The Purrers

In one of her more nuanced performances, the former Confederate soldier, Lt. Princess Ethan Paws, is all consumed by her quest to rescue her kitten. Her moments of blind rage are undercut by scenes of furtive (and titular) purring, nicely rounding out the portrayal. The discerning viewer will notice that this is the only of the reels where the protagonist does not squirm out of a tiny cowboy hat. One cannot help but see the obvious parallel; these stringed hats cling to the furry heads just as the characters are bound irrecoverably to their violent ways, despite vehement emotional and physical wriggling.

Meow Grande

Initially intended to be an exploration of familial tension between Eyepatch and Eyepatch Jr. (so named for their distinctive facial coloration,) the film had to be re-edited after a crucial reel was lost due to a hairball clog. The final product is a convoluted tale of a raid across the living room into Tabby territory, led by Ford’s go-to villain, Sassy Boots. The plotting issues were overshadowed by its shockingly frank depictions of violence, which Ford noted in his journal as having, “shocked my Christmas guests.” Note the Marxist commentary through the use of new blue shirts and pillow cases to portray the river dividing the Tabbys from cat civilization; consumerism threatens to drown the characters, and separates the “Other” from “Cultured Society.”

She Wore a Yellow Collar

At the ripe old age of nine, Cavalry Captain Nathan Kittles must contain a massive outbreak of mice. The mission becomes complicated by the adorable Puss Abby and her kitten Mittens, whom Cpt. Kittles must escort to safety. Shot in Ford’s kitchen, this film is remarkable for the careful mise en scene of the final wedding sequence, paying homage to Ford’s contemporaries, Cecil B. DeMille and the controversial D.W. Griffith. It is also notable for the acting debut of Ford’s daughter, Barbara, who can be seen holding up the groom, 1st Lt. Cutie Cohill. Longtime Ford fans will notice that the Captain’s distinctive Red Flyer Wagon is thought to be the only example of product placement in Ford’s long career.

Scratchpost

What happens when a calico cat, a black cat, a gray cat and a white cat have to travel together in the back of a car? Ford answers the question in this calculated ensemble piece. Though marred by production setbacks—an unexpected thunderstorm scared the cats too badly to shoot—the film was an unexpected triumph. The bandit Calico Kid acts as a wonderful foil to the gruff Marshall Curly Whiskers Wilcox. These two performances anchor the piece, allowing the other cats to really explore their roles and play with yarn.

The Kitty Who Scratched Liberty Valance

A weak point in Ford’s typically strong home movie career, the film seems to be trying to explore the theme of unity overcoming geographic, social, and cultural divisions. Sadly, it is crippled by poor plotting and continuity errors. The most glaring example occurs about halfway through the film, when the local drunk, Sloppy Tabby, disappears between shots. This departure is never explained, though we can hear his mewing from off screen. And while the viewer is treated to dazzlingly composed shots of Ford’s backyard and various rooms in his home, many academics dismiss this later work as just two cats playing on a blanket.