The Cat’s Meow (review)

Golden Age movie mogul Thomas Ince, 42, died in his home on November 19, 1924, from heart failure. Or was he shot to death during a weekend yachting party hosted by newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst? This snippet of Roaring 20s snarkiness favors the latter explanation for one of early Hollywood’s great mysteries, and speculates cattily on the juicy details. Based on Steven Peros’s play and directed stolidly by Peter Bogdanovich, this larkish, darkish, irresistibly gossipy bit of fluff may not have much point, but damn is it a lot of mean-spirited fun at the expense of those who sold their souls for fame and fortune. And the cast is to die for: 1) Edward Herrmann, scary and pathetic as a maniacal, paranoid Hearst, benefactor and love slave to 2) Kirsten Dunst (Crazy/Beautiful) as actress Marion Davies, just right as a bird in a gilded cage who contemplates escaping with 3) Eddie Izzard (Mystery Men), who is suddenly a not-to-be-missed actor with his performance as a tormented Charlie Chaplin, caught in a new scandal and trying to evade the professional attention of 4) Jennifer Tilly (Monsters, Inc.) as the hungry and not-as-dumb-as-she-looks gossipmonger Louella Parsons, who is also tries to sink her claws into 5) Joanna Lumley, as the scrumptiously pointed and shrewd grand- old- dame gossipmonger Elinor Glyn. And then there’s 6) Cary Elwes (Shadow of the Vampire) as Ince, sad and defeated, on the downhill side of his career (Ince, that is, not Elwes), practically begging Hearst for a business partnership — which surely would have been akin to a pact with the devil — and ending up with something much worse. Alone on the ocean, these volatile personalities stew until they explode, and though The Cat’s Meow just sorta comes to a so-what ending and stops short, the getting there is delicious.

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