What's New Pussycat?

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What's New Pussycat?
Whats new pussycat.jpg
Theatrical release poster by Frank Frazetta
Directed by
Produced byCharles K. Feldman
Written byWoody Allen
Music by
CinematographyJean Badal
Edited byFergus McDonell
  • Famartists Productions S.A.
  • Famous Artists Productions
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • June 22, 1965 (1965-06-22)
Running time
108 minutes
  • United States
  • France
Box office$18.8 million[1]

What's New Pussycat? is a 1965 French-American comedy film directed by Clive Donner, written by Woody Allen in his first produced screenplay, and starring Allen, Peter Sellers, Peter O'Toole, Romy Schneider, Capucine, Paula Prentiss, and Ursula Andress.

The Oscar-nominated title song by Burt Bacharach (music) and Hal David (lyrics) was sung by Tom Jones. The movie poster was painted by Frank Frazetta, and the animated title sequence was directed by Richard Williams.


Notorious womanizer Michael James (Peter O'Toole) wants to be faithful to his fiancée Carole Werner (Romy Schneider), but every woman he meets seems to fall in love with him, including neurotic exotic dancer Liz Bien (Paula Prentiss) and parachutist Rita (Ursula Andress) who accidentally lands in his car. His psychoanalyst, Dr. Fritz Fassbender (Peter Sellers), cannot help, since he is stalking patient Renée Lefebvre (Capucine), who in turn longs for Michael. Carole, meanwhile, decides to make Michael jealous by flirting with his nervous wreck of a friend, Victor Shakapopulis (Woody Allen).

A catastrophe appears on the horizon when all the characters check into a quaint hideaway hotel in the French countryside for the weekend, unaware of each other's presence. Michael tries to fend off Renée's advances by steering Fassbender her way, but Fassbender's wife Anna is determined to keep him to herself. By the time Michael finally is able to meet Carole's parents and agree to settle down, he and Fassbender both catch the eye of yet another young woman, creating the distinct possibility of the whole thing happening all over again.


Cast notes[edit]

  • Richard Burton has a cameo appearance as a man at the bar in a strip club.


Warren Beatty wanted to make a comedy film about male sex addiction and hoped Charles Feldman would produce it. The title What's New Pussycat? was taken from Beatty's phone salutation when speaking to his female friends. Beatty desired a role for his then girlfriend, the actress Leslie Caron, but Feldman wanted a different actress.[2]

Beatty and Feldman sought a joke writer and, after seeing him perform in a New York club, Feldman offered Woody Allen $30,000. Allen accepted provided he could also appear in the film. As Allen worked on the script, his first screenplay, Beatty noticed that Allen's role was continually growing at the expense of his own.[3]

Eventually, Beatty threatened to quit the production to stop this erosion, but the actor's status in Hollywood at that time had declined so severely that Feldman decided to let him leave and gave the part to Peter O'Toole. Beatty later said "I diva'ed my way out of the movie. I walked off of What's New, Pussycat? thinking they couldn't do it without me. I was wrong".[4] According to Beatty, a new screenwriter was brought in and Allen's role was pared back to a minor character.[4]

Groucho Marx was to have played Dr. Fassbender, but at O'Toole's insistence he was replaced by Peter Sellers. O'Toole, Sellers and director Clive Donner all made changes to the script, straining their relationship with Allen. Tension was also generated by Sellers' demanding top billing, but O'Toole described the atmosphere as stimulating.[5]

Second unit director Richard Talmadge is credited with creating the karting sequence. The film was shot in and around Paris between October 1964 and January 1965 and released in New York on 22 June 1965. It opened in Paris in January 1966 as Quoi de neuf, Pussycat? The total box office take was $18,820,000.[1]

In addition to the title theme, songs featured were "Here I Am" by Dionne Warwick and "My Little Red Book" performed by Manfred Mann.


The scene in which the lovelorn Dr. Fritz plans to commit suicide before Victor intrudes to save him pays tribute to the 1931 Charlie Chaplin film City Lights (in which the Little Tramp intervenes to save a dipsomaniacal millionaire bent on self-destruction).


The film received mixed reviews. Bosley Crowther in The New York Times gave the film a negative review. He criticised the script, the directing and the acting and described the film as "the most outrageously cluttered and campy, noisy and neurotic display of what is evidently intended as way-out slapstick". He praised the scenery and title song.[6] On the other hand, Andrew Sarris in The Village Voice wrote: "I have now seen What's New Pussycat? four times, and each time I find new nuances in the direction, the writing, the playing, and, above all, the music. This is one movie that is not what it seems at first glance. It has been attacked for tastelessness, and yet I have never seen a more tasteful sex comedy."[7]


In 1965, Burt Bacharach and Hal David were nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song for the title song. Woody Allen was nominated for a WGA Award for "Best Written Screen Comedy" in 1966.


What's New Pussycat? was released to DVD by MGM Home Video on June 7, 2005, as a Region 1 widescreen DVD, on May 22, 2007, as part of The Peter Sellers Collection (film number two in a 4-disc set) and to Blu-ray by Kino Lorber on August 26, 2014, as a Region 1 widescreen Blu-ray.


  1. ^ a b "What's New Pussycat?, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved January 22, 2013.
  2. ^ Nashawaty, Chris (November 22, 2016). "Warren Beatty: An oral history of the elusive icon's six decades in Hollywood". Entertainment Weekly. New York City: Meredith Corporation.
  3. ^ Biskind, Peter (December 13, 2011). Easy Riders Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-And Rock 'N Roll Generation Save. New York City: Simon and Schuster. pp. 25–26. ISBN 978-1-4391-2661-5.
  4. ^ a b Harris, Mark (2009). Scenes from a Revolution: The Birth of the New Hollywood. Edinburgh, Scotland: Canongate Books. pp. 86–. ISBN 978-1-84767-121-9.
  5. ^ Sellers, Robert (September 10, 2015). Peter O'Toole: The Definitive Biography. Basingstoke, England: Pan Macmillan. pp. 109–. ISBN 978-0-283-07216-1.
  6. ^ Crowther, Bosley (June 23, 1965). "The Screen: 'What's New Pussycat?':Wild Comedy Arrives at Two Theaters". The New York Times. New York City: New York Times Company. Retrieved August 16, 2016.
  7. ^ Sarris, Andrew (August 5, 1965). "The Village Voice: Andrew Sarris". The Village Voice. New York City: Voice Media Group. Retrieved March 15, 2018.

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