Maggie the Cat, the sex-starved slip-covered wife at the heart of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (discussed earlier this week) is not just alive, she keeps coming back to life. True to her feline symbolism she's had several of them, eight bigs ones actually. Who will risk playing Maggie the Cat's ninth major life and how soon will that be?
Here is a history of the key Maggies for those who love the play... or just if you like to see major actresses in their lingerie. Have you ever seen a production of this play anywhere or just the 1958 film? Do tell in the comments. Would love to hear Tin Roof stories.
1955 ~ Original Maggie
Barbara Bel Geddes, originated the role on Broadway in the 1956 and won a Tony nomination. (She lost to Julie Harris in "The Lark"). Other Key Roles: I Remember Mama (1947, Oscar nomination. Lost to Claire Trevor in Key Largo), "Midge" in Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958), "Mary, Mary" on Broadway (1961, Tony nomination), and "Miss Ellie Ewing" on Dallas (1978-1990, 3 nominations/1 win at the Emmys)
1958 ~ Legendary Maggie
Elizabeth Taylor slinked, steamed, pawed and nagged her way to consecutive Oscar nomination #2 in the 1958 film version of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Suddenly Last Summer was Oscar nom #3 in 1959. Then a win for her fourth consecutive nomination for BUtterfield 8 (1960). Many more Liz photos in the gallery section of the site. If you've been away, catch up on the Liz commemorative posts.
Elizabeth is not the only two time Oscar winner who played Maggie. Lots of stars have slinked around in that white slip: Jessica Rabbit, a Dreamgirl, and even one of Elizabeth's few rivals in 60s Movie Superstardom.
1974 ~Cognoscenti's Maggie
Elizabeth Ashley's early 60s film breakout gave way to a highly acclaimed theatrical career with lots of guest starring TV roles on the side. She won raves and a Tony nomination for the sexually charged 70s revival of Broadway. People Magazine featured her in their Stage section at the time.
'I was one of those people who became a 'star' very young, and I turned into a monstrous human beging - Bessie von Bitch, they called me. I was in analysis forever.'
She now sees herself as made for the stage - 'a leading woman who can handle anything they've got, but God knows I'm not a movie star.'
Other Key Roles: The original Corie from Broadway's Barefoot in the Park (Jane Fonda got the movie role); "Mollie" in Take Her She's Mine" (1962 Tony Award); Monica in The Carpetbaggers (1964, Golden Globe nomination); Jenny in the Best Picture nominee Ship of Fools (1965); Recently played Mattie Fae in August: Osage County (replacement).
Jessica Rabbit, a Dreamgirl and some crazy oroborus-style Jessica Lange trivia after the jump.
1976 ~ Shrinking Maggie
Natalie Wood unfortunately peaked early, the bulk of her iconic roles (Rebel Without a Cause, West Side Story, Splendor in the Grass etc...) coming during her childhood to early 20s. In the 70s, her movie career dwindling, she tried stage roles and television, strangely opting for remakes of classic films; that's not the safest way to get great reviews, hon. She took on memories of Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity and then risked Maggie in the significant shadow of one of her major peers in 60s superstardom. You know who.
1984 ~ Especially Catty Maggie
Jessica Lange made a surprise small screen detour during the peak years of her movie stardom to do Maggie for PBS. I remember watching this on TV very late at night. My only memory of Lange's performance is that she was literalizing some of the cattiness with pawing / clawing gestures? But I could be making this up. Half asleep while watching and too young to get Cat's sexuality, was I.
TRIVIA-SPLOSION: Tommy Lee Jones played Brick in that special and unlike today's TV world, which grants automatic Emmy nods to big screen stars when they lead TV films, neither of them were nominated, though a couple of supporting players were. Here's the crazier part: Jones and Lange would reunite for Blue Sky (1994). Lange's character actually quotes Blanche Dubois in that movie. Lange won her second Oscar for that role in March of 1995 and then by October of that same year she was on television in the role her Blue Sky character liked to quote! Her turn in TV's A Streetcar Named Desire (1995) fared better than her Cat... as she was Emmy nominated (She lost to Helen Mirren in Prime Suspect).
1990 ~ End of an Era Maggie
Kathleen Turner ended her spectacularly sexy Decade of Superstardom not with a final movie role but on Broadway as sex-starved Maggie. She was Tony nominated. [Editors Note: I couldn't find a suitable big photo, so I've used this painting from Dave DeCaro. You can see more of his artwork here.] From Body Heat (1981) to Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1990), Kathleen was it. To readers who were alive during the 1980s, can I get an "amen"? Almost immediately afterwards her huge career took a downturn, the tailspin beginning with VI Warshawski, 1991. She's thankfully found second-act career life on the stage so perhaps Maggie pointed the way. We're very pleased about this as she's simply a great actor. She's back on Broadway now for "High". Will she win another Tony nomination?
2003 ~ Controversial Maggie
Ashley Judd played Maggie for the third Broadway revival. The production was not terribly enthused about and the media was far more interested in the backstage drama. It was well known during the run that Judd & Jason Patric (as Brick) were not getting along in the least. Eight years later he's still tell you so. He recently told Entertainment Weekly that she was "lazy, selfish and arrogant." You don't often hear actors dissing other actors that publicly. Which makes you wonder about what it was like for the other actors 8 shows a week for 5 months. [Updated for correction] Ned Beatty and Margo Martindale as Big Daddy and Big Mamma won fine reviews but only Martindale was Tony nominated. Beatty had to settle for the Drama Desk win.
2008 ~ Dreamgirl Maggie
Anika Noni Rose led the recent Broadway effort which reimagined Cat with an all black cast. Frequent Oscar choreographer Debbie Allen directed the limited engagement to poor reviews but sold out houses. No Tony nominations, though.
Other Key Roles: Emmie in "Caroline or Change" (Marvelous show. She won the "Featured" aka "Supporting" Tony Award), Lorrell in Dreamgirls (2006, SAG ensemble nomination), and "Tiana" in The Princess and the Frog (2009).
Thus concludes Tennessee Williams Week.
We revisited Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Suddenly Last Summer, The Fugitive Kind, The Rose Tattoo, and had a big web party for A Streetcar Named Desire. Hope you enjoyed!
Brick: What is the victory of a cat on a hot tin roof?
Maggie: Just stayin' on it, I guess.
None of us touched on The Glass Menagerie which is probably the big miss this week. I also really meant to get to the Geraldine Page double feature of Summer & Smoke and Sweet Bird of Youth as I do have something to say about those. Maybe a Geraldine Page triple-feature next month? We never talk about her and we should. We've never even talked about A Trip To Bountiful. Gah, never enough time, is there?