Searching the future feline star: The black cat audition in Hollywood, 1961

These photos were taken in 1961 by renowned LIFE photographer Ralph Crane and documented the audition for the role of a black cat.

Following a newspaper casting call, 152 black cats await auditions for the low-budget horror film adaptation of "Tales of Terror" by Edgar Allan Poe. Those with a white nose or claws are immediately disqualified.

An adaptation of three short stories by Edgar Allan Poe, "Tales of Terror," starring Vincent Price, Peter Lorre and Basil Rathbone, and directed by Roger Corman.

In the film, the monster Herringbone hates his wife Annabelle and her black cat. On a night out on the town, he happens to be at a wine tasting event and challenges Fortunato Lucharesi, the world's foremost wine taster, to a competition. Herringbone gets drunk. Lucrecy takes him home and meets his wife.

Lucrecy and Annabelle become physically intimate, and upon discovering this, Herringbone buries them alive, behind a wall, in the basement of the house. Later, the police investigate—and after hearing a terrifying meow-ing from the basement, Lucrecy and Annabelle break down the wall to find the dead and the cat.

Several cats appeared for the auditions, all of them "significantly less nervous than their owners." On November 28, 1961, an article in the Los Angeles Times reported:

Hollywood in N. The sidewalk in the 600 block of Bronson Avenue turned into a cat walk on Monday. More than 100 black cats line up—as many cats will line up—in response to a newspaper ad looking for "a clever black cat" for an audition for a movie part.

There were big black cats, little black cats, gray black cats, black kittens, black and white cats, white and black cats, nervous black cats, soft black cats. There was also a white cat. It was there to keep a friend, a black cat, company. A woman needed first aid because a cat next to her decided she didn't like her leg and scratched it. ,

Throughout history, black cats have been plagued by superstition and folklore. The fear of the use of hysteria and sorcery was also seen in the medieval period. Many innocent women (and men) were accused of using magic and were persecuted.

People believed that witches use black cats to commit evil deeds and communicate with the devil. Other myths claimed that witches would turn into black cats as a way to hide their identity or cast spells in secret.

The black cat superstition traveled to the Americas when Europeans left. The persecution of witches and cats continued during the Salem witch trials in which more than 200 people were accused of witchcraft.

During this time, black cats, among other animals, were accused of helping witches perform magic and were even accused of practicing witchcraft themselves.

Fortunately for our feline friends, these bad superstitions have almost disappeared and black cats are now part of many families around the world.

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