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CBSRMT Episode Information
Title:
The Child's Cat Paw
Plot:
A child and a strange cat weave a spell on an old man and a gold digger to put them together. The girl's motives are pure, the cat's are not.
Episode:
0649
Air Dates:
First Run - May 17, 1977
Repeat - September 28, 1977
Writer:
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Rating:
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24 Responses to Episode 0649


A squeaky voiced Sarah Jessica Parker plays Diana AND her stray cat companion who talks.

The story revolves around a family and their little girl snow bound in the country in the middle of the winter. The girl starts to communicate with her cat "Fanny" which she nicknamed from it's formal name 'Familiar' - a witch's cat. The mother becomes concern and suspects that the cat is more than it is. The girl wants to help her uncle find him a wife. A story that deals with a girl growing up and taking control of her life. A life affirming drama, different from the stories of that time period on RMT but I liked it. The story could be played today to kids without being condescending, but would they sit and listen to radio? I noticed that the show credits a child actor as Sarah Parker. I once heard it is Sarah Jessica Parker, who would of been 12 years old at the time and in New York City working on Broadway show.

This story first aired during the 4th year on May 17, 1977. 12 year-old Sarah Jessica Parker (billed as the star of this episode without her middle name) plays a little girl named Dinah who talks to her cat. The cat also talks back to her, which leads one to believe that either the child....or her cat may be a witch. * It's early in the long career of the normally likeable and talented Ms. Parker. Yet it sounds like she's making her voice higher than it should be for a pre-teen, and in this story she gets on your nerves after a while. * A plus: It may have been the first time in the series that Himan Brown actually hired a child actor to play child (an honor normally taken by upper middle-aged character actress Evie Juster). * A minus: Evie Juster plays the voice of Dinah's cat! She is as annoying as Evie tends to be whenever she uses voices other than her own.

A child and a strange cat weave a spell on an old man and a gold digger to put them together. The girl's motives are pure; the cat's are not.

I liked this story very much. Uncle Willy's situation, as well as Dinah's, made for a sweet and moving little play. And the supernatural element of Fammy, the cat familiar, added a nice touch of magic to the mix, which I really liked. When it comes to writing imaginative tales regarding loneliness and longing of the human heart (and simply human nature in general) I think Ian Marten and Elspeth Eric are the best. Also, although I'm not familiar with a lot of RMT trivia, I'm guessing that the Sarah Parker who played Dinah is now the grown-up actress we know as Sarah Jessica Parker. I base this guess on the fact that, in the late 70's, Sarah Jessica Parker was a child actress in the musical "Annie" on Broadway. She started out playing one of the orphans and then moved up to play Annie herself when Andrea McArdle left the show. Anyway, as it was often the practice for chldren to be played by grown women on the radio (usually Evie Juster on RMT), it was nice to hear a real child playing Dinah in "A Child's Cat's Paw"---and I thought she was quite good. This time, Evie got to play the cat! (But at least the cat got to talk.)

I've never seen "Sex and the city" and have no burning desire to, but...fascinating how careers evolve. Sarah Parker is now one of if maybe not the most recognizable of all former RMT stars. Funny how these things go, isn't it? It was so nice to hear a real child's voice, though. (Did she say she was a "Second" or "Seventh" grader at the end of the show?) I also like Guy Sorrell...he was good in "Ordeal by fire" and did an interesting turn in "The hand" as Sir John Rowell (and the policeman/dairy farmer Michel Des Charles). He usually sounded distinguished although he could play "commoner" roles as well. (Do any of you remember the "Firesign Theatre" comedy group? Sorrell played a security guard of sorts in an RMT play based on an Edgar Allen Poe story about a doctor who could "mesmerize" people and was able to "mesmerize" a woman's soul into not leaving her dead body. Sorrell's character was killed in the latter play, and during that he made sounds that unintentionally were like an amusing joke in a Firesign skit I once heard. He was an excellent choice in the "Cat's paw" play.) One last thing this brought back a memory of...I think the original Star Trek series had an episode entitled "Catspaw" involving people who could change into different creatures like giant cats...kind of a giant intergalactic hallowe'en party. I remember Spock telling Captain Kirk about "Familiars"...the first time I'd ever heard such a term. Steve, I agree with you about Martin and Eric. The former seemed to like to delve into supernatural situations for his plays (i.e. "Time and again"). Eric, on the other hand, was more the romantic. Her plays often became slow moving, almost at a second rate "Lifetime movie" pace. When she was on she was great. She wrote "Star Sapphire"...one of the episodes which has most haunted me.

Yes, I would be the first to agree that some of Eric's plays can be a little slow, or start out with a funny, fascinating or truly brilliant premise and then just sort of peter out. But when she's on, man, she is absolutely spot-on. Really masterful. Thought-provoking, with emotional power and truth---not to mention entertaining. She's one of my favorite writers for the show. I've never heard "Star Sapphire", but plan to listen to it now. The one that has haunted me since childhood is her adaptation of "The Transformation", a short story by Mary Shelly. It's pitch-perfect, and probably my favorite mystery theater of all time. It's stayed in my mind with perfect clarity for over 25 years. Of course I certainly haven't heard every episode, but many of the favorites I have heard are hers, and Martin's too. It says a lot for the skill of ALL the show's writers that each of their styles is so distinctly recognizable. But I digress---this forum is about a play written by Ian Martin. So I say, "Here, here! Kudos to Mr. Martin for a job very well done!"

I have to admit I've never been able to tell the actors from one play to another - Fred Gwynne being the one exception. I don't know why this is but I sure admire those of you who can truly critique the work of the actors as they move from role to role. Maybe I just don't pay enough attention or I don't have the ear but for me, it's like I'm a small kid and the illusion of unique personalities behind every radio mystery theater program works for me.

I absolutely agree, the ending was a bit predictable. But then again, from my point of view, perhaps a surprising ending is not so important in such a play. After all, it's set up so that we can hardly doubt the outcome of Uncle Willy's May/December romance. But there's a lot of truth in the actions of his character. A older person who has spent a great deal of time alone in life can be blind to things that are obvious to the rest of us. It's just human nature. That's one of the main points of the story. This is a story concerned more with how you get there, not where you're going---more of a character piece, not a mystery. I found the theme of this shared loneliness between a young character and an older character to be very compelling. I think it's a theme that hits home for a lot of people. The beauty of it is Dinah's sweet, child-like concern for Uncle Willy--and despite her initial ill-fated attempt to help him out, the chain of events she sets in motion eventually resolve to a happy ending. And the advice of the capricious cat, which could be read as synonymous with either Willy's folly or Dinah's state of frustrated, cooped-up boredome, does eventually lead the characters where they need to go. Put another way, Fammy stirs everyone up out of their "snow-bound" complacencies. As to the cat voice, yep, you're right. Irritating. But I loved it. I thought it was hysterical! Guess I'm kinda perverse in that way. Besides, for many years I owned a cat who met me at the door everyday when I got home from work and wanted to tell me all about her day. She thought she could speak English! And I gotta say, she sounded alot like that silly Fammy in the play.

I thought it was ok. Nothing about it bowled me over. It was the first one my son ever listened to (he's 13) and he really liked it and said I should listen to it. Sarah Jessica Parker would have been 12 when this was done. If you knew where she came from, you'd know what an accomplishment it was for her to escape. She was born in Nelsonville, Ohio -- a rustic little burg in OHio's coal country. It ain't pretty and there ain't much there. It was the scene of the 1985 teen movie "Breathless". The cat really annoyed me. I hate when people try to voice cats. It's never good. The story was engaging, but did not stand out as one of the better tales in this series. My views on Elspeth Eric's work are pretty well documented in my listening log. I really don't like her work. It's dripping with bad dialogue disguised as emotion and boring plots disguised as character studies. Occasionally she was good. usually, she was bad. Martin was ok. But he was not nearly as good as Sam Dann or Bob Juhren who I think was the best. Juhren only wrote 30 scripts, but they were great!

Come on. I think you're overstating it. After all, for all his good scripts, Sam Dann wrote his fair share of bloody awful stinkers through the years too, and no mistake. He'd probably admit it himself. No artist is perfect. It's the nature of the creative process---especially when you're stuggling to crank out as many scripts as you can to make a living in the Big Apple and put food on the table. Each writer for the show specialized in a certain type of story. I imagine Himan Brown planned it that way for variety's sake--to appeal to the tastes of as many different listeners as possible. It's probably why the show lasted as long as it did. But they're all good writers. They were well-chosen, and very skilled in each of their particular areas, if not always perfect.

Yes, Dann was definitely the most consistent writer for the show, I agree--the guy you could rely on. And he was an excellent writer in the traditional OTR style. I also agree that the other writers were less consistent. But occasionally, in my opinion, they produced truly brilliant scripts---much better than Dann's, in fact. This is just my opinion. I don't want to raise a firestorm of controversy. I actually have a great fondness for Dann. It just seems that, in the final analysis, most of my personal favorites---the stories that get under my skin and rise far above the average radio mystery--- turn out not to have been written by him. Go figure. In regard to that "Star Sapphire" thread, all I can say is, "hmmmmm..." It sounds terribly disturbing. Guess I'll have to give the episode a listen and make up my own mind.

I agree that Dann wrote a few clunkers. But with his volume, he was consistently good. Juhren is just fantastic. If he wrote a bad episode, I've not hear it. Check out "Hickory, Dickory, Dooom" for an example of his work. It was a show of the week many weeks ago. Martin was ok. I think it is a matter of taste in genre that keeps me from rating his work higher. While he occasionally ventured into the supernatural, he usually wrote crime and spy stories. Not my cup of tea. Eric occasionally hit the mark, but usually she was just bad. The worst episode ever, hands down, was "Appointment in Uganda". While "Girl Talk" might have been unintentionally funny, "Appointment" was not. Eric was responsible for this nauseatingly bad piece of garbage. I know that one bad script doesn't make a bad writer, but on the whole, Eric wrote a lot more bad scripts than good.

I thouht this story was just ok. I agree that the cat voice was obnoxious. It was a relief to hear Sarah Parker as the young girl instead of an older person trying to sound like a child. I'm glad that there are others that can't tell what voice belongs to which person. Except for Fred Gwynne and a few others, I can't tell who is who.

I thought it was a good story, not among my very favorites but I enjoyed it. I don't know how people can keep all of those voices straight and put names on them. LOL. I tend to be in the mode where I listen for fun and enjoyment rather than trying to figure too much out. Maybe I had one too many courses in Jr. High and High School where we had to analyze characters in stories to figure out which level of the Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs they were on. I always chalked up my not quite getting what they were all talking about in those classes to the fact that I was a year younger than everyone in my class and "how on earth did I get in the gifted class--don't you teachers *know* I don't get this stuff???" ROFLOL! I literally asked 1 teacher *why* I was in her class and found out the previous year's teacher suggested it so I went back to him and asked him *why* he thought I belonged in that class. I have found that I have to go into the fun/enjoyment mode with reading or watching movies or I feel like it's homework.

I always try to let people know my biases up front. That makes it easier for people to use my evaluation system. I love that seventies "gateway to hell" stuff. I also love a good haunted house story. If you don't like them, you're not going to like Hickory, Dickory, Doom. I'm less into the spy stories and mysteries. While I try to dismiss my own prejudices when I evaluate, they are mine and I own them. They no doubt creep into my evaluations. Many of you probably like Ian Martin a lot more than I do. You're right, I don't like Elspeth Eric. However, I love a good debate. I've thoroughly enjoyed this one.

I listened to Eric's adaptation of Shelley's "The Transformation" before I did any sort of rating. However, in the plot summary, I referred to it as a "Kafkaesque tale of lost love and redemption." I've listened to about 450 episodes, so it's hard to remember much about that particular one, but I must have liked it.

i couldn't quite get into this one. the actors were all fairly good. the little girl was good for a little girl. i kept finding myself rating her acting more than i was listening to what she was saying. maybe i was too rough on her. the story had some promise but it never came through. i never felt the tension. i never could bring myself to care about the characters. the cat's voice was standard but his meowing sounded too fake. although when i couldn't tell if the cat was a real witch or not i was interested. the parents sounded like hippies and i didn't care about them. the uncle was the best of the bunch. but even he was a little shallow.

I always try to let people know my biases up front. That makes it easier for people to use my evaluation system. I love that seventies "gateway to hell" stuff. I also love a good haunted house story. If you don't like them, you're not going to like Hickory, Dickory, Doom. I'm less into the spy stories and mysteries. While I try to dismiss my own prejudices when I evaluate, they are mine and I own them. They no doubt creep into my evaluations. Many of you probably like Ian Martin a lot more than I do. You're right, I don't like Elspeth Eric. However, I love a good debate. I've thoroughly enjoyed this one.

I thought the story was terrific and really enjoyed how it all swung back around into a positive twist. Very nice. However, I may be simply biased against child actors in radio, but something about the child/cat voice was like rubbing my ear over an old cheese grater. I've found this the case with a couple of RMT episodes involving children (there's a Christmas episode which I felt the same way, perhaps Holiday Visit(?)). It is an immediate turn off, but Sarah Parker at least delivered a solid performance which kept the show on course, despite my obvious distaste. Anyone who has ever felt heartbreak can relate to this tale, but fortunately anyone who's ever found happiness after heart break can smile in the same relation. The Uncle's predicament was certainly something worthy of empathy which is why I found the tale so good.

Greetings all, I have the feeling that I listened to a different story after reading some of the comments. I did not care for the story that much. I found the child and cat voices to be especially irritating. I also thought that the outcome was too predictable. Having said that, let me add that I truly enjoyed the chance to listen and comment. This is my first post. Thanks to all for such a great website. I will be back for more!

I suspect you were trying to show us the talent of Sarah Jessica Parker and I must say I was very impressed. She did a great job, though she couldn't have been much older than 11 or 12 years of age. Her inflection and her maturity as a voice actress were well beyond her years. The story was solid. At first I thought it was going to be "halloween-ish" given the cat/witch/familiar theme. This would have been an intriguing angle but I was equally interested in the more humanistic plot. We listened to two lonely characters and more importantly, we saw the results of the decisions they made. Uncle Willie, perhaps under a spell, made a poor choice when selecting a mate but in the end, he ended up with the best woman. Dinah matures during the course of the play to enter her teen years with a bit more reservation. I enjoyed this program and have a new found respect for Sarah Jessica Parker as a voice actress.

Even when Dann was "off" he could be great. I enjoyed an episode I've discussed called "Girl Talk" that Dann wrote which I think had an unintentionally hilarious performance by the talented Robert Dryden.

Just a wild guess here...but, ummm... could it be you don't like Elspeth Eric? Well, it just goes to show that all different people have all different tastes, right? That's what makes the world go round. For example, I've always thought that "Hickory Dickory Doom" was one of the silliest and worst plays in the series. It's just another in that genre of paranoic, gateway-to-hell / possessed-by-the-devil / clueless-travelers-trapped-in-a-town-full-of-satan-worshipper stories that were so popular on TV in the mid to late 70's---the stories where the good guys never make it out alive. :twisted: (Heh! Heh! Heh! Prepare the sacrifice!) Since I grew up in the 70's, I've had my fill of such stories and try to avoid them. "The Summer People" and "A Ring of Roses" are two other similar types of Mystery Theater play. I have no idea who they were written by, but I just don't care for them. Too frustrating and way too predictable. But I digress. What I really wanted to write is that I went and listened to Elspeth Eric's "Star Sapphire". Yuck. Left a bad taste in my mouth. Really disturbing and distasteful. The fact that Fred Gwynne was so darn good, so believable in his role, just made it all the more disturbingly real. Anyway, enough of all that

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