[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”B0001I55R4″ locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51HJS8SNMHL._SL160_.jpg” width=”111″]The Disney movie [easyazon-link asin=”B0001I55R4″ locale=”us”]The Three Lives of Thomasina[/easyazon-link] was based upon Gallico’s 1957 novel [easyazon-link asin=”0385048041″ locale=”us”]Thomasina the Cat Who Thought She Was God[/easyazon-link]. Thomasina is a cat who has wandered into the lives of a housekeeper, a veterinarian (played by Patrick McGoohan), and a 10-year old girl in Scotland in 1912. When this assortment of humans moved into a particular house, she showed up shortly afterwards, and successfully insinuated herself into the household. The cat is initially called “Tom”, but this is changed to “Thomasina”, “when they got to know me better”. The movie’s story is told from the point of view of the cat. The little girl often treats the cat like a doll, and the cat or cats used for the scene where a doll bonnet is clumsily put on, initially getting hooked on the cat’s teeth, had to have been a very patient and long-suffering feline, and a very brave one to put up with the outing in a baby carriage where she comes into close contact with a bind man’s Seeing Eye dog, and doesn’t run away. The cat does get opportunities to do normal “cat” things, like stalking birds in the garden, but such activities can get interrupted by the little girl randomly picking up the cat. Though the cat puts up with this, and more, she does got a place at the family dining table at mealtimes, where the housekeeper allows her a little cream, and the little girl gives her meat from her plate in spite of her father’s admonishments against it. There are “boundaries”, though. The night before “market day” is Thomasina’s “night out”, because she goes to the market to steal fish for breakfast at dawn, when they are putting it out. On most other nights, when she is “put out for the night” by the father, Thomasina climbs back into the house through the little girl’s bedroom window, by means of a well-placed tree limb. Despite so obvious an attachment, supposedly the father is oblivious with no idea his daughter would take it so hard when he decides to euthanize the cat after it is found injured and stiff, whereupon he diagnoses it with tetanus. In all fairness, he was distracted by an emergency: Blind Tammas’ Seeing Eye dog, Bruce, had been hit by a car, and it is up to MacDhui to perform emergency surgery to save him. He leaves it to his veterinary assistant to “destroy the cat, and the cloth it was brought in with”, while he concentrates on the surgery. He claims to have “put the cat to sleep” but neither the veterinarian nor his assistant is shown doing so. Thus, Thomasina may have survived, albeit in a comatose state, reckoned dead by those around her, including, but not limited to the medical professionals. The little girl and a group of pre-teen boys with whom she associates get hold of the corpse of the cat, and give it a formal funeral procession, the boys wearing kilts and playing bagpipes, the girl dressed in black to mourn the loss of her cat. They do not bury the cat in the ground, but pile stones upon the box she’s in. Thus this leaves open the possibility that the cat somehow escapes alive. Though Thomasina seemingly spends quite a bit of time apparently dead, the possibility of a “near-death” experience is raised by the scene where Thomasina is shown falling through a tunnel and into another dimension with an idol to Bastet, the Egyptian cat-goddess, and a retinue of Siamese cats inhabiting some artist’s idea of “cat heaven”, what seems to be an otherworldly temple of cat-worship. Because this movie trades on the myth that cats have nine lives (in spite of there being a leading character focused on science) the Divine Cat tells ordinary Thomasina that her nine lives aren’t finished yet, and she’s getting re-incarnated for more. Thus, Thomasina returns to the land of the living, and when the “witch” who inhabits a cottage on the edge of town finds her att he funeral, she discovers Thomasina is still breatheing. The “witch” in the cottage is a nice, young unattached lady, who merely sings in Gaelic, works a hand-loom, and wants to be left alone. She does “have a way with animals”, though, and people bring her sick or injured animals, and like other Disney heroines, she is seen in the company of a variety of wild creatures who come up to her, unlike with ordinary people. All she has is love and care, not, as she points out when she later meets MacDhui, the skill (and formal education) of a veterinarian. In spite of what physical care and generalized love “the witch”, Lori MacGregor, played by Susan Hampshire has to offer, Thomasina is not content with her new home and “new life” because she is no longer as “important” to someone as she had previously been, but is “one of many” of a menagerie seen on the grounds of the cottage, though she does come up to and sniff a fluffy long-haired black cat who is among the animals gathered on the grounds in front of the cottage.
This being a Disney movie, despite some extreme emotional storms, the movie ultimately had a happy ending: Thomasina not only comes back to life but gets back her memory, and is able to return to her little girl owner. Though she had previously seemed contented to get along without close association with other people, “the witch” does ultimately unfreeze long enough to relate to the seemingly cold, cynical veterinarian, and find common ground with him. At the conclusion of the movie, they marry, whether out of love or pragmatism, giving “a new mother” to the girl, as their local clergyman had recommended.
Unfortunately, life rarely works out so well for either animals or humans.
Susan Hampshire explains on the “Bonus Material” section of the DVD version, in an interview recorded years after the movie had been made, that if you think you see color variation in the cat in the movie, you are not imagining things: several different cats were used for the character of Thomasina, because as with babies, there are legally limited numbers of hours cats can work. Also, as the cat gets wet several times during the course of the picture, it would have undoubtedly qualified as animal cruelty to get the same cat wet on all of those occasions.

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