Track of the Cat


1h 42m 1954

Brief Synopsis

A murderous panther haunts a dysfunctional pioneer family.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Drama
Western
Release Date
Nov 27, 1954
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Wayne-Fellows Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Mount Rainier, Washington, USA; Mount Rainier, Washington, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Track of the Cat by Walter Van Tilburg Clark (New York, 1949).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 42m
Sound
4-Track Stereo (35 mm magnetic prints) (RCA Sound System), Mono (35 mm optical prints)
Color
Color (Warnercolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.55 : 1

Synopsis

In the late 1890s, on a California mountain ranch owned by the Bridges family, old Joe Sam, a former Piute chief who works as ranchhand, alerts the eldest son, Arthur, that their nemesis, a black "painter," or mountain lion, has returned with the first snow and is killing off livestock. As the gentle Art and his domineering brother Curtis prepare to track down the cat, the rest of the family awakens at daybreak. At breakfast, Curt, who has been running the ranch for the family, bullies his siblings, including spinster Grace and their youngest brother Harold, called "Hal." Curt takes perverse pleasure in baiting Hal's visiting girl friend, Gwendolyn Williams. Ma Bridges, their bitter, Bible-quoting mother who dotes on Curt, feels threatened by Gwen and demands to know Hal's intentions, reminding him that he cannot support a wife. Art, the peacemaker of the family, suggests that Curt, who has maintained tight control over ranch affairs, give Hal a share of the ranch and that the family hold an old-fashioned house-raising, so Hal can be free to start his own family. Art petitions Pa for support, but the older man, a former scholar who has become an alcoholic, says he has not had a say in ranch matters for years. Although Gwen is able to confront Curt while fending off Ma's coldness and Pa's amorous attention, she is frustrated that Hal refuses to stand up to Curt in her defense. After Art and Curt leave, Hal explains to Gwen that Joe Sam first saw the mountain lion years ago, after it killed the last of his family. Hal says he usually carves a wooden figure of the animal for the superstitious Joe Sam, who believes it keeps them safe, but the snow, along with the cat, came before the carving was finished. Meanwhile, as they trail the cat, Art again tries to speak on Hal's behalf, but Curt refuses to listen. Realizing that the cat has gotten away, Curt returns home alone to get snowshoes and food, so they can continue to track it in the mountains. After Curt leaves, the cat returns and kills Art, and at the ranch, Joe Sam senses what has happened. When Curt shows up for supplies, he again harasses the weaker members of the family and, before leaving, blames the mountain lion, which he claims to be the evil in everybody, for the trouble in the world. Back on the trail, Curt finds his brother's body and ties it to his horse, but the horse shies from the smell of blood on Art's cowskin coat. After exchanging his bright red coat for Art's, he sends the horse home, vowing to kill the mountain lion. When the horse bearing Art arrives at the ranch, Ma lays her son out, admitting to Hal that she and Curt fought Art, who defended the rest of the family. Later, Ma sees Hal and Gwen kissing, and orders Gwen off the ranch, but Pa drunkenly accuses Ma of withholding love. Hal prepares to leave with Gwen, but Ma manipulates him into staying to see to Art's burial. Frustrated that Hal never stands up for himself, Gwen decides to make the trip home alone, until Hal, for once taking control, orders her to wait until he has finished. Meanwhile, Curt takes refuge in a cave for the night, but finds that the food he brought from home is in the coat he sent back with Art. In Art's coat pocket, he finds a book of John Keats's poems and panics when he reads the line, "When I have fears that I may cease to be¿." The next day, at the family's simple graveside ceremony, Ma grieves about the things she should have said when Art was alive. Later, as Hal again prepares to leave with Gwen, Ma orders Hal to build a great bonfire to show Curt the way home. Pulling Hal aside, Grace warns him to escape while he can, but, as Ma expects, Hal stays. Meanwhile, Curt, who is still stalking the cat, tries to build a fire. With his last match, he sets fire to Art's book, but falling snow from a nearby tree puts it out. Thinking he sees a bonfire in the distance, the now irrational Curt runs toward it and falls to his death over a cliff. After three days, despite the peace Curt's absence brings, Hal and Joe Sam set out to look for him. Mourning that Curt will die with her sin on his soul, Ma recalls that Pa did not want to leave civilization and that all of them, especially Grace, have suffered because of her insistence. On the trail, after Joe Sam finds Curt's trail leading over the cliff, the cat suddenly appears and Hal shoots it. Joe Sam then announces that there will be no more trouble, because Hal is now the head of the family. Hal and Joe Sam return home, and as they approach the farmhouse, they see the family, now united, working together to keep the bonfire burning.





Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Drama
Western
Release Date
Nov 27, 1954
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Wayne-Fellows Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Mount Rainier, Washington, USA; Mount Rainier, Washington, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Track of the Cat by Walter Van Tilburg Clark (New York, 1949).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 42m
Sound
4-Track Stereo (35 mm magnetic prints) (RCA Sound System), Mono (35 mm optical prints)
Color
Color (Warnercolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.55 : 1

Articles

Track of the Cat


Sometimes even great directors stumble when they attempt bold experiments. William A. Wellman's existential Western, Track of the Cat (1954), is often crudely symbolic with a claustrophobic sense of gloom and doom. In his autobiography, Wellman judged the film "a flop artistically, financially, and Wellmanly." But that's being a little severe. This is a fascinating misfire that, if for no other reason, is worth watching for one of the more unique visual schemes in movie history. At times, the stark, color-drained imagery is genuinely haunting.

The story opens on a ranch in California, where a snowstorm has trapped the Bridges family on their ranch. The family unit is a bickering group that's controlled by cold-hearted Ma Bridges (Beulah Bondi.) The father (Philip Tonge) is an alcoholic who's been worn to a nub by his domineering wife. The daughter, Grace (Teresa Wright), is lonely and embittered, but she has nothing on the three sons, Harold (Tab Hunter), Arthur (William Hopper), and Curt (Robert Mitchum), whose bickering is constant. The introduction of a close neighbor (Diana Lynn) who has eyes for Harold only serves to bring the simmering tensions to a boiling point. When an unseen panther starts killing the cattle, the lost-and-betrayed metaphors begin piling up like kindling.

According to Tab Hunter in his autobiography, working with such a distinguished cast and director was a little intimidating at first and the actual production was often a physical ordeal. "The late-spring weather was unpredictable [at Mount Rainier], with magnificent sunshine suddenly consumed by cloudbursts, and rain turning the mountain snow to slush. Things were just as tricky when we moved to Stage 22 on the Warners lot, where exterior scenes of the family's house and barn were re-created. It's a real challenge to act cold while dressed in full winter wardrobe on a broiling set, during a heat wave, as fake snowflakes stick to your sweating face."

On the positive side was Hunter's working relationship with Wellman. "Despite his obsession with visual innovations, Wellman maintained a human touch with actors," Hunter observed. The director "was terrific at setting the tone for a scene, like a conductor who knew all the notes and how they should be played: by far the best director I'd worked with." Hunter was equally impressed with co-star Robert Mitchum who "approached work like a day laborer delivering a truckload of rocks to your backyard. 'What picture are we shooting today!' he'd crack on the drive to the location. Such coolness was actually made possible by a photographic memory - one glance at a script page, and Mitch had his lines down cold. He was the quickest study I'd ever seen."

Mitchum, as always, steals the film from his cast mates; he simply exudes menace, and you can't take your eyes off of him. But there's no denying the wacky allure of Carl Switzer, who made his name as "Alfalfa" in The Little Rascals, playing a 100 year-old Indian! Switzer's performance was well-received by critics at the time, though most of them were less enthusiastic about the film itself.

If you think Track of the Cat suffers from a weak script, you're not the only one - Wellman's screenwriter, A.I. Bezzerides felt the same way. After delivering a first draft of the screenplay to producer John Wayne (yes, that John Wayne), Bezzerides was stunned to hear that Wellman felt they were ready to start filming. "I said, 'Bill, it needs cutting. It'll take a couple of weeks.' He said, 'No, I like it. Any changes, I'll do them.' I said, 'Don't you understand? It's over-written. The scenes have to be worked on.' Wellman said, 'No, it's perfect.' He had so fallen in love with the script that he wouldn't touch a word of it. And he didn't. And oh my God, that's going too far. I'm not untouchable. But he wouldn't listen."

So, yes, there are some script problems. However, Wellman and his gifted cinematographer, William Clothier, did something very interesting while filming Track of the Cat. For several years, Wellman had been itching to shoot a picture in color while focusing almost solely on black and white images. He felt that the barren physical and emotional landscape of Track of the Cat perfectly suited his needs. Aside from a few splashes of color here and there (Mitchum's red coat, in particular, stands out as an exception), everything in the film is either black, white, or some shade of gray. Even such props as food spread out on the dinner table are pale. It's a strangely unnerving gambit by Wellman, but it pays off. Wellman later remembered the first time he viewed the rushes with Clothier: "Never have I seen such beauty, a naked kind of beauty. Bill and I saw the first print back from the lab. We sat there together drooling."

Too bad their enthusiasm wasn't shared by Jack Warner, whose studio's money was tied up in the picture. "I'm spending five hundred thousand dollars more for color and there's no color in this thing!" he reportedly shouted. Wellman's poetic response was that if Warner didn't like it, he could "go s**t in his hat." Exactly how that would have helped is unclear, but it seems unlikely that Warner took him up on it.

Director: William A. Wellman
Producers: John Wayne, Robert Fellows
Screenplay: A.I. Bezzerides (based on the novel by Walter Van Tilburg Clark)
Cinematography: William H. Clothier
Editing: Fred MacDowell
Music: Roy Webb
Art Design: Alfred Ybarra
Set Design: Ralph S. Hurst
Costume Design: Gwen Wakeling
Makeup: Gordon Bau, George Bau
Principal Cast: Robert Mitchum (Curt Bridges), Teresa Wright (Grace Bridges), Diana Lynn (Gwen Williams), Tab Hunter (Hal Bridges), Beulah Bondi (Ma Bridges), Philip Tonge (Pa Bridges), William Hopper (Arthur), Carl Switzer (Joe Sam).
C-103m. Letterboxed.

by Paul Tatara

Sources:

Robert Mitchum: Baby,I Don't Care by Lee Server (St. Martin's Press)

Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star by Tab Hunter with Eddie Muller (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill)
Track Of The Cat

Track of the Cat

Sometimes even great directors stumble when they attempt bold experiments. William A. Wellman's existential Western, Track of the Cat (1954), is often crudely symbolic with a claustrophobic sense of gloom and doom. In his autobiography, Wellman judged the film "a flop artistically, financially, and Wellmanly." But that's being a little severe. This is a fascinating misfire that, if for no other reason, is worth watching for one of the more unique visual schemes in movie history. At times, the stark, color-drained imagery is genuinely haunting. The story opens on a ranch in California, where a snowstorm has trapped the Bridges family on their ranch. The family unit is a bickering group that's controlled by cold-hearted Ma Bridges (Beulah Bondi.) The father (Philip Tonge) is an alcoholic who's been worn to a nub by his domineering wife. The daughter, Grace (Teresa Wright), is lonely and embittered, but she has nothing on the three sons, Harold (Tab Hunter), Arthur (William Hopper), and Curt (Robert Mitchum), whose bickering is constant. The introduction of a close neighbor (Diana Lynn) who has eyes for Harold only serves to bring the simmering tensions to a boiling point. When an unseen panther starts killing the cattle, the lost-and-betrayed metaphors begin piling up like kindling. According to Tab Hunter in his autobiography, working with such a distinguished cast and director was a little intimidating at first and the actual production was often a physical ordeal. "The late-spring weather was unpredictable [at Mount Rainier], with magnificent sunshine suddenly consumed by cloudbursts, and rain turning the mountain snow to slush. Things were just as tricky when we moved to Stage 22 on the Warners lot, where exterior scenes of the family's house and barn were re-created. It's a real challenge to act cold while dressed in full winter wardrobe on a broiling set, during a heat wave, as fake snowflakes stick to your sweating face." On the positive side was Hunter's working relationship with Wellman. "Despite his obsession with visual innovations, Wellman maintained a human touch with actors," Hunter observed. The director "was terrific at setting the tone for a scene, like a conductor who knew all the notes and how they should be played: by far the best director I'd worked with." Hunter was equally impressed with co-star Robert Mitchum who "approached work like a day laborer delivering a truckload of rocks to your backyard. 'What picture are we shooting today!' he'd crack on the drive to the location. Such coolness was actually made possible by a photographic memory - one glance at a script page, and Mitch had his lines down cold. He was the quickest study I'd ever seen." Mitchum, as always, steals the film from his cast mates; he simply exudes menace, and you can't take your eyes off of him. But there's no denying the wacky allure of Carl Switzer, who made his name as "Alfalfa" in The Little Rascals, playing a 100 year-old Indian! Switzer's performance was well-received by critics at the time, though most of them were less enthusiastic about the film itself. If you think Track of the Cat suffers from a weak script, you're not the only one - Wellman's screenwriter, A.I. Bezzerides felt the same way. After delivering a first draft of the screenplay to producer John Wayne (yes, that John Wayne), Bezzerides was stunned to hear that Wellman felt they were ready to start filming. "I said, 'Bill, it needs cutting. It'll take a couple of weeks.' He said, 'No, I like it. Any changes, I'll do them.' I said, 'Don't you understand? It's over-written. The scenes have to be worked on.' Wellman said, 'No, it's perfect.' He had so fallen in love with the script that he wouldn't touch a word of it. And he didn't. And oh my God, that's going too far. I'm not untouchable. But he wouldn't listen." So, yes, there are some script problems. However, Wellman and his gifted cinematographer, William Clothier, did something very interesting while filming Track of the Cat. For several years, Wellman had been itching to shoot a picture in color while focusing almost solely on black and white images. He felt that the barren physical and emotional landscape of Track of the Cat perfectly suited his needs. Aside from a few splashes of color here and there (Mitchum's red coat, in particular, stands out as an exception), everything in the film is either black, white, or some shade of gray. Even such props as food spread out on the dinner table are pale. It's a strangely unnerving gambit by Wellman, but it pays off. Wellman later remembered the first time he viewed the rushes with Clothier: "Never have I seen such beauty, a naked kind of beauty. Bill and I saw the first print back from the lab. We sat there together drooling." Too bad their enthusiasm wasn't shared by Jack Warner, whose studio's money was tied up in the picture. "I'm spending five hundred thousand dollars more for color and there's no color in this thing!" he reportedly shouted. Wellman's poetic response was that if Warner didn't like it, he could "go s**t in his hat." Exactly how that would have helped is unclear, but it seems unlikely that Warner took him up on it. Director: William A. Wellman Producers: John Wayne, Robert Fellows Screenplay: A.I. Bezzerides (based on the novel by Walter Van Tilburg Clark) Cinematography: William H. Clothier Editing: Fred MacDowell Music: Roy Webb Art Design: Alfred Ybarra Set Design: Ralph S. Hurst Costume Design: Gwen Wakeling Makeup: Gordon Bau, George Bau Principal Cast: Robert Mitchum (Curt Bridges), Teresa Wright (Grace Bridges), Diana Lynn (Gwen Williams), Tab Hunter (Hal Bridges), Beulah Bondi (Ma Bridges), Philip Tonge (Pa Bridges), William Hopper (Arthur), Carl Switzer (Joe Sam). C-103m. Letterboxed. by Paul Tatara Sources: Robert Mitchum: Baby,I Don't Care by Lee Server (St. Martin's Press) Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star by Tab Hunter with Eddie Muller (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill)

Track of the Cat - Special Collector's Edition - Robert Mitchum in William A.Wellman's TRACK OF THE CAT on DVD


William Wellman's elusive Track of the Cat, the veteran director's 1954 visual experiment in filming a color movie in which almost all the "colors" are black or white, turns out to be just that: an experiment. One of the long-unavailable 1950s releases from John Wayne's Batjac Productions that have recently been resurfacing from Paramount Home Entertainment, the combination of its unusual visuals and its drama about a family at war with itself are enough to keep Track of the Cat mildly interesting, though it hardly ranks with The Ox-Bow Incident and Yellow Sky as a gripping Wellman western.

Like Ox-Bow, Track of the Cat adapts a novel by Walter Van Tilberg Clark. But unlike the focused morality play of the first, Track of the Cat offers a trickier plot for Wellman and screenwriter A.I. Bezzerides to convey. The ranch of the Bridges family is where things start, when the early-morning stirrings of the livestock alert brothers Curt (Robert Mitchum), Art (William Hopper) and Hal (Tab Hunter) to the likelihood that a wildcat, perhaps even the black panther that legend says comes out at first snow, is around. The brothers have different personalities: Curt is aggressive and selfish, and has taken leadership of the ranch upon himself; Art, the oldest, is thoughtful and learned; and Hal, the youngest, is passive, letting Art stick up for him when necessary. The family also includes a crabby mom (Beulah Bondi) who backs up Curt at every turn, a drunkard dad (Philip Tonge) and a spinster daughter (Teresa Wright).

Curt is gung ho to hunt down the cat, and Art heads out with him, finding some of the panther's victims and getting on its trail. This leads to one of the few instances in which Wellman uses other colors besides black and white dramatically. That's when Curt and Art separate and, during that time, the panther kills Art. When Curt wants to send a horse back to the ranch with Art's corpse strapped to it, he has to switch jackets with Art (the horse is spooked by the wildcat scene on Art's), putting his red jacket on the dead man. When the horse returns home, certain family members are relieved to see it's Curt who's died and not Art, and then horrified to learn the truth.

But the plot sets up a generally unsatisfying situation. First of all, Art isn't very well developed before he's dead. If he's supposed to be a thoughtful alternative to crass Curt, then what are his alternatives? He never suggests another viable tack to take against the panther, and you have little sense of how life at the Bridges' ranch would be with Art in charge instead of Curt. Even more importantly, for a Mitchum movie, there's not a whole lot of Mitchum. After the first half-hour, he's out in the snowy mountains, while the family and Hal's girlfriend Gwen (Diana Lynn), whose yellow scarf is the movie's other recurring splash of color, are socked in at the ranch. The main action is the bickering in the ranch house, where the death of Art and the reign of Curt are debated and the need for Hal to assert himself is impressed upon him by both his sister and his girlfriend. Although the bonus features suggest Curt's hunting of the wildcat fills much of the book, in the movie it mainly provides cutaways, albeit important ones. But much more time is spent on the family's slaying of its metaphorical beasts than on the hunt for the real beast. You want more of the Mitchum scenes, not only because they feature Mitchum (and he plays the role of Curt so unabashedly brutally), but because they're in striking real-life locations, while the rest of the movie is studio-bound (scenes outside the ranch house feature credibility-eroding multiple shadows going in several different directions).

All of which prevents Track of the Cat from being a satisfying story instead of just an interesting experiment. But, as cinematography goes, this is one amazing movie. William Clothier (Seven Men from Now, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance) turns landscapes into eye-popping wonderlands and, despite the sometimes chintzy studio "exteriors," he and Wellman also give us a very dramatically-composed shot looking up from Art's grave in the studio-filmed portions, once as Hal digs it and again as the family gathers for a makeshift funeral and the coffin is lowered into it. These shots have the grim melancholy the movie goes for, but doesn't always achieve.

If the movie offers a mixed bag, so do its DVD's bonuses. After all, if a movie has a gimmick, shouldn't there be a featurette covering that gimmick? You would think so, but even though Wellman's experiment at black-and-white-in-color comes up several times, there's no real in-depth look at it. Isn't that more important than including a featurette on wildcats and another on the horse Mitchum rides (even if the movie-horse expert interviewed is his daughter)? Did someone miss the point here? Other featurettes on Wellman (excerpting Mitchum interview footage from 1996's rousing documentary Wild Bill) and Clark are more worthy, though the one that most obviously should be here, about the cinematography, is absent.

For more information about Track of the Cat, visit Paramount Home Video. To order Track of the Cat, go to TCM Shopping.

by Paul Sherman

Track of the Cat - Special Collector's Edition - Robert Mitchum in William A.Wellman's TRACK OF THE CAT on DVD

William Wellman's elusive Track of the Cat, the veteran director's 1954 visual experiment in filming a color movie in which almost all the "colors" are black or white, turns out to be just that: an experiment. One of the long-unavailable 1950s releases from John Wayne's Batjac Productions that have recently been resurfacing from Paramount Home Entertainment, the combination of its unusual visuals and its drama about a family at war with itself are enough to keep Track of the Cat mildly interesting, though it hardly ranks with The Ox-Bow Incident and Yellow Sky as a gripping Wellman western. Like Ox-Bow, Track of the Cat adapts a novel by Walter Van Tilberg Clark. But unlike the focused morality play of the first, Track of the Cat offers a trickier plot for Wellman and screenwriter A.I. Bezzerides to convey. The ranch of the Bridges family is where things start, when the early-morning stirrings of the livestock alert brothers Curt (Robert Mitchum), Art (William Hopper) and Hal (Tab Hunter) to the likelihood that a wildcat, perhaps even the black panther that legend says comes out at first snow, is around. The brothers have different personalities: Curt is aggressive and selfish, and has taken leadership of the ranch upon himself; Art, the oldest, is thoughtful and learned; and Hal, the youngest, is passive, letting Art stick up for him when necessary. The family also includes a crabby mom (Beulah Bondi) who backs up Curt at every turn, a drunkard dad (Philip Tonge) and a spinster daughter (Teresa Wright). Curt is gung ho to hunt down the cat, and Art heads out with him, finding some of the panther's victims and getting on its trail. This leads to one of the few instances in which Wellman uses other colors besides black and white dramatically. That's when Curt and Art separate and, during that time, the panther kills Art. When Curt wants to send a horse back to the ranch with Art's corpse strapped to it, he has to switch jackets with Art (the horse is spooked by the wildcat scene on Art's), putting his red jacket on the dead man. When the horse returns home, certain family members are relieved to see it's Curt who's died and not Art, and then horrified to learn the truth. But the plot sets up a generally unsatisfying situation. First of all, Art isn't very well developed before he's dead. If he's supposed to be a thoughtful alternative to crass Curt, then what are his alternatives? He never suggests another viable tack to take against the panther, and you have little sense of how life at the Bridges' ranch would be with Art in charge instead of Curt. Even more importantly, for a Mitchum movie, there's not a whole lot of Mitchum. After the first half-hour, he's out in the snowy mountains, while the family and Hal's girlfriend Gwen (Diana Lynn), whose yellow scarf is the movie's other recurring splash of color, are socked in at the ranch. The main action is the bickering in the ranch house, where the death of Art and the reign of Curt are debated and the need for Hal to assert himself is impressed upon him by both his sister and his girlfriend. Although the bonus features suggest Curt's hunting of the wildcat fills much of the book, in the movie it mainly provides cutaways, albeit important ones. But much more time is spent on the family's slaying of its metaphorical beasts than on the hunt for the real beast. You want more of the Mitchum scenes, not only because they feature Mitchum (and he plays the role of Curt so unabashedly brutally), but because they're in striking real-life locations, while the rest of the movie is studio-bound (scenes outside the ranch house feature credibility-eroding multiple shadows going in several different directions). All of which prevents Track of the Cat from being a satisfying story instead of just an interesting experiment. But, as cinematography goes, this is one amazing movie. William Clothier (Seven Men from Now, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance) turns landscapes into eye-popping wonderlands and, despite the sometimes chintzy studio "exteriors," he and Wellman also give us a very dramatically-composed shot looking up from Art's grave in the studio-filmed portions, once as Hal digs it and again as the family gathers for a makeshift funeral and the coffin is lowered into it. These shots have the grim melancholy the movie goes for, but doesn't always achieve. If the movie offers a mixed bag, so do its DVD's bonuses. After all, if a movie has a gimmick, shouldn't there be a featurette covering that gimmick? You would think so, but even though Wellman's experiment at black-and-white-in-color comes up several times, there's no real in-depth look at it. Isn't that more important than including a featurette on wildcats and another on the horse Mitchum rides (even if the movie-horse expert interviewed is his daughter)? Did someone miss the point here? Other featurettes on Wellman (excerpting Mitchum interview footage from 1996's rousing documentary Wild Bill) and Clark are more worthy, though the one that most obviously should be here, about the cinematography, is absent. For more information about Track of the Cat, visit Paramount Home Video. To order Track of the Cat, go to TCM Shopping. by Paul Sherman

Teresa Wright (1918-2005)


Teresa Wright, a talented, Oscar&-winning leading lady of the '40s, and in later life, a versatile character player, died on March 6 at a New Haven, Connecticut hospital of a heart attack. She was 86.

She was born Muriel Teresa Wright in New York City on October 27, 1918. She showed a keen interest in acting in grade school, and by the time she was 19, she made her Broadway debut in Thorton Wilder's Our Town (1938); the following year she scored a hit as Mary, the weeping ingénue in Life with Father (1939). The word was out that New York had a superb young acting talent on hand, and Samuel Goldwyn soon brought her to Hollywood for William Wyler's adaptation of Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes (1941). She scored an Oscar® nomination for her film debut as Regina Giddens' (Bette Davis), honorable daughter, Alexandria.

She maintained her amazing momentum by scoring two Oscar® nominations the following year for her next two films: as Carol Miniver in Wyler's Mrs. Miniver (Best Supporting Actress Category), and as Lou Gehrig's (Gary Cooper) faithful wife Ellie in Pride of the Yankees (Best Actress Category), and won the Oscar for Miniver. Yet for most fans of Wright's work, her finest hour remains her perfectly modulated performance as young Charlie in Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece, Shadow of a Doubt (1943). Wright's performance as the self-effacing, impressionable young niece who gradually realizes that her beloved uncle (Joseph Cotton) may have murdered several widows is effective since Wright's air of observation, subtly turns from idol gazing, to a watchful air of caution as the facts slowly being to unravel. 60 years on, fans of Hitchcock still acclaim Wright's performance as an integral part of the film's classic status.

She proved her talents in comedy with the delightful Casanova Brown (1944), but then saw her schedule slow down due to domesticity. After she married screenwriter Niven Busch in 1942, she gave birth to son, Niven Jr., in 1944, and took two years off to look after her family. She soon returned to film with another Wyler project, the Oscar®-winning, post war drama, The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), playing Fredric March's level-headed daughter, Peggy, she again took some time off after giving birth to her daughter, Mary in 1947. On her second attempt to return to the big screen, Wright found her popularity on the wane. Her wholesome image was in sharp contrast of the tougher, more modern women in post-war Hollywood, and her stubborn refusal to pose for any swimsuit or cheesecake photos to alter her image led to her release from Sam Goldwyn's contract.

As a freelance actress, Wright still found some good roles, notably as a young widow in the thriller scripted by her husband, in The Capture; and as a faithful fiancée trying to help Marlin Brandon deal with his amputation in Stanley Kramer's The Men (both 1950). Yet within a few years, she was playing middle-aged mothers in film like The Actress (1953), and The Track of the Cat (1954), even though she was still in her early '30s. By the mid-50s she found work in live television, where she could apply her stage training, in a number of acclaimed shows: Playhouse 90, General Electric Theater, Four Star Playhouse, and The United States Steel Hour.

She took a break from acting when she married her second husband, the playwright Robert Anderson in 1959, (she had divorced her first husband, Busch, in 1952) and was out of the public eye for several decades, save for an isolated theater appearance. When she did return, it was intermittent, but she was always worth watching. In James Ivory's Roseland (1977), a portrait of the New York dancehall; she was poignant as a talkative widow obsessed with her late husband; and as an enigmatic old actress in Somewhere in Time, she nearly stole the picture from leads, Christopher Reeve and Jayne Seymour. She was still active in the '90s, appearing a few hit shows: Murder, She Wrote, Picket Fences; and a final film role in John Grisham's The Rainmaker (1997). She is survived by her son, Niven; daughter, Mary; and two grandchildren.

by Michael T. Toole

Teresa Wright (1918-2005)

Teresa Wright, a talented, Oscar&-winning leading lady of the '40s, and in later life, a versatile character player, died on March 6 at a New Haven, Connecticut hospital of a heart attack. She was 86. She was born Muriel Teresa Wright in New York City on October 27, 1918. She showed a keen interest in acting in grade school, and by the time she was 19, she made her Broadway debut in Thorton Wilder's Our Town (1938); the following year she scored a hit as Mary, the weeping ingénue in Life with Father (1939). The word was out that New York had a superb young acting talent on hand, and Samuel Goldwyn soon brought her to Hollywood for William Wyler's adaptation of Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes (1941). She scored an Oscar® nomination for her film debut as Regina Giddens' (Bette Davis), honorable daughter, Alexandria. She maintained her amazing momentum by scoring two Oscar® nominations the following year for her next two films: as Carol Miniver in Wyler's Mrs. Miniver (Best Supporting Actress Category), and as Lou Gehrig's (Gary Cooper) faithful wife Ellie in Pride of the Yankees (Best Actress Category), and won the Oscar for Miniver. Yet for most fans of Wright's work, her finest hour remains her perfectly modulated performance as young Charlie in Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece, Shadow of a Doubt (1943). Wright's performance as the self-effacing, impressionable young niece who gradually realizes that her beloved uncle (Joseph Cotton) may have murdered several widows is effective since Wright's air of observation, subtly turns from idol gazing, to a watchful air of caution as the facts slowly being to unravel. 60 years on, fans of Hitchcock still acclaim Wright's performance as an integral part of the film's classic status. She proved her talents in comedy with the delightful Casanova Brown (1944), but then saw her schedule slow down due to domesticity. After she married screenwriter Niven Busch in 1942, she gave birth to son, Niven Jr., in 1944, and took two years off to look after her family. She soon returned to film with another Wyler project, the Oscar®-winning, post war drama, The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), playing Fredric March's level-headed daughter, Peggy, she again took some time off after giving birth to her daughter, Mary in 1947. On her second attempt to return to the big screen, Wright found her popularity on the wane. Her wholesome image was in sharp contrast of the tougher, more modern women in post-war Hollywood, and her stubborn refusal to pose for any swimsuit or cheesecake photos to alter her image led to her release from Sam Goldwyn's contract. As a freelance actress, Wright still found some good roles, notably as a young widow in the thriller scripted by her husband, in The Capture; and as a faithful fiancée trying to help Marlin Brandon deal with his amputation in Stanley Kramer's The Men (both 1950). Yet within a few years, she was playing middle-aged mothers in film like The Actress (1953), and The Track of the Cat (1954), even though she was still in her early '30s. By the mid-50s she found work in live television, where she could apply her stage training, in a number of acclaimed shows: Playhouse 90, General Electric Theater, Four Star Playhouse, and The United States Steel Hour. She took a break from acting when she married her second husband, the playwright Robert Anderson in 1959, (she had divorced her first husband, Busch, in 1952) and was out of the public eye for several decades, save for an isolated theater appearance. When she did return, it was intermittent, but she was always worth watching. In James Ivory's Roseland (1977), a portrait of the New York dancehall; she was poignant as a talkative widow obsessed with her late husband; and as an enigmatic old actress in Somewhere in Time, she nearly stole the picture from leads, Christopher Reeve and Jayne Seymour. She was still active in the '90s, appearing a few hit shows: Murder, She Wrote, Picket Fences; and a final film role in John Grisham's The Rainmaker (1997). She is survived by her son, Niven; daughter, Mary; and two grandchildren. by Michael T. Toole

Quotes

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Notes

The film's title card reads: "William A. Wellman's Track of the Cat." Excerpts from the 1817 sonnet, "When I have fears that I May cease to be," by John Keats were featured in the film. According to the Variety review, portions of the film were shot near Mt. Rainier, Washington. An October 1954 Variety news item reported that the Breen Office ordered two love scenes in the film to be deleted, but producer Robert Fellows requested that the MPAA Production Code reviewers reconsider their decision. The outcome has not been determined. As noted in the Los Angeles Examiner review, the film was "a novel combination of black, white and WarnerColor." The film was shot in color, but in both indoor and outdoor scenes, director Wellman worked with shades of black and white, creating a stark, monochromatic look, using color sparingly to convey symbolic significance. Some modern sources state that Warner Bros. wanted Wellman to shoot in color and the director complied while maintaining his preferred black-and-white look. However, in studio production notes, contained in the file on the film in the AMPAS Library, Wellman stated that, "for years" he had wanted to do "black and white in color," adding that the idea occurred to him in a previous film by accident while shooting a color scene of a set dressed for black-and-white.
       The Los Angeles Examiner review of Track of the Cat described the psychologically driven film as "a sort of mood story" and warned viewers that it was "not a routine movie." The New York Times called it "a Western with Greek overtones." Modern sources have called it a "Cold War Western" and "CinemaScope's first genuine weirdie." According to a November 1954 Hollywood Reporter news item, because of the unusual technical handling and theme of the story, Warner Bros. considered entering the film in the Venice and Edinburgh film festivals.


Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Fall November 1954

Released in United States on Video May 11, 1999

Wellman and director of photography Clothier embarked on a daring experiment with this film: although shot in color, all props, costumes, and sets were conceived in black and white, so the only colors that appeared were actors' flesh tones, the sky, and an odd symbolic touch here and there.

CinemaScope

Released in United States on Video May 11, 1999

Released in United States Fall November 1954