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The Three Lives of Thomasina (1964) is a Walt Disney Productions fantasy feature film starring Patrick McGoohan, Susan Hampshire, and child actress Karen Dotrice in a story about a cat and her influence on a family. The screenplay was written by Robert Westerby and Paul Gallico and was based upon Gallico's 1957 novel Thomasina, the Cat Who Thought She Was God. The film was directed by Don Chaffey, and shot in Inveraraymarker, Argyllmarker, Scotlandmarker, and Pinewood Studiosmarker, Englandmarker. Thomasina has been broadcast on television and released to VHS and DVD.

Plot and cast

Set in the town of Inveranoch, Scotland in 1912, the story centers around Andrew MacDhui (Patrick McGoohan) a coldly-scientific and atheistic veterinarian, his seven year old daughter Mary (Karen Dotrice), and her cat Thomasina (voiced by Elspeth March). MacDhui is a widower (the principal reason for his atheism) with little sympathy for people's pets, preferring the hard-working, "useful" farm beasts of the farms around Inveranoch and other "useful" animals like the blind man Tammas' dog, Bruce.

On the day MacDhui is operating on Bruce (who was struck by a car), Thomasina is chased by dogs in the marketplace and falls off of some boxes, sustaining an injury. MacDhui mis-diagnoses her as having tetanus - this is possibly due to the rush to save Bruce, and possibly due to the sub-conscious jealousy he himself feels towards Thomasina, which is later pointed out to him by his best friend, the Reverend Angus Peddie (Laurence Naismith). MacDhui orders his assistant Willie Bannock (Wilfrid Brambell) to put Thomasina to sleep. Thomasina is not fully anesthetized, however; at this point in the story, she experiences an entertainingly-depicted, out-of-the-body, fantasy trip to "Cat Heaven", where she encounters Bast the ancient Egyptian Cat Goddess.

Mary, meanwhile, is shattered by both Thomasina's (apparent) death, and the tragically lost faith in her father. She turns violently, emotionally cold against MacDhui (in spite of Reverend Peddie's well-meaning but ineffectual attempts to comfort her). Mary and her playmates Hughie Stirling (Vincent Winter), and Jamie and Geordie McNab (Denis Gilmore and Matthew Garber) and other friends give Thomasina a funeral. They take her out to the glen beyond the town, but are (unintentionally) frightened away by "Mad Lori" MacGregor (Susan Hampshire), a beautiful and kind-hearted young woman who lives outside of the town. Some of the townspeople believe her to be a witch, but although she is a bit of a recluse, she has great love and sympathy for all sick and injured things. Lori nurses Thomasina back to health, but Thomasina now has no memory of her "First Life" with Mary.

Late one night, though, Thomasina returns to the town; Mary sees her and chases her into the rainstorm that develops, pursued by MacDhui. Thomasina returns to the safety of her "Second Life" with Lori. Mary then contracts pneumonia and becomes dangerously ill. MacDhui, meanwhile, has come to know Lori (due to many of the townspeople boycotting his practice) and turns to her to try to help Mary recover.

The same night Mary reaches the crisis stage, Thomasina sees lightning strike the tree outside Lori's cottage, and the shock restores her memory. Thomasina races back to the MacDhui house in time to save Mary. At Lori's urging, MacDhui himself coaxes Thomasina back through the window, and he himself places Thomasina in Mary's arms, thereby symbolically restoring both Thomasina to Mary, and Mary's love for her father. MacDhui, in the meantime, has grown to love Lori and develops a more sympathetic attitude in general (this is mainly due to insights given to him by both Lori and Reverend Peddie, as well as a frightening shared encounter MacDhui and Lori have with some cruel gypsies and their abused animals). And so MacDhui and Lori marry, and Thomasina now begins her "Third Life" with all of them, together.

Reception

Howard Thompson of the New York Times (12 December 1963) found the film "a nice one, but...far from top-drawer Disney." He thought it was a "sentimental and extremely genteel little movie...best suited for small girls," but praised the major performers (including the cat) and the settings. He concluded by describing the film as "mighty, mighty cosy." Film Critic Leonard Maltin (in his book The Disney Films) on the other hand, refers to this film very highly; calling it "delicate and charming", and very deserving of a larger audience if ever reissued. One scene in particular that he highly praised, was Thomasina's trip to Cat Heaven, calling it: "a wondrous piece of movie magic". In another article written by Maltin, he includes this film title among the lesser known gems of Disney Movies, (along with other film titles like Darby O'Gill and the Little People).

Trivia

  • Child actors Dotrice and Garber later starred as the Banks children, Jane and Michael, in Disney's Mary Poppins. They also appear in another film together for Disney in 1967's The Gnome-Mobile, as Elizabeth and Rodney.
  • In Grant Morrison's comic book The Invisibles, the character Mason Lang makes the claim that the movie The Three Lives of Thomasina "explains 'Everything'". He is later given a statue of the goddess Bast by Lady Edith Manning.


References

  1. New York Times: Thomasina


External links




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