, he questions the bartender, who discloses that Billy had just stopped at the station the week before. Lapchance, who knows that Billy is riding with Jay, suspects that they have robbed the train, and when he learns that the telegraph line has gone dead, his suspicion is confirmed. Out in the desert, the explosion has spooked Cat’s horse, which runs off with her, and when Jay instructs Billy to bring back the horse, he returns with Cat, too. Later, while riding a handcar down the tracks to meet the train, Lapchance meets the dandified Crocker, who owns the Great Western Mining and Development Company and is looking for his wife. When they find Cat’s umbrella and hat by the tracks, ... +


As English woman Catherine “Cat” Crocker, dressed in a proper riding habit rides through the desert in an attempt to run away from her husband, Willard Crocker, train robber Jay Grobart boards the train at Wamsutter while his accomplice, Billy Bowan, wedges dynamite into the rails down the tracks. After completing his task, Billy climbs the telegraph pole and is busily cutting the lines when Cat rides up and asks if the train stops there. Meanwhile, onboard the train, Jay and his other accomplices, Dawes and Indian Charlie, rob the baggage car of $100,000. When the train reaches the telegraph pole, Billy ignites the dynamite, blowing up the tracks, while the other robbers hop off and Jay orders the engineer to drive the train in reverse at full speed. Meanwhile, Harvey Lapchance, a Wells Fargo agent, is waiting for the train at its next stop. When it fails to arrive, he questions the bartender, who discloses that Billy had just stopped at the station the week before. Lapchance, who knows that Billy is riding with Jay, suspects that they have robbed the train, and when he learns that the telegraph line has gone dead, his suspicion is confirmed. Out in the desert, the explosion has spooked Cat’s horse, which runs off with her, and when Jay instructs Billy to bring back the horse, he returns with Cat, too. Later, while riding a handcar down the tracks to meet the train, Lapchance meets the dandified Crocker, who owns the Great Western Mining and Development Company and is looking for his wife. When they find Cat’s umbrella and hat by the tracks, and discover that although four men robbed the train, five horses rode away, Lapchance realizes that Cat has been kidnapped and invites Crocker to join the posse in search of the robbers. In the desert, Jay orders the haughty Cat to make coffee, but having led a pampered life, she has never learned how. Although Lapchance tries to reassure Crocker that Jay would not hurt Cat, Crocker is only concerned about his wife’s virtue remaining intact. That night at the outlaws’ camp, Billy and Dawes try to rape Cat, but Jay stops them. The next day, as their horses tire, they approach a small ranch owned by Dub, who served as a sergeant under Jay when he was a captain in the army. Lying that Cat is his wife and the others are his friends, Jay asks Dub to make a trade for some fresh horses. As the men drink at the corral, Cat joins Dub’s wife Sudie inside the house. While Cat rinses the grime from her face, Sudie tells her that Jay was forced to leave the fort after marrying an Indian woman named Cat Dancing. They had two children, but one day when Jay found his wife with another man, he killed the man and was imprisoned for his crime. Now drunk, Billy tries to kiss Cat and after Jay pulls him off her, Dawes attacks Billy and viciously punches him in his kidneys. After Jay and the others ride off on their fresh horses, Sudie observes that Cat is not Jay’s wife. Because Billy has been severely injured by the beating, when a rainstorm strikes, they take refuge in a deserted cabin where Billy lies dying. Announcing that he has to take care of something important, Jay leaves Cat in the care of Charlie and rides off. That night, three renegade Indians descend upon the camp, and to deflect them from the saddlebags stuffed with cash, Dawes informs them that there is a woman in the cabin. After the renegades kill Charlie, Billy is shot and killed trying to protect Cat as Dawes grabs the saddlebags and flees. Just as the Indians rip off Cat’s clothes, Jay returns, shoots two of them, and when his gun jams, drowns the other. Jay tries to comfort the traumatized Cat, and the next day, after giving Charlie a proper Indian burial, tells her to put on Billy’s clothes. Lapchance, Crocker and the posse have reached Dub’s ranch, meanwhile, and spotting Cat’s horse, Crocker begins to worry that his wife has been dishonored. Upon learning from Dub that Jay is headed north into Indian territory, Lapchance invites Crocker to continue on with him, but wonders if perhaps Cat was running away. When Cat and Jay stop to bathe at a watering hole, Cat asks where Jay went the previous evening, and he says to get his children back. Jay has decided to leave Cat at a small mining town, but upon reaching it, they discover that the town is now deserted. Settling into one of the shacks, Cat begins dusting and cooking, and after they make love, Cat asks Jay why he married his wife, then admits that she married Crocker because her father needed money. The following morning, Jay is still asleep and Cat is busy straightening up the cabin when Dawes arrives and threatens to kill Jay unless Cat gives him the money. After she tosses him the saddlebag filled with cash, he rapes her. Holding the disheveled Cat at gunpoint, Dawes enters the room in which Jay is sleeping. Awakening Jay, Dawes declares he is going to kill him, but Cat elbows him in the ribs, distracting Dawes so that Jay can attack him. As the two fight, Cat grabs the gun, but when Jay orders her to shoot Dawes, she cannot pull the trigger. Grabbing the gun from her hand, Jay kills Dawes, after which they continue into Shoshoni territory. When they stop to camp, Cat surprises Jay by announcing that she would like to have his baby. The following morning, several members of the tribe arrive to take Cat and Jay to meet their chief. Once inside the teepee, Jay informs the chief that he has come to claim his children, who have been in the care of their uncle since Jay’s wife died. The chief sends for Jay’s daughter and son, Dream Speaker. When Jay tells Dream Speaker he wants to take him and his sister away and offers Iron Knife the saddlebag filled with cash for taking care of the children, Iron Knife refuses the money and accuses Jay of killing his wife for being with another man. Iron Knife then informs Jay that his wife was raped in front of Dream Speaker, and when the boy tried to tell Jay the truth, he would not listen. The boy, having witnessed Jay kill his mother, refuses to go with him. The following morning, after Jay rides out and leaves Cat behind, the posse reaches the camp. Blustering that he will deal with the “savages,” Crocker rides into the camp looking for Cat. When he finds her, he slaps her and declares that he is going to kill Jay, then departs with the posse. Jay, meanwhile, has ridden into snow country, and after his horse injures its leg, he continues on foot. Dream Speaker offers to lead Cat to Jay, and once they ride into the snow, they split up and Cat finds Jay first. As they embrace, Dream Speaker appears and Jay, and after telling him to thank Iron Knife for the help of “his son,” says goodbye. Jay and Cat spend the night in a cave, and the next morning, as Jay goes to check on Cat’s horse, the posse arrives and Crocker shoots him. Hearing gunfire, Cat runs to Jay’s body, and when Crocker comes to claim his prey, Cat shoots and kills him. Lapchance arrives soon after, and when the sobbing Cat begs Jay to stand, he pulls himself to his feet and states that he can make it. Saying that he will leave them Crocker’s horse, Lapchance walks away. +

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

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