Kitty (1945 film)

Kitty is a 1945 film, a costume drama set in London during the 1780s, directed by Mitchell Leisen, based on the novel of the same name by Rosamond Marshall (published in 1943), with a screenplay by Karl Tunberg. It stars Paulette Goddard, Ray Milland, Constance Collier, Patric Knowles, Reginald Owen, and Cecil Kellaway as the English painter Thomas Gainsborough. In a broad interpretation of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, the film tells the rags-to-riches story of a beautiful young cockney guttersnipe who is given a complete makeover by an impoverished aristocrat (Milland) and his aunt (Collier) in hopes of arranging her marriage to a peer, thereby repairing their fortunes and their social status.

Kitty (1945 film).jpg
Theatrical poster to Kitty (1945)
Directed byMitchell Leisen
Written byKarl Tunberg
Darrell Ware
Based onnovel by Rosamond Marshall
Produced byMitchell Leisen
StarringPaulette Goddard
Ray Milland
CinematographyDaniel L. Fapp
Edited byAlma Macrorie
Music byVictor Young
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • March 31, 1945 (1945-03-31)
Running time
103 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$2 million[1]
Box office$3.5 million (US rentals)[2]


In the London slum of Houndsditch in 1783, Kitty is working as a pickpocket in a band of thieves led by Old Meg. She is caught trying to pick the pocket of the painter Thomas Gainsborough. He offers to pay her more to sit for a portrait for him. There, she attracts the attention of Sir Hugh Marcy and the Earl of Carstairs. Sir Hugh, upon finding out her real social status, offers her a job as a scullery maid. Kitty learns that he is impoverished, having lost his post in the foreign office due to a scandal.

Gainsborough's portrait, The Anonymous Lady, creates a stir, as people try to guess who the subject is. The Duke of Malmunster buys both that painting and Gainsborough's The Blue Boy. When the duke asks Gainsborough who the model is, Hugh claims she is his aunt's ward. The duke admits he may have been mistaken in having Hugh dismissed from his position (in favor of the duke's nephew), and in exchange for an introduction to Kitty "Gordon", offers to reinstate him. Hugh, who had planned to avenge his dismissal by publicly revealing Kitty's origins and embarrassing the duke, changes his mind in favor of regaining his place in society.

He and his aunt, Lady Susan Dowitt, teach Kitty how to pose as a lady of fashion. What Sir Hugh does not count on is the attraction Kitty develops for him. When Hugh is sent to debtors' prison, Kitty charms the wealthy ironmonger Jonathan Selby into marrying her, using part of her dowry to free Hugh. Hugh is furious, but has to accept the situation.

Hugh and Lady Susan soon spend the rest of the dowry and go back into debt. Kitty breaks into her husband's strongbox to get the pair out of debt, but Selby finds out and starts beating her. Seeing this, Kitty's loyal maid kills him, then commits suicide.

Kitty inherits a large fortune and wants to find happiness with Hugh, but he is determined to marry her off to the duke and reclaim his career. Kitty gives in. After the honeymoon, the duke lets it become known that Kitty is pregnant (though the father is actually Selby). After the birth of the boy, the future 10th duke, the old dissolute 9th duke dies, leaving Kitty extremely wealthy.

After Hugh attempts to arrange a third marriage to the Prince of Wales for money and status, Kitty finally makes it clear to Hugh she married twice out of love for him. He, however, does not consider the relationship as anything other than a business arrangement. The Earl of Carstairs, freshly returned from India, gets Kitty to agree to marry him. Seeing them together, Hugh realizes he loves Kitty, but is unable to convince her to break her engagement.

Finally, he brings Old Meg to see Kitty and Carstairs. Kitty tells Meg to tell all she knows about her old life, but Carstairs' love is unshaken. Defeated, Hugh genuinely congratulates Kitty and leaves. She realizes then that she will always love him and goes after him. They kiss, and the Prince of Wales and Gainsborough remark that Hugh does not deserve her.



The film was based on a novel by Rosamund Marshall. Film rights were bought by Paramount prior to the novel's publication for a reported $50,000.[3]

In October 1943, Paramount announced they would make the film with Paulette Goddard and Ray Milland, with Karl Turnberg and Darrell Ware to write and produce.[4] The novel was published that month.[5] The New York Times called it "robust entertainment".[6] By January 1946 it had sold almost 900,000 copies.[7]

In the original novel, Kitty was a prostitute. The Breen office, who handled censorship at the time, ruled if this was to be kept in the film version, Kitty would have to die at the end for punishment. The story was changed so Kitty was a pickpocket.[8]

In March 1944 Mitchell Leisen was given the job of directing and Cecil Kellaway was cast as Gainsborough.[9]

Director Leisen worked very hard with the set and costume designers to create a historically correct picture of 18th-century England. The California portrait painter Theodore Lukits served as technical adviser for the film's artistic scenes and painted the portrait of Kitty that is seen in the film. Lukits knew Ray Milland because he had painted his wife's portrait in 1942.

Goddard was coached in her cockney accent by Connie Lupino, mother of Ida Lupino.[10]

In May 1944, before filming began, Goddard signed a new contract with Paramount to make two films a year over seven years.[11]

Filming started in May 1944. Leisen reportedly spent over $25,000 on recreations of Gainsborough portraits.[12] Goddard made the film after returning from entertaining the troops in India and Burma. Milland made it immediately prior to The Lost Weekend.[13][14]

The ending of the film was re-shot in December 1944.[15]


Box OfficeEdit

The film was popular earning over $3 million at the North American box office.[2]


The film was nominated for one Oscar for Best Art Direction-Interior Decoration, Black-and-White (Hans Dreier, Walter H. Tyler, Samuel M. Comer, Ray Moyer).[16]

Radio adaptationEdit

Kitty was presented on Hollywood Players on CBS November 5, 1946. The adaptation starred Paulette Goddard.[17]


  1. ^ THOMAS M. PRYOR (Apr 8, 1945). "BLITHE SPENDTHRIFT: Parisian Lady". New York Times. p. 41.
  2. ^ a b "60 Top Grossers of 1946", Variety 8 January 1947 p8
  3. ^ "Hedda Hoppers: LOOKING AT HOLLYWOOD". Los Angeles Times. Dec 6, 1943. p. A9.
  4. ^ "SCREEN NEWS HERE AND IN HOLLYWOOD: Goddard and Milland to Star in 'Kitty' -- Cook Chosen to Head Film Critics Group". New York Times. Oct 19, 1943. p. 15.
  5. ^ "Books Published Today". New York Times. Oct 22, 1943. p. 13.
  6. ^ Sherman, Beatrice (Nov 7, 1943). "Cockney Galatea: KITTY. By Rozamond Marshall. 303 pp. New York: Duell, Sloan & Pearce. $2.50. The Latest Works of Fiction". New York Times. p. BR18.
  7. ^ "Books--Authors". New York Times. Jan 31, 1946. p. 30.
  8. ^ J. D. SPIROHOLLYWOOD (Oct 16, 1949). "HOLLYWOOD MEMOS: Gertrude Lawrence Prepares for 'Glass Menagerie' -- Dual Deal -- Other Items". New York Times. p. X5.
  9. ^ Schallert, Edwin (Mar 6, 1944). "Lubitsch Will Help Re-Sponsor Catherine: Leisen to Boss 'Kitty,' With Kellaway Acting Gainsborough; Academy Rebuttal". Los Angeles Times. p. 10.
  10. ^ Schallert, Edwin (June 28, 1944). "'Storm in April' New Purchase by Columbia: Negrete Plans to Do Film in Hollywood; 'Gallant Week-End' Slated by R.K.O.". Los Angeles Times. p. A9.
  11. ^ "SCREEN NEWS HERE AND IN HOLLYWOOD: June Allyson Named to Lead in 'Music for Millions' -- 'Taxi to Heaven' Opens Today". New York Times. May 24, 1944. p. 23.
  13. ^ Frank Daugherty. The Christian Science Monitor (Aug 18, 1944). "'Kitty' Might Stir Costume Film Revival". p. 4.
  14. ^ IDWAL JONES (Oct 15, 1944). "WHAT! NO MORE YAKS?: Producers Are Faced With Dilemma as Crop of Hair (for Wigs) Runs Out". New York Times. p. X3.
  15. ^ Hopper, Hedda (Dec 1, 1944). "Looking at Hollywood". Chicago Daily Tribune. p. 24.
  16. ^ "NY Times: Kitty". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. Baseline & All Movie Guide. 2012. Archived from the original on 2012-10-18. Retrieved 2008-12-20.
  17. ^ "Recreates 'Kitty" Role". Harrisburg Telegraph. October 26, 1946. p. 21. Retrieved September 29, 2015 – via  

External linksEdit