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c. 1961

Black cat auditions

Wanted: one black cat to star in the forthcoming Vincent Price horror film

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Ralph Crane / LIFE / Getty Images

Depending on which corner of the world you hail from, these pictures taken by Ralph Crane for LIFE magazine show either the luckiest day of all time, or one to avoid at all costs.

The location in question was—of course—Hollywood. These cats came queuing up after their owners cut out an ad in the local rag. Wanted: one black cat to star in the forthcoming Vincent Price horror film, Tale of Terror.

152 noir-ish felines answered the call. And some fell at the first hurdle. The cats had to be utterly black, so if your pet’s paws were white, you and your animal were sent home. 

Those specifications had actually been set in the 19th century, by one Edgar Allen Poe.

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One of the three stories that comprised Tales of Terror was an adaption of Poe’s short novella: The Black Cat.

Plot summary: man walls up his wife, her lover, and her (black) cat. Cat mysteriously survives.

But—wouldn’t you know it?—all the cats’ efforts were entirely in vain. Little did they know, the starring role had already been assigned, to a bonafide professional cat actor.

Yet it was not all bad news. For seven of the cats, it was actually their lucky day—they were cast as understudies.

And the others? Well, in the long run, maybe it was a lucky escape.  When Tales of Terror was released, the critics hated it.  Said the New York Times: “Dull, absurd trash”.

Ralph Crane / LIFE / Getty Images
Ralph Crane / LIFE / Getty Images
Ralph Crane / LIFE / Getty Images
Ralph Crane / LIFE / Getty Images
Ralph Crane / LIFE / Getty Images
Ralph Crane / LIFE / Getty Images
Ralph Crane / LIFE / Getty Images
Ralph Crane / LIFE / Getty Images
Ralph Crane / LIFE / Getty Images
Ralph Crane / LIFE / Getty Images
Ralph Crane / LIFE / Getty Images
Ralph Crane / LIFE / Getty Images
Ralph Crane / LIFE / Getty Images
Ralph Crane / LIFE / Getty Images
Ralph Crane / LIFE / Getty Images

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