Some vital statistics:
Weight: 145 pounds
Talent: still not enough known
This is she, the ultimate Catwoman. No doubt in my mind. Lee Meriwether didn’t give enough erotic chills. Eartha Kitt, in my eyes, was way over her head. As for Michelle Pfeiffer… it’s been years that I’ve became bored by her constantly having her mouth open. Did Halle Berry really try? So, Julie Newmar is the real Catwoman before the Gods. Yippeee!
She was born on August 16, 1935, in Los Angeles, under the name Julia Chalane Newmeyer. Considering that her dad was a college teacher (a 6’4″ giant and former football player) and her mom a retired Ziegfeld dancer of the twenties, we can easily understand the two sides of Julie: her sharp intelligence and her remarkable beauty, resulting in a most fascinating individual. Have you seen recent photographs of Julie? Our grandmas with mustaches were never like that!
As a youth, she found interest in dance (all possible styles) which would soon make her the prime ballerina in the Los Angeles Opera (seemingly after taking courses with Nijinski’s sister). She also was an excellent student in college, graduating when she was only 15. She then enrolled at UCLA to study French, piano and philosophy (and it’s worth to note that she was already a tall girl at this point). But her academic life would last only a few weeks, as the thrill of a cinematic career would take over. Her first appearance would be in The I Don’t Care Girl, in 1952. She was barely 17.
Julie’s first roles were purely decorative (big surprise!), but often her talent as a dancer were well exploited. Such is the case for Serpent of the Nile, where she’s painted in gold (nearly ten years before Goldfinger, take that, Emeric!). Seven Brides for Seven Brothers remains a triumph for the American musical genre and Julie was one of the sisters. She even found time to teach dancing lessons; one of her students was another beauty, Anita Ekberg. Julie’s career would soon shift to Broadway for Ziegfeld’s Follies (with a minuscule costume), Silk Stockings and Can-Can. In a very brief role (just 90 seconds) in Lil’ Abner, that of Stupefyin’ Jones, Julie played a woman who can turn men to stone at the mere sight of her beauty! She would win a Tony Award as Best Supporting Actress for The Marriage-Go-Round (this time acting with only a bathroom towel glued on her torso, alongside Claudette Colbert and Charles Boyer). This turned her into a real star and she would return to these last two roles in their respective cinematic adaptations. I still wonder as to why was I not turned into a stone statue myself after seeing the Lil’ Abner movie.
To promote all these film and theater productions, Julie was frequently asked to participate in photo sessions. In those years, men’s magazines didn’t propose some 19-years old, 98-pound girl with artificial boobs on their covers. Full-figured women of the fifties displayed natural attributes, which makes it even more impressive. All hail this era, when tight sweaters were in honor and where Bettie Page reigned as the Great Priestess of the pinups. Of course, Julie graced many of these covers, even some for musical albums (which fast became collector’s items). After a brief time as a blonde, we must admit that the darker-haired Julie is simply ravishing.
What followed for Julie: principally many guest-star spots on popular television series, of which we can mention: Twilight Zone, The Defenders, Route 66, F Troop and The Beverly Hillbillies. She played Rhoda the robot-girl in the cult series My Living Doll. But the key role of her career would soon take the world by storm: Catwoman in the new sensation, Batman. This character couldn’t be more perfect for her, combining beauty, wit and humor, like the real Julie. Her own brother, an admitted fan of the series, encouraged her to meet the producers. She eventually filmed a dozen episodes in the role, having a great time with the delightful dialogue. Sadly, the difficult shooting of the western Mackenna’s Gold (which came out in 1969) didn’t gave the opportunity for Julie to play Catwoman in the last season of Batman, or even in the 1966 movie adaptation. Eartha Kitt and Lee Meriwether would replace her, with varying degrees of success.
From that time on, her movie career would became rather disappointing, as we only list some titles: Hysterical, Streetwalkin’, Evils of the Night, Deep Space, Nudity Required, Ghosts Can’t Do It and other bombs. She would appear in many more TV roles: Star Trek, The Monkees, Bewitched, Get Smart, Colombo, The Bionic Woman, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Jason of Star Command, CHiPS, Melrose Place and a handful of made-for-television movies. Happily at least, triumphs on stage were still coming, as she toured for Damn Yankees, Dames at Sea and still The Marriage-Go-Round in the same role that made her a celebrity years before. Playboy produced two “articles” in her glory, worth a look… er, a read!
In 1977, Julie wed John Holt Smith, an union that lasted until 1983 (seems that he left her flat broke). At the age of 48, she gave birth to a son, John Jewl Smith, who was diagnosed with Down’s syndrome. In 1991, she toured the country again, this time for The Women. The next year, she appeared wearing ultra-tight rubber clothes for a George Michael video, Too Funky, which gave her the opportunity to strut runways in France, sporting Thierry Mugler’s creations. Photographs of Julie wearing a modern Catwoman suit are simply breathtaking.
This days, Julie is a participant in numerous conventions, charming everyone in her path. She played Miss Kitty in the 1996 sci-fi flick Oblivion 2: Backlash. Her last movie is If… Dog… Rabbit…, a 1999 production directed by Matthew Modine. Considering other Cult Sirens mentioned on this site, time has left no cruel marks on many of them. In Julie Newmar’s case, nature was more than generous. She’s a far cry from the typical grandmammy wearing flowered dresses, heavy glasses, hair in tight buns and warts on their chin. At more than 70, Miss Newmar can still make heads turn as if she was 35 years younger! She admitted her personal secret as having never stopped dancing. She once declared that she preferred being praised for her humor rather than her beauty. In fact, her views about life is probably the real key to her eternal youth. The movie To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar is a delightful homage (and she remains one of the few performers to have her name in a movie title, thus joining Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff!).
Oddly, some lists about the great cinematic beauties seem to always forget Julie Newmar (as they include many overrated bleached blondes). For what it’s worth, it’s here that I tried to do her justice in naming her a Goddess of the 7th Art.
1952 The I Don’t Care Girl; Just for You 1953 The Band Wagon; Slaves of Babylon; Serpent of the Nile 1954 Demetrius and the Gladiators; Seven Brides for Seven Brothers 1959 The Rookie; Lil’ Abner 1960 The Marriage-Go-Round; For Love or Money 1969 The Maltese Bippy; Mackenna’s Gold 1970 Mother 1975 Blood River 1983 Hysterical 1984 Streetwalkin'; Love Scenes 1985 Evils of the Night 1987 Deep Space; Dance Academy 1988 Nudity Required 1989 Robo-Chic 1991 Ghosts Can’t Do It 1994 Oblivion 1995 To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar 1996 Oblivion 2: Backlash 1999 If… Dog… Rabbit…