Hey gang! Before Halle Berry and Michelle Pfeiffer took on the role of the beautiful Batman character Catwoman there was Julie Newmar, the first actress to play the character in the original 1960's TV series. These never-before-seen photos of the actress come from a photo shoot wth LIFE magazine that was never published while the actress was still up and coming.
Back in October 1958, well before she ever donned a pair of cat whiskers or rolled the “r” in the word “perfect,” Julie Newmar (aka TV’s Catwoman) was an up-and-coming star about to embark on a high-profile photo shoot for one of the world’s biggest magazines, some of them never seen before until being published in this gallery. It was an afternoon that Newmar, then 25, still remembers vividly. Newmar, who is soon to publish a new book, The Conscious Catwoman Explains Life on Earth (available for sale through her website)
Check out the pictures and tell us what you think!
After the LIFE shoot, Newmar (who later appeared several more times in LIFE in both articles and ads) went on to make her full-time TV debut as Rhoda the Robot in the short-lived My Living Doll in 1964. But it was in 1966 that she made her most lasting claim to fame, as the purrfect feline-themed foil to the Caped Crusader in the over-the-top Batman series. She now lives in Los Angeles, where she dedicates time to her fans, her art, and her writing.
Newmar wasn't the first choice for the role of Katrin Sveg, a young Swedish woman who wants a married professor of anthropology to father her child. "They couldn't get Anita Ekberg. I think the author actually wanted Brigitte Bardot, but Brigitte is French and not Swedish."
Not one to be one-upped by Newmar's skimpy outfit and funny line, Colbert used the stage furniture to her advantage for the big sparring scene between the female leads. But Newmar wasn't without her own tricks. "I would be sitting on a banquette. And [with each new show] the banquette moved further and further downstage, so she could be facing the audience," Newmar mischievously recalls. "And the further the banquette went each night, the lower the towel got draped every night by none other than myself!"
When LIFE learned that Newmar had been cast in the play, also starring film greats Charles Boyer and Claudette Colbert, it sent photographer Ralph Morse to shoot her. Morse covered the NASA space missions for LIFE, but this assignment would only take him a few blocks from the LIFE offices to the play's set, which had been made up to look like an academic couple's apartment. This shot is among her favorites from that shoot. "Nice figure," she notes.
This photograph has that old-fashioned makeup with the false eyelashes everyone wore that extend beyond the eye," Newmar says. "It's relaxed. It has that glamour that we refer to when we talk about Mad Men, this golden glamour of the 1950s -- this is what people remember." Of this photo, she says: "That's my personal favorite. I have it on a mousepad."