All of These Nine Lives

Julie Newmar as Catwoman.

Julie Newmar as Catwoman.

By James H. Burns: She literally first danced into the public conciousness, even if the impression she made, was, to begin, only on a subliminal level of loveliness.

And then she almost exploded on the screen, in another movie musical.

She became a scientist’s ideal of female perfection…

And then earned her permanence in our pop culture cognizance with a totally self-possessed, feline grace.

Could there have been anyone lovelier, in black silk, and kitten ears?

But no one then, it seemed, or sometimes now, realized the skill it took as an actor to create any of those moments.

Julie Newmar as Stupefyin' Jones in Li'l Abner.

Julie Newmar as Stupefyin’ Jones in Li’l Abner.

Julie Newmar turns 82 today, and somehow — as those who have seen her at a multitude of genre conventions can concur — seems to have defied time.

She was born Julia Newmeyer in Los Angeles, and her early movies included The Band Wagon and Seven Brides For Seven Brothers (as well as Demetrius and the Gladiators). Newmar was a brilliant dancer. She moved to New York, where her Broadway appearances included Silk Stockings and Li’l Abner (as Stupefyin’ Jones). She won a Tony for her role in the comedy, The Marriage Go Round, written by Leslie Stevens (later to create and executive produce The Outer Limits),  a part which she repeated, in the movie.

And in 1964 came her breakthrough role, now almost forgotten, as a perfectly human looking android, in My Living Doll, the creation of a scientist played by Bob Cummings….  Episodes dealt with her learning to function in society, and her “roommate” both trying to keep her secret, and out of the hands of the military… The show’s demographics, today, may have made it a hit, but less than exemplary ratings led to a first season cancellation.

Bob Cummings and Julie Newmar in My Living Doll.

Bob Cummings and Julie Newmar in My Living Doll.

…Which made her available, of course, to play Cat-Woman, on 1966’s Batman.

Has there ever been a greater match of actor and role?

There is nary a man alive in the last half-century who cannot still hear her purr…

Other genre appearances included The Twilight Zone, Bewitched, Get Smart!, Star Trek (in “Friday’s Child,” when Dr. McCoy helps deliver her royal highness’ baby), The Bionic Woman, Fantasy Island and in 2003, Return To The Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt ( the Batman TV series reunion telemovie).

According to an excellent A&E biography, a major turning point in Newmar’s life commenced when she didn’t accept a marriage proposal from author Louis L’Amour, who was completely devoted to her.

In the 1970s, she started working as an entrepreneur. In recent years, she has also become well known in her Southern California community as a magnificent gardener (and, I was just astonished to learn, from her Wikipedia entry, she achieved at least a partial ban in her neighborhood of LEAF BLOWERS, an accomplishment which gives me even more admiration for her).

Newmar, for years now, has been a fairly frequent presence in “the autograph alleys” at many comic book and other gatherings.

Happily, she has also gained renown for being lovely with her fans.

Gracefulness on both the stage, and in life, is rare. As is the ability to live forever, not only on celluloid and its new digital domain, but in the more permanent fabric, of so many dreams.

Julie Newmar

Julie Newmar

9 thoughts on “All of These Nine Lives

  1. Eartha Kitt for Catwoman.
    But Julie Newmar would do.
    Lil Abner is unfairly forgotten.

  2. I still have pretty clear memories of Julie Newmar as AF709 in “My Living Doll.” The reason the ratings were poor was probably because it was deadly dull. AF709 learned much too fast for her own good, and was not very robot-like in only a few episodes. But mid-season, she was still socially awkward and made faux pas, but she might as well have been Bob Cumming’s Swedish cousin. Unlike “My Favourite Martian,” she never seemed to have interesting breakdowns, weird programming glitches and peculiar needs only a robot would understand. At least, not often enough to maintain the interest of a 14-year-old kid who was watching it mainly to see Julie Newmar wearing nothing but a skimpy sheet.

  3. Wha-a-a-a-t?

    A good excuse to tell a lovely Eartha Kitt tale…?

    This, from some years ago, in late 2008:

    I saw Eartha Kitt in an Off-Broadway musical just a couple of years ago. At what must have been the age of seventy-eight, she was still absolutely sensational. But my favorite Eartha Kitt story goes back five years, when she helped a friend out, playing a key role in the presentation of a new musical.

    This type of thing happens all the time, in New York: Full cast “readings” of what amounts to the first draft of a musical, hoping to make its way to Broadway. What’s neat about these performances is often you see top notch Broadway performers acting/singing in these presentations.

    But Eartha Kitt was a big star.

    And what knocked out the folks presenting the musical reading was how nice, and professional she was, from first contact, through rehearsals.

    And her performance?

    With only a few hours of rehearsal, Kitt KNOCKED THE AUDIENCE OUT!

    The other fun part of this brief tale, is that at a small party afterwards, a bunch of us were hanging out. Kitt still looked fantastic. And I say this in only the best, classic, gentlemen and ladies, version of this phrase —

    She still knew how to flirt!

    A wonderful performer, and certainly a fascinating woman.

  4. Lucky fellow !
    Eartha Kitt had a considerable following among gentlemen “of a certain age” on the other side of the Pacific. I was at one of her concerts in Manila sometime in the 70’s. She certainly had a way with an audience, even a very foreign audience.
    And she had the wit and grace to learn “Waray Waray”, which suited her perfectly.

  5. The character created for Eartha Kitt for Batman was great, and she was great as that character.

    What it wasn’t, was the Catwoman Julie Newmar played. I was unhappy to lose Julie Newmar, whom I had an awful Crush on, even as I enjoyed Eartha Kitt’s not-Catwoman character. I enjoyed Kitt more later, though, in other roles, where I wasn’t so conflicted.

  6. I have half of that season of MY LIVING DOLL . I didn’t find it dull. I do like the joke used on a Trek program later for “7 0f 9″…. The series was created by the guy that wroted (or is it “wrotted”?) THE WEREWOLF VERSUS THE VAMPIRE WOMAN, one Leo Guild. The series was also the first place the term, “Does not compute” were uttered.

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