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