Happy Birthday – Julie Newmar – Still Purrfect…

Julie Newmar - Still the Purrfect Villainess
Julie Newmar – Still the Purrfect Villainess

by Shannonn Kelly
10:41AM, EST, August 16, 2012

If you are a Batman fan like I am, you are also a Catwoman fan. Today is the birthday of TVs first Catwoman, Ms. Julie Newmar. She is 79.

The statuesque Newmar stands at 5′ 11″ while her counterpart in Season 3 the fabbbbulous Ms. Eartha Kitt was 5′ 4″. Newmar played Catwoman in seasons 1 and 2 in the Batman TV Series. She was set to continue to the 3rd and final season but had a schedule conflict.

One of the things people might now know is that Newmar ‘s mother was a fashion designer under the name “Chalene” and between the two of them, they decided to modify her Catwoman outfit by moving the the belt from the waist to the hips to emphasize Newmar’s  hourglass figure.

That costume is now on permanent display in the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of American History along with Halle Berry’s costume from the movie “Catwoman” (2004) and the cowl worn by George Clooney in Batman & Robin.

Making a name for herself both on stage and screen, Julie wanted to be known for her comedy. She once told the New York Times: “Tell me I’m funny, and it’s the greatest compliment in the world.”

Nemar was born Julia Chalene Newmeyer, in Los Angeles, California, the eldest of three children.

A bit of a side note: I would love to know what profession she’d be involved in in the ‘real world’ had she not been an actress. A fashion designer like her mom? A real estate developer…? There seems to be nothing she cannot do.

I found out that in 1977 Newmar appeared in People Magazine wearing her new invention “Nudemar” pantyhose . As a designer/inventor, Newmar received two US patents for those pantyhose and one for a bra.The pantyhose were described by Newmar herself: “They make your derriere look like an apple instead of a ham sandwich”, due to an elastic back seam. The bra was described as “nearly invisible” and in the style of Marilyn Monroe.

In the 1980’s it was stated that Newmar was ” partly responsible for improving the Los Angeles neighborhoods on La Brea Avenue and Fairfax Avenue near the Grove.” Newmar invested heavily in Los Angeles real estate and even went back to school to UCLA to study real estate courses. Nowadays besides guest appearances and still managing her properties, Newmar spends part of every day meditating and walking amongst her waterfalls and rose gardens that she tends herself as an avid horticulturist.

However, sadly and ironically, Newmar is slowly losing her ability to walk due to an incurable neuromuscular disease called Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease (CMT). Her legs were once insured for $1 million by Lloyd’s of London and got a lot of work very early on her her career.

Newmar played a “dancer-assassin” in “Slaves of Babylon” and a gold painted “gilded girl” in “Serpent of the Nile” (starring Raymond Burr) both filmed in 1953. She danced in several other films, including The Band Wagon and Demetrius and the Gladiators, and was a ballerina with the Los Angeles Opera. She also worked as a choreographer and dancer for Universal Studios. Her first major film role, billed as Julie Newmeyer, was as Dorcas, one of the brides in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954).

In 1955, on stage she was in Silk Stockings opposite Hildegarde Neff and Don Ameche. Her three-minute Broadway appearance as the leggy ‘Stupefyin’ Jones’ in the musical Li’l Abner in 1956 led to a reprise in the 1959 film version.

On October 29, 1958 she appeared as Swedish vixen ‘Katrin Sveg’ in the stage premiere of “The Marriage-Go-Round“, a role she apparently created herself. For her efforts, she won a Tony Award for Best Supporting Actress. She also appeared in the film, The Marriage-Go-Round (1961), opposite James Mason and Susan Hayward which was a box-office flop. Newmar then appeared back on stage opposite Joel Grey in the national tour of Stop the World – I Want to Get Off and as Lola in Damn Yankees! and Irma in Irma La Douce. Later in 1963, actress played Irma in the film of the same name.

Newmar made the transition to television, appearing in Rod Serling‘s science fiction series “The Twilight Zone” (1959), playing Miss Devlin (devil). She was nominated for a Golden Globe® Award as ‘Best TV Star – Female’ when she played ‘Rhoda the Robot’ in “My Living Doll” a sitcom that had an enthusiastic cult following from 1964.

Then, in 1966, friends suggested she audition for ‘Catwoman’ for the wildly popular comic-bookish television series “Batman” (1966). To see a great scene between her and Adam West, where she tries to tempt batman, please click Here.

According to Wikipedia:

In May 1968 she appeared in Playboy magazine. In 1969 she played a hit-woman in the TV series It Takes a Thief episode The Funeral is on Mundy, starring Robert Wagner. She starred in the film Mackenna’s Gold, starring , , and . Also in 1969 she starred in the low-rated film, The Maltese Bippy along with many cast members from the then popular Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In.

In 1962, Newmar appeared twice as motorcycle-riding, free-spirited heiress Vicki Russell on Route 66, filmed in Tucson, Arizona (“How Much a Pound is Albatross”) and in Tennessee (“Give the Old Cat a Tender Mouse”). She guest-starred on The Twilight Zone as the devil, F Troop as an Indian princess, Bewitched (“The Eight-Year Itch Witch” in 1971) as a cat named Ophelia given human form by Endora (essentially playing her Catwoman character from Batman), The Beverly Hillbillies, and Get Smart as a double agent assigned to Maxwell Smart’s apartment posing as a maid.

In 1967, she guest-starred as April Conquest in an episode of The Monkees (“Monkees Get Out More Dirt”), and was a pregnant princess in the Star Trek episode “Friday’s Child“. In 1983 she would reprise the hit-woman role in Robert Wagner’s series Hart to Hart, in the episode A Change of Hart. Both performances with Robert Wagner included full-body grappling ending with Wagner lying on top of Newmar. In the 1970s she had guest roles in Columbo and The Bionic Woman.

Newmar appeared in several low-budget films during the next two decades. She guest-starred on TV, appearing on The Love Boat, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Hart to Hart, CHiPs and Fantasy Island. She was seen in the music video for George Michael‘s “Too Funky” in 1992, and appeared as herself in a 1996 episode of Melrose Place.

The 1995 film To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar paid homage to her and Newmar herself makes a cameo appearance near the film’s end.

In 2003, Newmar appeared as herself in the TV-Movie Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt alongside former Batman co-stars Adam West, Burt Ward, Frank Gorshin and Lee Meriwether.

Wishing Ms. Julie Newmar a ‘BatTastic’ Birthday! To watch a cool fan video of her as Catwoman, please click Here.

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