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Make up in Film: Catwoman

Image of Anne Hathaway's Catwoman

So many girls and women wear make up as a mask to hide their insecurities, however, I believe that make up should be used as a weapon, for highlighting our best features, and enhancing our natural beauty. In film, make up has long been used to create everything from the sexy, smouldering looks of Elizabeth Taylor to the simple cuteness of Amanda Seyfried. However, it’s not just actresses that have become Sex Symbols, as characters have too.

Initially created in the 1930s by comic artist and writer Bob Kane, alongside his fellow comic writer Bill Finger, Catwoman has arguably become the most influential women in the DC Comics. It is definitely fair to say that she is the most appealing female character in the Batman comics. Plus, with feline qualities making this character sexy, seductive, conniving and stealthy, it’s no surprise that in most of the Television and Film characterisations Selina Kyle/Catwoman has been made very much into a femme fatale figure.

With Anne Hathaway about to step into that figure-hugging cat suit that so many of us women cringe at the idea of wearing, and Hathaway herself even described in Allure Magazine as “a psychological terrorist”, I wanted to take a look at one of the most iconic characters in history, to see how changing attitudes to beauty and make up have influenced the looks of Catwoman.

Image of Julie Newmar as Catwoman

The first ever adaptation of the Batman comics came in 1966, with Adam West in the lead role and the stunning Julie Newmar taking the role of Catwoman. Newmar’s look was amazingly simple and equally alluring, as it epitomises the iconic sixties eye look  that quite ironically comes with the “Cat Flick” eyeliner. It almost feels like the cat flick was designed with Catwoman in mind, and suits her seductiveness perfectly. An amazing coincidence, that is for certain. For Newmar the look is predominantly about those sexy eyes, but the part I love the most about her look is those incredible eyebrows with the little flicks in them to make them a little more cat-like.

When Newmar was forced to withdraw from the series, she was temporarily replaced (in the film) by Lee Meriwether, whose look was ultimately the same as had been already portrayed. However, when iconic singer Eartha Kitt entered the role, the overall look of Catwoman was refreshed almost completely:

Image of Eartha Kitt as Catwoman

Kitt’s Catwoman had gained a mask, that has almost always been a part of the character within various DC Comic series, and the overall look seemed more focused on the mask, rather than the make up. For me, personally, Kitt’s look seemed like a step backwards, with the character looking less seductive and more caricature. I just don’t feel that this look is sexy enough for Catwoman, especially following Newmar and the character loses a great sense of that femme fatale, opting for a rather silly look, that is perhaps more in keeping with the overall campness of the original Batman series.

Catwoman’s first visit to the big screen, wouldn’t be for another twenty four years, when she was portrayed by Michelle Pfeiffer in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns, and the huge gap spanning over two decades leaves me curious as to what Catwoman of the seventies and eighties might have looked like. It’s easy to want to speculate.

Image of Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman

Pfeiffer’s Catwoman was definitely a completely different look to both Newmar and Kitt, although in a way it roles both looks into one, but with a very Tim Burton / nineties style to it, that you have to admit is just a little bit kinky (I’m sorry, but it had to be said!!!). Although featuring the mask like Kitt’s, and playing largely on the eyes, Pfeiffer’s look is more modern femme fatale, with her eye make up being smokey and seductive with a slight hint of a cat flick. In the nineties, neatened eyebrows were beginning to grow in popularity, which had meant that Pfeiffer didn’t get those awesome (in my crazy opinion) cat-like eyebrows, which is a shame.

However, in the nineties, the lips have gained just as much presence as the eyes, in Catwoman’s look with the timeless classic red lipstick playing a huge role at making this an even more seductive look overall. Lipstick featured very heavily in nineties make up trends, with strong preference to bright tones, with contrasting lip liner (that didn’t always match very well!).

What I love most about this look, is that although Catwoman is sexy and femme fatale, it is the costume that sets this portrayal out from all of the rest, and it most definitely has Tim Burton’s quirky stamp all over it, with the Cat Suit looking to have been stitched up in a style very similar to his other characters including Edward Scissorhands and Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Catwoman’s next big screen outing was perhaps not quite as successful, and most definitely not in the slightest bit as popular as her predecessor’s, as Halle Berry took the role, in the character’s first title role, in the 2004 film Catwoman:

Image of Halle Berry as Catwoman

Whilst her mask looks ridiculously over-the-top and whimsical, the make up continues to have the undertones of Pfeiffer’s look twelve years earlier. The look is again predominantly a dark eyed look, with thick eyeliner, however the look seems a lot more “perfect” and photoshopped in a way that has become the norm in the 21st Century, especially in Hollywood film advertising. It kind of feels artificial and “unreal”. There’s nothing that really defines Berry’s look in any positive kind of way, and it just looks too silly to me. Definitely not my favourite Catwoman, to date.

Nevertheless, whilst I’m not a fan of this overly-gimmicky look, it does help to define an era so obsessed with this idea of perfect beauty, especially within many forms of the media.

With very few images of Anne Hathaway‘s upcoming portrayal of Catwoman, it is difficult to get a good grasp of what to expect make up wise, but it’s easy to understand why Hathaway scored the role, appearance wise:

Image of natural beauty Anne Hathaway

Hathaway has a very classic beauty about her, that is evident in pretty much all of the women who have played Catwoman, with her beautiful eyes that suit practically any look, and of course those huge lips that are perfect for a seductive red lipped look. She naturally fits into the stereotype of what you’d expect the character to look like when not in costume, which just seems perfect.

This is further proven in the photo shoot that Hathaway did for the current (July) issue of Allure magazine, within which Hathaway is the epitome of beauty, sex-appeal, allure (ironically) and everything that I personally feel embodies the idea of Catwoman:

Image from Anne Hathaway's photo shoot for Allure Magazine

Hathaway really is a modern beauty, and it’s interesting to see how she is transformed into Catwoman in the upcoming The Dark Knight Rises.

Image of Anne Hathaway as Catwoman

The overall look is very similar to Berry’s, with the heavy eyeliner and the use of red lipstick that seems to be a more subtle tone than the red worn by Pfeiffer! However, this is very accurate for recent trends for red shades that aren’t your clichéd full-on bright red, but rather more subtle with undertones of corals, oranges etc.

The only thing that I’m sad to see missing is that elusive Cat Flick on the top lid, which I feel is the perfect look for role of Catwoman, for the obvious naming reason, as well as the fact that the look is so darn sexy. Nevertheless, I do still love Hathaway’s make up look, because it’s simple and still makes a bold statement, as it is complemented by her mask.

However, whilst the make up may be very similar to Berry’s, it’s interesting to see how much difference a less “tacky” looking mask can do to the overall feel of the characterisation. I think that it’s fair to say that many modern audiences seem to like more realistic characters, with a darker side to them which I feel is shown in the style of Hathaway’s mask which looks less camp, and more what I could imagine someone in the real world actually making (if they felt so inclined to). It also seems to be more “technology” based and very kick-ass, which fits more in a 21st Century world.

Image of Anne Hathaway on a Bat Mobile

Of course, Catwoman’s make up seems like nothing compared to the creativity used for The Joker, however, for a strong female character like this, she doesn’t need anything quite as flamboyant in a world where her sexuality, prowess and stealth are much better fitted to simple looks. I think I’d be disappointed if Hathaway’s Catwoman had been as gimmicky as Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight, because other than the cat ears, it’s more the personality and character demeanour that makes this role.

Michelle Pfeiffer is often touted as being the quintessential Catwoman in both acting ability and overall look, however, for pure sex appeal, I can’t help thinking that the simpleness of Julie Newmar was the best make up look for the character. I love that Nolan’s femme fatale has kept to this simple idea, and not become over-the-top like Berry’s, and for that reason I think Hathaway could potentially give Newmar a run for her money, but we’ll see.

Which Catwoman do you think has the most sex appeal?

Do you think each Catwoman should defined by the outfit or the make up?

Which femme fatale is your favourite?

*All images are used under “fair use” due to their use as publicity shots and for promotional purposes. This excludes the image from Allure magazine, with copyright belonging to them.

Kat Musselwhite

Kat Musselwhite

Kat is a freelance writer, who believes that everyone is beautiful, and make up just helps to enhance that natural beauty. She loves playing with make up, watching films, travelling and writing.

Kat Musselwhite

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4 Comments

  1. Sue Lin
    Sue Lin
    July 3, 2012, 6:46 am

    Wow great research on the whole Catwoman lineage! My favorite Catwoman is still Michelle Pfeiffer. She gives an element of danger and sex appeal unlike any other. Maybe it’s the cat suit….but I do agree with you on Newmar’s makeup. It’s simple yet gorgeously cat-like. I’m really excited to see how Hathaway performs as the next Catwoman.

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    • Kat Musselwhite
      Kat Musselwhite
      July 3, 2012, 11:52 am

      Thanks Sue, I’m definitely a big film fan, so the research was more like fun for me :D

      I can’t wait for The Dark Knight Rises to come out so I can see for myself how Hathaway compares :) And for the film as a whole, of course!!

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  2. Drew Foxx
    July 29, 2012, 1:04 pm

    Interesting, but the first ever live adaptation of the Batman wasn’t Adam West but Lewis Wilson (1940′s). Nice article non the less.

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    • Kat Musselwhite
      Kat Musselwhite
      July 29, 2012, 1:17 pm

      Hi Drew, Wow I honestly didn’t know about the earlier Batman. I’ve literally just looked it up out of intrigue and can’t believe that I’ve never come across it before, which is kinda shocking! Thanks for pointing it out, going to have to see about checking that out further :)

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