MoMA
Jacques Tourneur. Cat People. 1942
Jacques Tourneur

Cat People

1942
Not on view
Production
USA
Medium
35mm film (black and white, sound)
Duration
73 min.
Credit
Gift of Turner Entertainment. Restored print gift of the Library of Congress
Object number
F531

Val Lewton was already a published author of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry when he began his film career as a publicity writer for MGM in 1928. In the mid–1930s, he took the job of story editor and assistant to producer David O. Selznick, then left MGM in 1942 when RKO offered him his own unit to produce low-budget horror films. At the time, RKO was in dire financial straits and hoped that a series of cheaply made films would turn a quick profit and keep the studio afloat. Lewton's first film, Cat People, did just that, earning several million dollars (estimates vary between $2 and $4 million) against a production cost of just under $135,000. Director Jacques Tourneur worked closely with Lewton to overcome the possible objections of industry censors by creating a sense of terror through the implied threat of violence, as well as keeping costs down by using expressive (and inexpensive) lighting techniques and oblique camera angles to compensate for their minuscule budget. The pair worked so efficiently that, by the time the box office returns had been reported for Cat People, they had already completed the second film in the series (I Walked with a Zombie, 1943), and were virtually finished with the third (The Leopard Man, 1943).

Publication excerpt from Steven Higgins, Still Moving: The Film and Media Collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2006, p. 193
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In order to effectively service requests for images, The Museum of Modern Art entrusts the licensing of images of works of art in its collections to the agencies Scala Archives and Art Resource. As MoMA’s representatives, these agencies supply high-resolution digital image files provided to them directly by the Museum's imaging studios.

All requests to reproduce works of art from MoMA's collection within North America (Canada, U.S., Mexico) should be addressed directly to Art Resource at 536 Broadway, New York, New York 10012. Telephone (212) 505-8700; fax (212) 505-2053; requests@artres.com; artres.com. Requests from all other geographical locations should be addressed directly to Scala Group S.p.A., 62, via Chiantigiana, 50012 Bagno a Ripoli/Firenze, Italy. Telephone 39 055 6233 200; fax 39 055 641124; firenze@scalarchives.com; scalarchives.com.

Requests for permission to reprint text from MoMA publications should be addressed to text_permissions@moma.org.

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