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The Cat's Meow Review

By Shawn McKenzie 04/25/2002

I am about to commit movie geek blasphemy:  I hate the movie Citizen Kane!  I'll give you a minute to recover...

Now that I have made that horrible statement, I will explain myself.  I will first admit its brilliance in pioneering filmmaking techniques.  From the crane shot at the beginning to the revelation of who (or what) Rosebud was, Citizen Kane is a masterpiece.  The problem for for me is that I find it extremely boring!  I have given it many chances (four to be exact.)  Honestly, the times I watched it following the initial one were only to see if I had given it a fair shake.  After all, the American Film Institute considers it the greatest American film ever made, so it has to be good, right?

What is so wrong with Citizen Kane is so right with The Cat's Meow.  The movie takes the very interesting story of newspaper kingpin William Randolf Hearst and tells it in a way that doesn't bore you to tears.  As everyone knows, the character of Charles Foster Kane is based on Hearst.  Citizen Kane could have been so much more interesting if they had cut out large portions of what I considered filler (mainly in the interview segments.)  The Cat's Meow concentrates only on one gossip-filled weekend in Hearst's life.

That weekend is the one where one of his guests aboard his yacht died under mysterious circumstances.  There have been many versions of what happened that weekend, and this is just one more version, but it is a very entertaining one.

The key players in the movie are, of course, William Randolf Hearst (played by Edward Herrmann), his mistress actress Marion Davies (Kirsten Dunst), Charlie Chaplin (Eddie Izzard), movie producer and birthday boy that weekend Thomas Ince (Cary Elwes), gossip columnist Louella Parsons (Jennifer Tilly), and romance novelist Elinor Glyn (Joanna Lumley), who also serves as the movie's narrator.  The story revolves around a love triangle involving Hearst, Davies, and Chaplin, and the misunderstanding that lead to the death.

The main difference between Citizen Kane and The Cat's Meow is that the latter movie is NOT boring!  There is scandal, violence, sex (though all PG-13 level), and humor, something severely lacking in Citizen Kane.  This is director Peter Bogdanovich's first movie since 1993's The Thing Called Love (one of River Phoenix's last movies.)  He took a long time to pick a movie to do, but choosing this movie was a very good idea.

Here's to hoping that this might be the beginning to a new chapter in Bogdanovich's career.  Plus, with The Cat's Meow, I can finally watch a movie about William Randolf Hearst without falling asleep!


Get the soundtrack featuring great music from the 20's, with artists like Al Jolson and Louis Armstrong, plus new nostalgic-flavored music by Ian Whitcomb!

The Cat's Meow

Buy this album at

Ratings System:


Catch this movie at the theater if you can...

Wait until it comes out on video...

Wait until it plays on HBO, Showtime, Starz, etc...

Demand your money back, even if you saw it for free!

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