Saturday, March 30, 2013

Julie Newmar: The Original Catwoman

In 1995, Patrick Swayze, Wesley Snipes and John Leguizamo had me laughing through my tears with their portrayals of drag queen pageant winners traveling to California to compete for Drag Queen of America. They bring along a photo of actress Julie Newmar autographed with the title signature. They are stranded in a small town and eventually help the locals focus on improving their lives and their opinions of each other. When they finally arrive at the pageant, the crown is presented by Julie Newmar.

Julie Newmar is a favorite of drag queens, and she explained her fame in a 1995 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle stating, "[Drag queens] know my secret. We have three things in common. We like to play in the makeup box, wear four-inch heels--actually, mine are five--and put on lots of sparkle."

Julie Newmar as Catwoman, photographed in 1966 on the set of Batman.

To baby boomers reliving their favorite childhood stars, there are few who can compare to the curvaceous Julie Newmar. Six foot five inches of sex appeal.

Julie Newmar has lived an enchanted life. She graduated high school at 15 and toured Europe with her family. She studied ballet and was Prima Ballerina for the Los Angeles Opera. Her acting career began with Broadway musicals, and she later appeared in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. In 1964 she starred as Rhoda the Robot in the popular television series My Living Doll. In 1966 she was offered the role of Catwoman in the Batman series, a role that made her wildly popular. The popularity of Batman was unexpected and Newmar was contracted to a film during the third season of the series, so the role of Catwoman was give to the very talented Eartha Kitt. Remarkably, both women are still remembered for their outstanding performances in the same role.

Newmar's film commitment was to Mackenna's Gold (1969), which also starred Gregory Peck, Omar Sharif and Telly Savalas. Mackenna's Gold is a great film, if you can stand the illogical cutaways to a vulture in flight. Newmar plays Hesh-Ke, an attractive Indian woman who doesn't look anything like an Indian except for the trademark headband. She does have a provocative nude swimming scene in this film and truly shines in her portrayal of the jealous ex-girlfriend seeking to harm Gregory Peck's new love interest. The vulture made me laugh, but Julie Newmar kept me watching to the end.

"Tell me I'm beautiful, it's nothing. Tell me I'm intellectual - I know it. Tell me I'm funny and it's the greatest compliment in the world anyone could give me." --Actress Julie Newmar

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