SPOTLIGHT STORY

Felines on Film: The Black Cat Auditions

"The biggest invitation to bad luck ever seen in one place" - LIFE magazine, 1961

Cats hate being on leads at the best of times, so what's going on in these curious photos of kitties on leashes lined up with their owners?

Black Cat Auditions In Hollywood, 1961, Ralph Crane (Collection: LIFE Photo Collection)

These photos were taken by legendary LIFE photographer Ralph Crane in 1961. They show over 150 of the cutest and fluffiest of budding actors auditioning for a starring role in the film adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe's 'The Black Cat'.

Black Cat Auditions In Hollywood, 1961, Ralph Crane (Collection: LIFE Photo Collection)


Poe's story, a grisly tale of murder and ghostly apparitions, was adapted for the screen as part of the horror compilation film, Tales of Terror.

Black Cat Auditions In Hollywood, 1961, Ralph Crane (Collection: LIFE Photo Collection)
Black Cat Auditions In Hollywood, 1961, Ralph Crane (Collection: LIFE Photo Collection)
Black Cat Auditions In Hollywood, 1961, Ralph Crane (Collection: LIFE Photo Collection)

At the auditions, cats were judged based on which had the 'meanest' face.

Black Cat Auditions In Hollywood, 1961, Ralph Crane (Collection: LIFE Photo Collection)
Black Cat Auditions In Hollywood, 1961, Ralph Crane (Collection: LIFE Photo Collection)
Black Cat Auditions In Hollywood, 1961, Ralph Crane (Collection: LIFE Photo Collection)
Black Cat Auditions In Hollywood, 1961, Ralph Crane (Collection: LIFE Photo Collection)
Black Cat Auditions In Hollywood, 1961, Ralph Crane (Collection: LIFE Photo Collection)
Black Cat Auditions In Hollywood, 1961, Ralph Crane (Collection: LIFE Photo Collection)
Black Cat Auditions In Hollywood, 1961, Ralph Crane (Collection: LIFE Photo Collection)
Black Cat Auditions In Hollywood, 1961, Ralph Crane (Collection: LIFE Photo Collection)

Unfortunately, none of these paw-some candidates made the cut. The role had actually already been given to a 'professional' cat actor.

Black Cat Auditions In Hollywood, 1961, Ralph Crane (Collection: LIFE Photo Collection)
Black Cat Auditions In Hollywood, 1961, Ralph Crane (Collection: LIFE Photo Collection)

On December 15, 1961, LIFE magazine wrote, “as far as anyone could remember, it was the biggest invitation to bad luck ever seen in one place.”

Black Cat Auditions In Hollywood, 1961, Ralph Crane (Collection: LIFE Photo Collection)
Words by Léonie Shinn-Morris
Credits: All media
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