In all the gear-up for The Dark Knight Rises the focus is on the male characters. How will Christian Bale expand his role of Batman and Bruce Wayne one last time? What will Bane do to the Dark Knight? Is Joseph Gordon-Levitt being set up to take on the role of Batman, something more bird-like, or just another detective obsessed with solving riddles? How many more zingers does Michael Caine have in store for us?
One of the most important elements of the movie, however, seems to be lost in this avalanche of plot devices, symbolism, and comic book consistency: how hot will Anne Hathaway look as Catwoman? Pretty hot, we’d imagine, especially considering the legacy that she will be following.
In order to speculate where Anne Hathaway will recline in the lineage of Batman’s feline fatale, we break down the top nine Catwomen that have graced the screen with the Caped Crusader, because a man can only study other men in latex armor and spandex for so long.
And yes, more than nine women have played Catwoman, but come on: NINE. (Sorry, Grey DeLisle. We still think you’re amazing.)
1) Lee Meriwether
Appearances: Batman: The Movie (1966)
If there was a better option than Lee Meriwether for the first on-screen performance of Catwoman, I don’t want to know who it was. Sporting what became the trademark skin-tight onesie, cat-eared Alice band, and gold belt, Meriwether became the only serious thing in Batman: The Movie, which in a different world would be seriously ridiculous. Imagine, a world where female superheroines and villainesses don’t look like pin-up models. That’s not a world I want to live in.
2) Julie Newmar
Appearances: Batman (television series, 1966-1967)
Lee Meriwether may have laid out the structure of how Catwoman should be, but it was Julie Newmar that took the role one step further in the first two seasons of the Batman television series. By re-designing the costume herself, adding a necklace and re-positioning the belt so that hips don’t lie, Newmar paved the way for future sexy designs of pantyhose and brassieres, and mesmerized the television audience as much as Adam West whenever she graced the screen.
3) Eartha Kitt
Appearances: Batman (television series, 1967-1968)
What do you do when you find a sultry American singer that can speak French and make Santa Claus feel sexy? If your answer was, “Give her the part of Catwoman,” you’ve done your homework. When Julie Newmar was unavailable for the 3rd season of the Batman television series, Eartha Kitt was brought on to take over the mantle of Catwoman. Unfortunately, the scripts of the show began taking a turn for the worse, which is the excuse we’ll take to our graves about Ms. Kitt’s acting abilities. Her sexual appeal, however, would traverse time. And hey, an African-American woman playing Catwoman in a decade when racism was widely and overtly institutionalized is pretty cool.
4) Michelle Pfeiffer
Appearances: Batman Returns (1992)
If Michael Keaton had been a little more inclined to mix business with pleasure when Vicki Vale was cast in Batman, we may not even be talking about Catwoman today. Michelle Pfeiffer, who was dating Michael Keaton at the time, was mentioned as a possible replacement for the role of Vicki Vale, but Keaton had voiced his opinion that it would be too awkward. Imagine that, too awkward to kiss your own girlfriend on-screen. It worked out in the end, as Pfeiffer stitched up a leather suit (as a nice nod to Julie Newmar, we believe), learned kick-boxing, and had the characters, cast, and crew of Batman Returns drooling over her characterization of Catwoman.
5) Adrienne Barbeau
Appearances: Batman: The Animated Series (television series, 1992-1995)
Oh, Adrienne Barbeau. The body that launched a thousand airings of Swamp Thing, and the voice that gave Selina Kyle such a sultry purr without overdoing it (because, really…anything beyond the Kitt Horizon is too much, and anything approaching it is just substandard Kitt imitation). After a very healthy run on the lauded animated series, Barbeau stands as one of our favorite Catwomen ever.
6) Halle Berry
Appearances: Catwoman (2004)
While most film critics, and possibly some film executives, would rather pretend the 2004 movie Catwoman never happened, I am willing to say that I am glad it did. How else were we going to see Halle Berry half-naked with a leather mask, whip, and no safe word after receiving an Academy Award? Catwoman may have been written in a parallel universe that has nothing to do with DC Comics, but if watched like we read Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue, all sins can be forgiven by gazing upon Halle Berry’s…enthusiasm. Well, most of them.
7) Gina Gershon
Appearances: The Batman (2004-2007)
When striving to make a new animated series legitimate, there are plenty of ways to make sure you keep your audience happy, both the young, Saturday morning cartoon crowd and the older, Adult Swim crowd. Luckily, the Saturday morning crowd usually can’t read the names in the credits quick enough, much less know who anybody is. When Gina Gershon was cast as Catwoman for the series, the Adult Swim crowd was more than content. Just think, the catty featured dancer from Elizabeth Berkley’s Showgirls and Nicholas Cage’s psycho ex-girlfriend from Face/Off voicing Batman’s femme fatale in Catwoman? You can’t cast a role more perfectly than that.
8) Eliza Dushku
Appearances: Batman: Year One (2011)
You’d think that, with all of this eye-engulfing talent, Catwoman would have found a more prominent role in a live-action film, television show, or even a Super Bowl commercial. Luckily, a beautiful woman was not entirely covered up by animated cells when Eliza Dushku did the voice work for Catwoman in Batman: Year One. It was animated, but the sort of manga-based animation that barely squeaks by with a PG-13 rating, while I barely squeaked by with my composure as I listened to Eliza Dushku do the voice work for a half-naked steampunk Catwoman.
9) Anne Hathaway
Appearances: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
If you asked a thousand people four years ago who they thought would be cast as Catwoman for The Dark Knight Rises, I’d be surprised if any of them would have screamed, “Anne Hathaway, obviously!” I’d believe that to be true even if Anne Hathaway was in that crowd of a thousand people. Yet, here we are with the starring actress of The Princess Diaries and multiple romantic comedies that most men were dragged to by the ear.
You know what? I’m not complaining. With previews featuring a naughtily seductive yet philosophical Catwoman one moment, and a techno-enhanced cat-burglar in skin-tight leather that would make Julie Newmar jealous in another moment, Anne Hathaway looks ready to combine the brains and beauty of Catwoman in a way that no other actress has attained.
Patrick Emmel got tired of looking at men in rubber suits and spandex, and thought that ogling the different versions of Catwoman would keep him sane . You can see more of his work at www.theineptowl.com or heckle him on Twitter @Patrick_AE.
Patrick did what no villain before him ever accomplished when he rounded All the Batmen Ever up in one place and made them compete for the right to wear the mantle.
Then he made a mega-graphic showing Batman’s Most Embarrassing Moments.