LILLI PALMER-REX HARRISON VEHICLE IS A DELIGHT FOR 'EVERY CAT OWNER
By Raymond D. Smith
PYEWACKET IS CAT OF CATS IN "BELL, BOOK AND CANDLE"
At the Ethel Barrymore Theatre in New York,
Pyewacket, a beautiful, brooding Siamese, is giving inspired support to Lilli Palmer and Rex Harrison making "Bell, Book and Candle"
this season's outstanding comedy. A gay story mixing modern love and witchcraft, "Bell, Book and Candle" is a New York, Pyewacket, a beautiful, complete joy to the eye and ear, heart
and mind. Miss Palmer, Mr. Harrison, Pyewacket, and three other human members of the cast all give performances which with delightful lines and staging make this charming fantasy a rare experience in theatre enjoyment.
You may not have known it, author van Druten tells us, but "they", the practioners of genuine supernatural magic, are still in the world, and he gives us a beguiling glimpse of what happens to one of them, Miss Palmer, and to Pyewacket, her familiar, when love (which "they" can not countenance) enters with Mr. Harrison. On this framework, Mr. van Druten has written a heart-warming imaginative play, which is being produced with complete perfection in every detail. And, as those who know their witchcraft (and their love) must have surmised, all concerned have seen to it that love does not come off second best.
To an ordinary theatre-goer, "Bell, Book and Candle" is uncommonly rewarding; to a cat-lover, it must be one of the greatest of all plays. From the moment the curtain rises on "Pye" in Miss Palmer's arms until the Siamese is let out for last time, it is he who quietly and naturally, but confidently and surely dominates each of the several short scenes where he appears. Completely at ease—displaying at some times the unworldly disinterestedness of all cats, and at others the gloomy concentration demanded by his mistress's witching orders, Pyewacket is the cat of cats, the familiar of familiars.
For the real admirer of cats, there could be only one complaint—Pye's appearances are too few and too brief. But if they must be reminded, and they probably do, the play really is about humans who think they deserve a chance, too—a chance they haven't a ghost of with Pye's compelling presence on the stage.
Without doubt, some cat-loving author is already writing a Siamese-starring play for Pye. I hope so—he deserves it, and so do cat-lovers.
PYEWACKET GOT THAT I IN 100,000 CHANCE FOR FAME
By Anne Metcalf
Starring, shining, scintillating, I imagine (though I have not seen them) at the Ethel Barrymore theatre in New York are Lilli Palmer and Rex Harrison. Starring, shining and, I hope
scintillating right along with them is a solid-looking Siamese cat named Pyewacket. The play, "Bell, Book and Candle," concerns a present-day witch and her almost constant (from what I hear) companion, the cat Pyewacket.
Who is this cat, and here did she come from? Was she the pedigree darling of some exclusive Hollywood cattery? Some Long Island resort for felines jaded with the New York whirl? Or what?
Actually, Pyewacket's story reads like one of the Cinderella episodes that the fan magazines feature. Like Lana Turners, hers was one of those 1 in 100,000th chances. Unlike Lana, however, she was not sitting in a drugstore sipping a soda. She was incarcerated in a place called the Speyer Hospital for Animals, probably seriously questioning the meaning of life.
There she was spotted, even as the agent spotted luscious Lana, by Ethel Wald of the Irene Mayer Selznick office, who mistook the thoughtful look on the cat's face for one of docility. Here, she evidently thought, was just her girl. She could be led around by the whiskers if needs be and would quietly speak but only when spoken to, and so forth.
Once out of the Home, however, Pyewacket, like ten girls let out of boarding school at once, began to make her single presence known one way or another. The ways she took were various and sundry and worthy of any cat. They were subtle and unsubtle, loudly indignant and softly stubborn, sly, wicked, sweet, winsome, probably by turns. Of course, I did not see any of this, but I have seen a dirty alley kitten upstage a handsome, thorough-bred Doberman Pinscher puppy, so I know, in part, anyway, how resourceful a cat can be.
Tryouts for a new play are usually hectic at best. With Pyewacket they must have been unforgettable in the fullest sense of the word, but I'll bet it was interesting all along the way.
Finally, according to a story by John McLain in the New York Journal-American, in order to get Pyewacket under control, it was necessary for the producer of the play, Irene Mayer Selznick, to deliver a lecture, a final warning, really, to her.
She told her not only had an understudy named Sarah been obtained, but also an understudy for Sarah. The understudy's understudy was a stuffed cat. They say that Pyewacket quieted down immediately, stopped demanding caviar at midnight and refusing beefsteak at noon, ceased stealing lines and scenes from Miss Palmer and Mr. Harrison (than which I can imagine nothing more difficult), but on the other hand she never missed a line or cue of her own. On the one or two occasions when she did show signs of bristling temperament again, the stage manager waved the stuffed cat at her from the wings and haloes began to circle her beautiful head.
Do you know what I think, Pyewacket dear girl? I think you're wonderful! Keep your temperament, but keep it under control for the time being and well out of sight. I think you've got this thing licked. By the time the run of this highly successful play is over, you should have a substantial bank account. On closing night you and Sarah can tear that stuffed cat into shreds. Have a good time, both of you!
Mrs. Virginia Cobb - Newton, MA
I went to see "Bell, Book and Candle" in Boston. Pyewacket was actually on the stage all of 3 minuets and in Lilli Palmer's arms at that. I can't imagine why they don't put a harness on him and let him walk around. She (Lilli) acted as though she was scared to death of him and he was struggling to get away. Perhaps he did not like Boston!
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