WWI Centennial: Gallipoli

The First World War was an unprecedented catastrophe that shaped our modern world. Erik Sass is covering the events of the war exactly 100 years after they happened. This is the 179th installment in the series. 

April 25, 1915: Gallipoli, Armenian Genocide Begins 

One of the bloodiest fights of the Great War, the Battle of Gallipoli began with amphibious landings conducted by British, Australian, and New Zealand troops in the face of ferocious Turkish resistance on April 25, 1915. Over the next eight months, as they tried and failed to conquer the peninsula in hopes of capturing the Ottoman capital at Constantinople, the British and colonial troops (later reinforced by French units) would suffer an incredible 252,000 casualties, while the Turks lost a roughly equivalent number. Within these figures, 45,000 Allied troops and 86,000 Turkish troops were killed. 

This tragedy, in which the colonial troops of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) suffered disproportionate losses under British command, would become one of the defining moments in the formation of distinct national identities for those Dominions, setting the stage for their eventual independence from the mother country. On the other side Gallipoli played an equally important role in the formation of a new Turkish identity, as ordinary soldiers sacrificed their lives in droves to protect the Turkish homeland; one of the heroes of Gallipoli, Mustafa Kemal, would go on to found the modern Republic of Turkey on the ruins of the old Ottoman Empire, winning the honorific “Atatürk” (“Father of the Turks”) from a reverent Turkish parliament (below, Kemal at Gallipoli). 

“We Shall Get a Very Bad Knock” 

The disaster at Gallipoli resulted from a series of bad decisions (and indecision) on the part of the British government, including Prime Minister Herbert Asquith, Secretary of War Lord Kitchener, and First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill, as well as First Sea Lord Jackie Fisher, the overall commander of the Royal Navy. Beginning in the winter of 1915, the British leaders committed themselves to an ill-conceived plan to force the Turkish straits and capture Constantinople with naval power alone. However when repeated attempts failed at significant cost, instead of throwing in the towel they doubled down, sending a force 70,000 ground troops to mount a multipart amphibious invasion of the Gallipoli peninsula, in order to clear the Turkish coastal defenses on the straits from landward. 

The problem was that over two months elapsed between the first naval bombardment on February 19, 1915, and the amphibious invasion on April 25, 1915 – giving the Turks plenty of time to prepare formidable defenses at Gallipoli. They were aided by their German allies, as Otto Liman von Sanders, the head of the pre-war German military mission to Turkey, took command of the Turkish Fifth Army, and German engineers directed the construction of defensive works. 

Many Allied officers predicted that the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force under General Sir Ian Hamilton would run into trouble. On April 16 a British officer, Aubrey Herbert, went to lunch with his colleagues at the Allied base on the Greek island of Mudros and later wrote in his diary: “The talk was, of course, about the landing. A friend of mine said: ‘This is a terrible business; entire Staffs will be wiped out.’” Five days later Herbet confided: “The general impression is that we shall get a very bad knock, and that it may well set the war back a year…” In the same vein another British officer, Oswin Creighton, wrote on April 22: 

It seems a perfectly desperate undertaking. I can hardly expect to see many of my men alive again. My present feeling is that the whole thing has been bungled. The Navy should never have started the bombardment without the Army. Now there has been no bombardment for some weeks. Meanwhile the Turks, under German direction, have perfected their defences. The aerial reconnaissance reports acres of barbed wire, labyrinths of trenches, concealed guns, maxims and howitzers everywhere. The ground is mined. In fact, every conceivable thing has been done. Our men have to be towed in little open boats to land in the face of all this… Slaughter seems to be inevitable. 

This prophecy proved all too accurate.

Blood on the Beach 

In the early morning of April 25, 1915, the first wave of around 35,000 British and colonial troops in the 29th Division and ANZAC force marshaled on the decks of their troop transports and then climbed down rope ladders into smaller landing craft that were tied together in long lines, bow to stern. 

Beginning at 5am small steamboats towed the lines of landing craft towards a number of landing spots (designated S Beach, V Beach, W Beach, X Beach, and Y Beach) on Cape Hellas at the tip of the Gallipoli peninsula, as well as on the west side of the peninsula at Kabatepe, the intended site of the ANZAC landing. The landing at V Beach also included an armored steamer, the River Clyde, carrying around 2,000 troops who were supposed to exit via pontoon gangways laid on small boats. 

Although the Allies succeeded in landing unopposed at Y Beach (where the landing party found itself facing sheer cliffs, and was later withdrawn) the other landings ran into a hail of fire from the Turkish artillery, machine guns, and rifles on shore, and naval bombardment by the Allied fleet proved unable to silence the Turkish defenses as hoped. 

In many places the Turks waited until the last minute before opening fire, then laid down a devastating fusillade against the helpless troops, still trapped on the boats and encumbered with heavy packs. Some naval officers in charge of landing the boats reached the beach and turned around to help the troops disembark, only to find everyone already dead. William Ewing, a British medical officer who witnessed the landing at V Beach, recalled: 

Not a shot was fired by the enemy until the River Clyde grounded and the tows touched the shore. The shells from the ships had left the defences practically unimpaired, save for the big guns in the forts. A tempest of lead burst from the slopes and trenches, lashing the water round the boats to the whiteness of foam. The sea quickly changed to a more awful hue. 

By 9 am, Ewing estimated, “Of the 1000 men who up till now had left the ship about 500 were either killed or wounded.” Meanwhile the boats carrying the ANZAC troops drifted about a mile north of their intended landing spot at Kabatepe, and achieved a landing against sporadic but fierce resistance. An anonymous soldier who took part in the ANZAC landing later wrote in his diary:

Over the sides of the boats dived and rolled those splendid infantrymen, their bayonets already fixed… In sixes and sevens, in tens and twenties, in platoons, in half-companies – just as they tumbled out of the boats – those great-hearted fellows dashed up the beach and into that sickening inferno. They didn’t fire a shot; they didn’t waste a single second. They just flung their heavy packs form their shoulders, bent their heads to the storm, and with every inch of pace at their command they charged the Turkish trenches, some fifty yards distant. 

The ANZAC troops managed to push the first Turkish lines back and then pursued them inland, advancing toward their main objective for the day. In fact, if they had succeeded in capturing two key ridges, called Chunuk Bahr and Sari Bahr, they would be in a position to dominate the peninsula and clinch an Allied victory. But now Mustafa Kemal, commanding the 19th Division in reserve on the other side of the peninsula, mounted an immediate counterattack without waiting for orders. Kemal’s orders to his troops were simple, grim, and dramatic: “I am not ordering you to fight, I am ordering you to die. In the time it takes us to die, other troops and commanders can come and take our places.” In desperate fighting, the Turks forced the ANZAC troops back to the shore, where they dug in and held on desperately. The same anonymous ANZAC soldier wrote in his diary: 

No man who took part in that retirement will ever forget it. Overhead burst the shells, underfoot the dust rose and the twigs snapped as the unending rain of rifle, machine-gun, and shrapnel bullets zipped! and spattered around. Men fell fast, killed and wounded; every temporary stand we made was marked by little groups of grotesquely postured khaki-clad forms still with the stillness of death… Time after time we tried to dig ourselves in. In vain! The line had to be shortened, else we should be outflanked by the enormously superior forces opposed to us. 

The situation wasn’t much better at the Cape Hellas landing sites (with the exception of Y Beach, where the troops in the landing party were kicking their heels with no idea what was going on elsewhere). Herbert recalled: 

We were being shot at from three sides. All that morning we kept moving. There were lines of men clinging like cockroaches under the cliffs or moving silent as the guns on the right and left enfiladed us. The only thing to be done was to dig in as soon as possible, but a good many men were shot while doing this... I believe that, had it been possible, we should have re-embarked that night, but the sacrifices involved would have been too great. 

Allies Attack, Turks Counterattack 

On the following day, April 26, the ANZAC troops continued digging in, while the British troops fought their way forward from the beaches on Cape Hellas and finally joined forces on the tip of the peninsula. Meanwhile the next wave of roughly 35,000 troops was landing, along with a French force which had briefly occupied the town of Kumkale on the other side of the Dardanelles.

On April 28 Hamilton ordered a renewed attack on the Turkish positions at Krithia, a small village on the slopes above Cape Hellas. Once again the casualties were appalling on both sides, with the wounded often left to suffer stoically for hours or even days before they could be evacuated. Arthur Ruhl, an American correspondent who was observing the battle from the Turkish side, recalled the mute suffering of ordinary Turkish soldiers (below): 

During the early fighting on the peninsula the wounded came up to Constantinople, after days on the way, in wagons, perhaps, over horrible roads, in commandeered ferry-boats and freighters, yet one scarcely heard a sound, a murmur of complaint.  Gray and gaunt, with the mud of the trenches still on them, they would be helped into ambulances and driven off to the hospitals, silent themselves and through crowds as silent as those which had watched them march away a few weeks before. 

On May 1 Turkish War Minister Enver Pasha order a major counterattack, with both sides suffering huge casualties as the Turks tried to push the invading force into the sea. The anonymous ANZAC soldier wrote in his diary:

Men fought that day stripped to the waist; fought till their rifles jammed, picked up another – and went on fighting. Men with broken legs refused to leave the trench, cursing those who would have assisted them – went on firing until a second bullet crippled their rifle arm. Yet still they clung on, handing up clips of cartridges to their mates… Thus it went on from before dawn till towards evening. Charge and counter-charge, till men reeled from sheer exhaustion, and their blood-clotted weapons slipped from hands sticky with the same red paint. 

The same soldier recorded a shocking scene in the ANZAC trenches: 

We were also so clogged up with dead in our trenches that to make room for the living we had to throw the bodies out over the back. In many cases where our line was cut on the edge of the ridge these bodies rolled right down to the foot of the cliff… In one place quite a little stack of bodies had been huddled together on one side of the track; there might have been eighteen or twenty in the lot. Owing to the water running down this stack began to move, and kept on moving till it blocked the track up altogether… eventually a fatigue party had to be told off to build up the bodies as you would build sheaves on a wagon. 

The French division which had landed on the eastern end of Cape Hellas found itself plunged into the hellish fighting as well. One French officer, Joseph Vassal, later recorded his impressions in a letter to his English wife: “Artillery cases, dead men, dead horses, police, doctors, above all guns which thundered and deafened us… During the night from 2nd to 3rd May one regiment alone spent 40,000 cartridges… I went to the beach, where shells were still falling continually. Fountains of earth, fountains of water. Nine horses killed, two men.” 

But the attacks and counterattacks failed to make much of an impact either way, and by mid-May the situation at Gallipoli was already settling into a deadly stalemate. Hamilton and Sanders both called for reinforcements, which they duly received, promising even more grinding attrition in the months to come. The nightmare at Gallipoli was only beginning.

Armenian Genocide Begins 

As the Allies prepared their invasion of Gallipoli, the government of the Young Turks was already setting in motion their plan to wipe out the Armenians, whom they suspected of aiding the Russian advance in the Caucasus region. Mounting persecution in early April foreshadowed much worse violence to come. Four years later, the former American ambassador to Constantinople, Henry Morgenthau, would recall the beginning of the purge in eastern Anatolia during the spring of 1915: 

On April 15th, about 500 young Armenian men of Akantz were mustered to hear an order of the Sultan; at sunset they were marched outside the town and every man shot in cold blood. The procedure was repeated in about eighty Armenian villages in the district north of Lake Van, and in three days 24,000 Armenians were murdered in this atrocious fashion. 

Although mass murders were already taking place, many historians date the genocide to April 24, 1915, when the Turkish secret police rounded up around 250 leading Armenian public figures in Constantinople, including intellectuals, writers and journalists – the leaders of the Armenian community – placing them under arrest and detaining them without cause or on trumped up charges. Over the next few weeks they were joined by around another 2,000 Armenian intellectuals in Constantinople and elsewhere. All the detained individuals were then deported to detention centers near Ankara in central Anatolia. Almost all of them were later killed. 

This was just the first blow in a wider campaign against the entire Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire. Although the process varied from place to place across the empire, typically local Turkish officials would first disarm Armenian men and arrest their local leaders, who were often tortured and killed. Then the officials and ordinary citizens would confiscate Armenian property and homes, and the Armenians would be “deported,” supposedly to other destinations in central Anatolia and later the Syrian desert. 

However the deportations were in effect death marches. Sometimes groups of Armenians would simply be marched into the countryside and shot by the Turkish secret service, the Teşkilât-ı Mahsusa or “Special Organization.” On other occasions columns of deportees would be set upon in the countryside by Turkish or Kurdish bandits. Older, sick, or disabled people who couldn’t keep up were often the first to be killed, as “stragglers.” An American missionary, Henry H. Riggs, was returning to his mission from a visit to Diyarbekir in May 1915 when he encountered a column of refugees: 

They were under guard… As I passed, one man, looking at me quickly, lifted four fingers. That was all, and for a time I could not imagine what his signal was intended to convey. I sound found out, however. In a few minutes I came to a spot where the dust had hardly absorbed a pool of fresh blood. A trail through the dust from the scene of the tragedy to the edge of the bluff beside the road showed plainly enough where the body had been dragged from the road and dropped into the river which flowed just under the bluff. A little further on… [t]here lay the bodies of two elderly Armenians… A little further on yet, we passed the fourth ghastly trophy of that march of exiles. 

Other methods of mass killing included herding groups of victims off cliffs, forcing them to dig their own graves and then burying them alive, and drowning in rivers or lakes. The British diplomat and historian Arnold Toynbee quoted a report written by a German missionary about a mass drowning in May 1915: 

Between the 10th and 30th May, 1,200 of the most prominent Armenians and other Christians, without distinction of confession, were arrested in the Vilayets of Diyarbekir and Mamouret-ul-Aziz… On the 30th May, 674 of them were embarked on thirteen Tigris barges, under the pretext that they were to be taken to Mosul… A short time after the start the prisoners were stripped of all their money… and then of their clothes; after that they were thrown in the river. The gendarmes on the bank were ordered to let none of them escape.

The same report went on: 

For a whole month corpses were observed floating down the River Euphrates nearly every day, often in batches of from two to six corpses bound together. The male corpses are in many cases hideously mutilated (sexual organs cut off, and so on), the female corpses are ripped open… The corpses stranded on the bank are devoured by dogs and vultures. To this fact there are many German eyewitnesses.

See the previous installment, next installment, or all entries.

The 11 Best Movies on Netflix Right Now

Laura Dern and Scarlett Johansson in Marriage Story (2019).
Laura Dern and Scarlett Johansson in Marriage Story (2019).
Wilson Webb/Netflix

With thousands of titles available, browsing your Netflix menu can feel like a full-time job. If you're feeling a little overwhelmed, take a look at our picks for the 11 best movies on Netflix right now.

1. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Spider-Man may be in the middle of a Disney and Sony power struggle, but that didn't stop this ambitious animated film from winning the Oscar for Best Animated Feature at the 2019 Academy Awards. Using a variety of visual style choices, the film tracks the adventures of Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), who discovers he's not the only Spider-Man in town.

2. Hell or High Water (2016)

Taylor Sheridan's Oscar-nominated Hell or High Water follows two brothers (Chris Pine and Ben Foster) who take to bank robberies in an effort to save their family ranch from foreclosure; Jeff Bridges is the drawling, laconic lawman on their tail.

3. Raging Bull (1980)

Robert De Niro takes on the life of pugilist Jake LaMotta in a landmark and Oscar-winning film from Martin Scorsese that frames LaMotta's violent career in stark black and white. Joe Pesci co-stars.

4. Marriage Story (2019)

Director Noah Bambauch drew raves for this deeply emotional drama about a couple (Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson) whose uncoupling takes a heavy emotional and psychological toll on their family.

5. Dolemite Is My Name (2019)

Eddie Murphy ended a brief sabbatical from filmmaking following a mixed reception to 2016's Mr. Church with this winning biopic about Rudy Ray Moore, a flailing comedian who finds success when he reinvents himself as Dolemite, a wisecracking pimp. When the character takes off, Moore produces a big-screen feature with a crew of inept collaborators.

6. The Lobster (2015)

Colin Farrell stars in this black comedy that feels reminiscent of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman's work: A slump-shouldered loner (Farrell) has just 45 days to find a life partner before he's turned into an animal. Can he make it work with Rachel Weisz, or is he doomed to a life on all fours? By turns absurd and provocative, The Lobster isn't a conventional date movie, but it might have more to say about relationships than a pile of Nicholas Sparks paperbacks.

7. Flash of Genius (2008)

Greg Kinnear stars in this drama based on a true story about inventor Robert Kearns, who revolutionized automobiles with his intermittent windshield wiper. Instead of getting rich, Kearns is ripped off by the automotive industry and engages in a years-long battle for recognition.

8. Locke (2013)

The camera rarely wavers from Tom Hardy in this existential thriller, which takes place entirely in Hardy's vehicle. A construction foreman trying to make sure an important job is executed well, Hardy's Ivan Locke grapples with some surprising news from a mistress and the demands of his family. It's a one-act, one-man play, with Hardy making the repeated act of conversing on his cell phone as tense and compelling as if he were driving with a bomb in the trunk.

9. Cop Car (2015)

When two kids decide to take a police cruiser for a joyride, the driver (Kevin Bacon) begins a dogged pursuit. No good cop, he's got plenty to hide.

10. Taxi Driver (1976)

Another De Niro and Scorsese collaboration hits the mark, as Taxi Driver is regularly cited as one of the greatest American films ever made. De Niro is a potently single-minded Travis Bickle, a cabbie in a seedy '70s New York who wants to be an avenging angel for victims of crime. The mercurial Bickle, however, is just as unhinged as those he targets.

11. Sweet Virginia (2017)

Jon Bernthal lumbers through this thriller as a former rodeo star whose career has left him physically broken. Now managing a hotel in small-town Alaska, he stumbles onto a plot involving a murderer-for-hire (Christopher Abbott), upending his quiet existence and forcing him to take action.

The Definitive Guide to All the Cats in Cats

James Corden, Laurie Davidson, and Francesca Hayward star in Tom Hooper's Cats (2019).
James Corden, Laurie Davidson, and Francesca Hayward star in Tom Hooper's Cats (2019).
Universal Pictures

Regardless of whether you were impressed, confused, or downright frightened by the trailer for Tom Hooper’s upcoming film adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s classic musical Cats, it’s safe to say that the star-studded cast and “digital fur technology” generated strong reactions all around. And, if you didn’t grow up listening to the soundtrack or watching performers in the 1998 film version purr and prance in furry, feline bodysuits, your shock is completely understandable.

Cats is light on plot, heavy on characters, and sprinkled with words that T.S. Eliot made up for his 1939 poetry collection Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, the basis for the musical. To familiarize yourself with all the eccentrically named cats—and find out who’s portraying them in the film—here’s a comprehensive list of every "romantical, pedantical, critical, parasitical, allegorical, metaphorical, statistical, and mystical" cat you’ll meet.

Admetus

admetus cats film 1998
Really Useful Films

Played by: Eric Underwood

Admetus is a ginger and white chorus cat with no spoken lines, but plenty of strong dancing sequences—perfect for former Royal Ballet soloist Eric Underwood. Though some musical productions have renamed Admetus as Plato (both names are mentioned in “The Naming of Cats”), the film will feature them as two separate characters.

Alonzo

Played by: Bluey Robinson

Alonzo is another chorus cat, identifiable by the black patches of fur on his face and the black-and-white stripes on his head. Apart from his ensemble appearances, he has intermittent solo lines and also assists Munkustrap during the fight against Macavity. Since singer/songwriter Bluey Robinson will portray him in the film, it’s possible that Alonzo will dance less than he has in stage productions.

Asparagus, the Theatre Cat

Played by: Sir Ian McKellen

Nicknamed “Gus,” this elderly, trembling tabby has an impressive acting history, which he recounts at length during his song (along with a few disparaging comments about how the theater isn’t what it once was, and kittens these days aren’t properly trained). Who better to play one of the Jellicles’ most well-respected thespians than one of the humans' most well-respected thespians, Sir Ian McKellen?

Bombalurina

Played by: Taylor Swift

Though Bombalurina is only mentioned by name once (in “The Naming of Cats”), she’s pretty hard to miss: the slinky, red-coated cat helps introduce Jennyanydots, the Rum Tum Tugger, Grizabella, Bustopher Jones, and Macavity. She most often sings with Demeter, her duet partner for “Macavity the Mystery Cat.”

Bustopher Jones

Played by: James Corden

Known as “the Brummell of cats,” this black-and-white, epicurean dandy frequents gentlemen’s clubs, wears white spats, and weighs a whopping 25 pounds. Jones’s genial manner endears him to just about everyone—not unlike James Corden.

Cassandra

cassandra in 1998's cats film
Really Useful Films

Played by: Mette Towley

With her sleek brown coat and her regal, mysterious manner, Cassandra seems like she might’ve been worshipped by ancient Egyptians in a past life. You might recognize Mette Towley, a member of Pharrell’s dance group, The Baes, from her appearances in 2019’s Hustlers and Rihanna’s “Lemon” music video—and you can be sure that she’ll uphold Cassandra’s legacy as one of the most eye-catching chorus cats.

Coricopat and Tantomile

Played by: Jaih Betote and Zizi Strallen

These striped twin tabby cats always move in unison and boast psychic abilities. Though the roles are sometimes cut from theatrical productions, we’ll get to see them in the film, played by hip hop dancer Jaih Betote and Zizi Strallen, best known for her work as Mary Poppins in the recent West End revival.

Demeter

demeter in 1998's cats film
Really Useful Films

Played by: Daniela Norman

This multicolored, slightly skittish cat usually duets with Bombalurina, and together they perform “Macavity the Mystery Cat” in full. It’s often implied that Demeter has a complicated romantic past with Macavity, who tries to abduct her during his attack. British ballet dancer Daniela Norman will star opposite Taylor Swift’s Bombalurina in the film, and you can also see her in Netflix’s upcoming ballet drama series Tiny Pretty Things.

Grizabella, the Glamour Cat

Played by: Jennifer Hudson

This aging starlet is now decrepit, depressed, and shamefully rejected by the rest of the Jellicles—think Sunset Boulevard’s Norma Desmond with more self-awareness and very raggedy fur. Even if the Cats original cast recording wasn’t the soundtrack for your childhood road trips, you might have heard Grizabella’s song “Memory;” it’s been covered by Barbra Streisand, Celine Dion, Barry Manilow, Glee’s Chris Colfer, and more. American Idol alum (and general ballad-belting powerhouse) Jennifer Hudson will bring her Academy Award-winning talents to the role of Grizabella in the film.

Growltiger and Griddlebone

Played by: Ray Winstone and Melissa Madden Gray

Growltiger, a rough-riding sea captain cat, and Griddlebone, his fluffy white lover, appear during “Growltiger’s Last Stand,” during which Gus reminisces about having played the part of Growltiger in a stage production long ago. The characters have been left out of some productions, including the 1998 film, but Hooper’s version will feature them, where they'll be played by British actor Ray Winstone and Australian performer Melissa Madden Gray (whose stage name, fittingly, is Meow Meow).

Jellylorum

Played by: Freya Rowley

Named after T.S. Eliot’s own cat, Jellylorum is a maternal calico who cares for Gus and also helps introduce Jennyanydots and Bustopher Jones. Though sometimes portrayed as older and more mature than some of the other cats, Freya Rowley (who performed as Tantomile on the UK tour of Cats) will likely bring a younger energy to the character.

Jennyanydots, the Old Gumbie Cat

Played by: Rebel Wilson

Jennyanydots is a goofy old tabby cat who lazes around all day and spends her nights teaching the basement vermin various household skills, etiquette, and performing arts. Under her tutelage, the mice learn to crochet, the cockroaches become helpful boy scouts, and the beetles form a tap-dancing troupe. Rebel Wilson is a perfect match for such a multifaceted, eccentric, and amusing gumbie cat (whatever gumbie is).

Macavity, the Mystery Cat

Played by: Idris Elba

The show’s main antagonist is a tall, thin criminal cat with sunken eyes and dusty ginger fur. While the Jellicles are plainly terrified of this “monster of depravity,” they also seem eerily impressed by his ability to elude capture and conviction. Historically, Macavity hasn’t done any speaking, singing, or dancing—he only shows up briefly to kidnap Old Deuteronomy during a rousing cat fight—but here’s hoping that Hooper has broadened the role for the film so we get to hear at least a good growl or two from Idris Elba.

Mr. Mistoffelees

Played by: Laurie Davidson

Laurie Davidson, who played Shakespeare in TNT’s Will, will take on the role of Mr. Mistoffelees, an affable tuxedo cat who peppers his magic tricks with plenty of high leaps and pizzazz. He’s generally beloved by the rest of the cats, and he also saves the day by conjuring Old Deuteronomy from wherever Macavity had hidden him.

Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer

Played by: Danny Collins and Naoimh Morgan

These two roguish calicos describe themselves as “knockabout clowns, quick-change comedians, tightrope walkers, and acrobats.” They’re also partners in petty crime, notorious for smashing vases, stealing pearls, and generally wreaking havoc upon their posh family in Victoria Grove. British dancer Danny Collins will join Naoimh Morgan—who actually played Rumpleteazer in the Cats international tour—to bring the spirited rascals to life in the film.

Munkustrap

Played by: Robert Fairchild

Without Munkustrap, viewers would have little hope of understanding what’s actually happening in this vaguely plotted musical. Though there’s no song to introduce him, the striking, silver cat is still arguably the most important character: He describes the function of the Jellicle Ball, narrates the action as it unfolds, and leads the charge against Macavity’s attack. It takes a certified musical theater machine to play such an integral part, and Hooper has surely found that in Robert Fairchild, former New York City Ballet principal dancer and Tony Award nominee for An American in Paris.

Old Deuteronomy

Played by: Dame Judi Dench

In the gender-swapped role of our dreams, Dame Judi Dench will play Old Deuteronomy, the revered (usually male) town elder who chooses one lucky kitty at the annual Jellicle Ball to ascend to cat heaven, the Heaviside Layer, and be born again. It isn’t Dench’s first time in the junkyard: She was preparing to appear as both Jennyanydots and Grizabella in the original 1981 West End production of Cats when she snapped her Achilles tendon and had to pull out.

Plato and Socrates

Played by: Larry and Laurent Bourgeois (Les Twins)

Though Plato is a chorus cat mentioned in “The Naming of Cats” and included in some stage productions, Socrates was created specifically for Hooper’s film to make room for both halves of Les Twins, also known as Larry and Laurent Bourgeois. The French hip hop duo gained mainstream recognition after Beyoncé featured them in her 2018 Coachella set and subsequent Netflix concert film Homecoming.

Rum Tum Tugger

Played by: Jason Derulo

The Rum Tum Tugger is a perpetually fickle feline with a lot of rock-n’-roll flair and a pair of hips that he seems to have stolen from Mick Jagger himself. In addition to his own song, Tugger also sings “Mr. Mistoffelees” and features in a few other numbers. With Jason Derulo taking on the role for the film, there’s a good chance we’ll see a modernized, moonwalking version of this swoon-worthy cat.

Skimbleshanks, the Railway Cat

Played by: Steven McRae

Skimbleshanks is a charming Scottish cat who looks like a friendly tiger and ensures that all is in order on the night trains, which includes everything from patrolling for mice to reminding the guard to ask passengers how they like their tea. With his flaming red hair and graceful precision, Royal Ballet principal dancer Steven McRae definitely has a couple things in common with his character.

Syllabub/Sillabub/Jemima

Played by: Jonadette Carpio

This kitten’s name varies from production to production, but she’s usually characterized by her playful, innocent manner and her willingness to accept Grizabella when the other Jellicles try to shun her. Jonadette Carpio, Philippines native and member of the all-female Krump crew Buckness Personified, will bring her street dance background to the role in the film.

Victoria

Played by: Francesca Hayward

Though lithe, light-footed Victoria doesn’t sing any lines of her own in the original musical, her gleaming white coat and balletic dance solos still make her a standout—so it’s only fitting that Royal Ballet principal dancer Francesca Hayward will bring her to life in the film, where the role has been expanded into a main character. Andrew Lloyd Webber and Taylor Swift even collaborated on a new song called “Beautiful Ghosts” that Hayward will sing in the movie.

Miscellaneous Chorus Cats

Because theater companies vary in size and scope, certain chorus cats are sometimes omitted from productions—or members of the ensemble just aren’t assigned specific characters. At this point, Bill Bailey, Carbucketty, Electra, Etcetera, Peter, Pouncival, Quaxo, Rumpus Cat, Tumblebrutus, and Victor are all chorus cat names that haven’t been given to anybody in the film, but that doesn’t mean we won’t see extra cats in the shadows. According to Dance Spirit, Corey John Snide and Kolton Krause, who played Coricopat and Tumblebrutus on Broadway, respectively, have both been cast as ensemble members in Hooper’s film.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER