The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing (film)

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The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Richard C. Sarafian
Produced by Eleanor Perry
Martin Poll
Screenplay by Eleanor Perry
William W. Norton (uncredited)
Based on The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing
by Marilyn Durham
Starring Burt Reynolds
Sarah Miles
Lee J. Cobb
Music by John Williams
Cinematography Harry Stradling Jr.
Edited by Tom Rolf
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
28 June 1973 (USA)
Running time
114 min.
Country United States
Language English
Box office $3,600,000 (US/ Canada rentals)[1]

The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing is a 1973 American film adaptation of Marilyn Durham's novel of the same name directed by Richard C. Sarafian, and written by Eleanor Perry and William W. Norton.


Jay Grobart is an outlaw who was married to Native American woman Cat Dancing. After Cat is raped and murdered, a distraught Grobart kills the man responsible for the crime, before being arrested. After his release, he soon pulls a train robbery with the help of his friends Dawes, Charlie and Billy, and is now on the run from the law.

While on the run, Grobart and his partners in crime come across Catherine, a woman escaping her abusive husband Crocker. Catherine is abducted by Dawes and Billy, but Grobart protects her from them. Lapchance, a veteran railroad detective with a posse, is on their trail for the train robbery. Accompanying the posse is Catherine's husband Willard Crocker, an arrogant millionaire, who is obsessed with retrieving his wife, even though he knows that she does not love him. As Grobart and Catherine get to know each other, they find themselves falling in love, and despite his criminal past, she admires him for avenging the death of the woman he loved.

Dawes beats Billy, causing internal injuries that should soon kill him. Grobart leaves the others at an old cabin for a day. A few maurading Indians attack the cabin, killing Billy and Charlie while Dawes runs off with some of the money. Grobart returns and kills the marauders in an intense battle. He and Catherine continue their journey. Catherine admits her feelings for Grobart and they make love. Dawes finds them, rapes Catherine, and plans to kill Grobart for the remaining money, but is killed by Grobart.

Grobart and Catherine travel to the Shoshone village where Grobart lived with Cat Dancing and their children – their very young daughter and Dream Speaker, their young son, who live with Cat Dancing's brother, Iron Knife. He discovers that his children have bonded with the Shoshone and wish to remain in the village. It is also revealed that Grobart had pushed his son aside and strangled Cat Dancing, thinking that she had chosen to sleep with the man who had, in fact, raped her. Grobart leaves Catherine and the railroad money at the village and departs, not wanting to place her in further danger.

The posse arrives at the village and retrieves the money. Crocker insists on pursuing Grobart in order to kill him. The posse spends the night at the village. That evening Catherine and Dream Speaker leave to find Grobart, with Dream Speaker guiding her to a cave in the hills where Grobart is camped out. Grobart bids his son farewell and reunites with Catherine.

The following morning, as they prepare to leave, Crocker arrives and shoots Grobart from the tree line. Grobart is wounded and Catherine rushes to his aid. Catherine grabs Grobart's pistol from his holster and shoots Crocker dead as he charges them. Lapchance orders his men to put Crocker's body on a pack horse and, having already retrieved the railroad's money, leaves Crocker's horse for Grobart. Grobart pulls himself to his feet and embraces Catherine.

Principal cast[edit]

Actor Role
Burt Reynolds Jay Grobart
Sarah Miles Catherine Crocker
Lee J. Cobb Harvey Lapchance
Jack Warden Dawes
George Hamilton Willard Crocker
Bo Hopkins Billy Bowen
Robert Donner Dub
Jay Silverheels The Chief
Jay Varela Charlie Bent
James Hampton Jimmy


It was filmed in Bryce Canyon National Park, Kanab, the St. George-Hurricane area, Zion, Virgin River and Silver Reef in Utah as well as Gila Bend and Old Tucson, Arizona.[2]

While filming, Sarah Miles' personal assistant, David A. Whiting, was found dead under mysterious circumstances in his hotel room. His death was ruled suicide; however, there were rumours of foul play.[3] It was later revealed that Miles and Whiting had been having an affair, and this, together with the resulting publicity, contributed to the disintegration of her marriage to Robert Bolt.[4]

Original screenwriter Eleanor Perry later claimed much of her work was rewritten.[3]

Critical reception[edit]

Roger Greenspun of The New York Times did not care for the film:

The film's poetry is as numbing as its violence. The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing is, indeed, a kind of festival of incompetence. Each shot is held slightly too long or too short, and is somehow off-center. Each performance is uncertain, like something seen in an early rehearsal. Even the Indians look fake, including good old Jay Silverheels, who is real. The screenplay, based on Marilyn Durham's novel, is by Eleanor Perry (David and Lisa, Diary of a Mad Housewife), who can do much, much better.[5]

In contrast, Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times liked the movie. In his review for the John Williams Web Page, he noted the complications in making the picture. He concluded his review: "In spite of the difficulties faced by the actors and filmmakers, The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing boasts gorgeous widescreen location photography, an interesting feminist spin on traditional western formulas — with Miles' strong-willed Catherine Crocker an engaging screen presence throughout — and strong support from virtually the entire cast; in particular, the film proved once and for all that Burt Reynolds was capable of handling a straight dramatic role as well as a lightweight comic one."[6]

"There's nothing to talk about in Cat Dancing except that it brings me pain," said Reynolds later. "So I'd rather not talk about it."[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1973", Variety, 9 January 1974 p 19
  2. ^ D'Arc, James V. (2010). When Hollywood came to town: a history of moviemaking in Utah (1st ed.). Layton, Utah: Gibbs Smith. ISBN 9781423605874. 
  3. ^ a b Amy Cox, "The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing", Turner Classic Movies accessed 19 June 2014
  4. ^ "Sarah Miles Stars in An Incredible Story of Scandal and Love—and No, It's Not Her New Film, Hope and Glory, It's Her Life" By John Stark, People Magazine 23 November 1987 accessed 19 June 2014
  5. ^ Greenspun, Roger (1973-06-29). "Movie Review - The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing - Screen:' Operation Leontine' Is French Caper Film -". Retrieved 2013-10-08. 
  6. ^ "The John Williams Web Pages: The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing". Retrieved 2014-06-19. 
  7. ^ "Workaholic Burt Reynolds sets up his next task: Light comedy" Siskel, Gene. Chicago Tribune (1963-Current file) [Chicago, Ill] 28 November 1976: e2.

External links[edit]