Monday, August 8, 2016

Happy World Cat Day! Or, "which cat is Lionel Barrymore at Hemingway's home?"

Lionel Barrymore loved cats--several tales by different people, including himself, attest to that. A book published in 1959, after his death, was illustrated with pencil sketches he did of one of his cats, Becky Barrymore. I, Becky Barrymore contains some unevenly rhymed and organized "cantos" but a few charming little illustrations:

Titular heroine/narrator of the tale

One of LB's cats, in Calabasas LA Pet Memorial park
There was also a champion cat, CH. Crown E Lionel Barrymore, a red tabby American Shorthair you can view here: Fenton Farm: Lionel Barrymore

In The House of Barrymore, Margot Peters recounts a story Whitfield Connor, who worked with LB on CBS' Hallmark Playhouse, told her. I am not sure if he had "got to know Lionel better than the rest of the cast",  but in terms of LB's cat-love, it seems apropos to LB's chronicled affection for cats, of which there were 40- or 60-some on his Chatsworth, CA ranch:
          [after Connor has told LB he was looking for a kitten for his daughter] 
          LB: "Would you be good to it?"
          Connor: "Yes sir."
          Finally one Sunday in the studio Lionel beckoned. "I think I've found a kitten for you."
          "Fine," said Connor. I can come out to Chatsworth and get it any time you say."
          "No," growled Lionel. "Kitten's got to have its shots...Shots got to be from my vet."
          [Some weeks pass, during which LB checks out the neighborhood in which the kitten would live, disappointing Connor's daughter. But then some days later he calls and is coming over with food, the kitten, a list of directions, and only THEN puts the kitten in Erin Connor's arms.]
          "What are you going to name it, honey?" asked LB
          Erin C: "Its name is Lionel."
          LB: "Honey, it's a girl cat."
          Erin C: "I don't care, its name is Lionel."
          LB: (laughing) What's its last name, honey?"
          Erin C: "Brown. Lionel Brown."
          LB: (according to Connor, angry) "But my name is Bar-r-r-a-more!"
          Eric C: (unaffected) "I know, but that's too long."
(Peters, House of Barrymore, p. 499)

Apropos of this significant day, here are some more pics of Lionel Barrymore, cat lover extraordinaire, with  a cat and/or representing his love of cats:

Dr Gillespie quite taken with a kitten!
The Washington Masquerade, 1932

 In You Can't Take it With You, a kitten is a paperweight:

 A cat also appears in LB's silent film The House of Darkness (1913):

Another cat makes for an amusing moment in Mark of the Vampire, when the sound scares the people hunting a vampire:

Annnddd... a cat appears in Lionel Barrymore's first directorial attempt, His Secret:
Upper left for kitty!

So well known was LBs love for cats, one of the Hemingway cats in Key West, FL, was named for him. Check out the whole article or the excerpt below:


Key West Kitties!
KEY WEST, Florida While Betty Grable dozed on the second-floor master bedroom, Lionel Barrymore crept up the outdoor steps from the basement, where he hides most of the time.

He reached the gate at the top, then paused. He wasn't sure it was safe to come out into the garden.
After a few moments, hunger got the best of him. He slipped through the gate and got a bite to eat. Then he retreated down the steps, disappearing into the gloom.

Lionel Barrymore couldn't be too careful. He never knew when Harry Truman might emerge from the shadows and pounce on him...

Key West is famous for free spirits. I did see a barefoot gray-haired hippie. I also spied two men who looked like soccer dads; they were walking down a quiet street holding hands.

Mostly we saw aging tourists.

And Lionel Barrymore.

....But many others remain. We found the mostly black Betty Grable asleep on Hemingway's massive bed, impervious to the visitors who passed by.

Our guide coaxed Lionel Barrymore, a skittish orange tiger tabby, from the basement steps with a small treat. But the cat's retreat was prudent; Harry Truman, a brutish gray tabby, was scowling nearby from atop a fence.

"The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them," Hemingway famously said or wrote.

One thing Lionel Barrymore knows is to not trust Harry Truman.
(more on the Hemingway home cats:Ernest Hemingway Home)
Lionel Barrymore is a big orange tabby at the Hemingway Home, FL
 (Honestly, LB probably DIDN'T trust Hairy Truman in real life! Sam)

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