Original image: Patrick Hoesly
The King of the Cats
Author: Stephen Vincent Benét
Originally aired: 25 November 1956
Plot synopsis: A young man begins to worry that he is losing his fiancé to a renowned orchestra conductor - a man who possesses a cat-like tail! Based on a short story first published in Harper's Bazaar magazine, in February 1929; and later in Stephen Vincent Benét's short-story collection Thirteen O' Clock, in 1937.
Favourite line: 'He conducted the Beethoven Pastorale, and my dear, you've never heard such effects from an orchestra – you see, he conducted with it.'
Review: A peculiar, fantasy-tinged episode, this is based on a short story which updates a traditional British folk tale to the twentieth century and moves the setting to New York. The original tale, which is recounted in the episode, concerns a traveller who encounters a group of cats burying a coffin with a crown on top of it; and when later he tells what he saw to a friend, the latter's cat leaps up and declares, 'Then I am the King of the Cats!' In this version, the story becomes a gently whimsical tale - though for the protagonist it is, ultimately, a melancholic one - as a man with the tail of a cat becomes a sensation within high society (rather than the subject of government or scientific investigation). One of the most interesting aspects of the episode is the fact that the hero is in an interracial relationship, though this is not a story with any sort of radical agenda, seeking to challenge contemporary social conventions - instead, the main character is excused opprobrium from his family simply because his fiancée is a high-born Siamese woman and, at the time, The King and I was a fashionably popular musical. In truth, there's not much more to the story than the initial, intriguing set-up, but it's a fun, enjoyable one nonetheless.
Rating: * * *