Kitten with a Whip
theatrical release poster
Directed byDouglas Heyes
Written byDouglas Heyes
Whit Masterson
Based onKitten with a Whip
by Wade Miller
Produced byHarry Keller
CinematographyJoseph F. Biroc
Edited byRussell F. Schoengarth
Color processBlack and white
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • November 4, 1964 (1964-11-04) (U.S.)
Running time
83 minutes
CountryUnited States

Kitten with a Whip is a 1964 American crime drama film directed by Douglas Heyes, who co-wrote the screenplay with Whit Masterson, a pseudonym for writers Robert Allison “Bob” Wade and H. Bill Miller, who also wrote the novel on which the film is based under the name Wade Miller. The film stars John Forsythe, Ann-Margret, Peter Brown, Patricia Barry and Richard Anderson.

The film was made to publicize Ann-Margret as a serious actress. Her previous films, Viva Las Vegas and Bye Bye Birdie, were of the musical genre and did little to highlight her dramatic skills. Her management signed her to several different films at this time, each with a top Hollywood studio, and she was not consulted on the projects they had chosen for her. In interviews, Ann-Margret made the best of the situation, claiming she was hoping to distance herself from her "new Marilyn Monroe" image.

Decades later, the film would be selected for riffing in a 1994 episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Kevin Killian's 2008 book of poetry Action Kylie features "Kitten with a Whipe", a poem inspired by the film and featuring its two main characters.


The wife of prospective politician David Stratton (John Forsythe) is away in San Francisco, visiting relatives there. David comes home one night but not to an empty house—a young woman, Jody (Ann-Margret), is asleep in his daughter's bed.

Jody has just escaped from a juvenile detention home, where she stabbed a matron and started a fire. Though David is furious and wishes to call the police, Jody tells him a tale of woe and he is sympathetic. He buys her a dress, gives her some money and puts her on a bus. Soon after, David learns that Jody is a wanted fugitive who had been lying to him. He returns home to find Jody there. She refuses to leave and threatens to create a scandal if he forces her out. Worried about his political fortunes, David is forced to let her stay.

Jody invites three friends to the house, including two ruffians, Ron and Buck, who bully David into letting them throw a wild party in the house. The youths begin to fight until Ron suffers a deep cut in the arm with a razor. They drive across the Mexico border, taking David along. They deposit Ron with a local doctor and ditch Buck when the car is entangled in barbed wire.

Jody and David end up in a Tijuana motel. When Ron and Buck return, a chase occurs and their car crashes, killing them both. David, seriously injured, awakens in the hospital to find that just before she died, Jody had told the authorities that she had been in the car with Ron and Buck, meaning that David is in the clear.



The film is based on a novel by Wade Miller (the pen name of collaborators Bob Wade and Bill Miller).[1] In September, 1959, Hedda Hopper stated that Mamie Van Doren had purchased the rights with the intent to produce and star in the film.[2] In November, 1959, it was announced that Universal had the film rights and assigned Robert Arthur to produce.[3] The following year, Richard Rush was reported to be developing the project,[4] with Nancy Kwan cast in the starring role.[5] However, the film did not materialize at the time.

When plans for a screen adaptation were revived, the lead role was originally offered to Brigitte Bardot, but she turned it down.[6] In October 1963, Ann-Margret was announced as the star.[7] She was paid $150,000 plus a percentage of the profits.[8][9]

Filming started in December 1963, with Douglas Heyes as writer and director[10] and Harry Keller as producer.[11]


New York Times reviewer Eugene Archer was critical of the film's premise, stating of Forsythe's character, "At almost any point in the proceedings he could have solved the problem—and ended the movie—by simply walking away and calling one of his influential friends." However, Archer praised Ann-Margret's performance: "With little help from Donald Heyes, who directed his own foolish script, she demonstrates enough untrained talent to suggest interesting dramatic possibilities in better films."[12]

Writing in the Los Angeles Times, critic Margaret Harford decried the film's "violence-for-violence's sake" and wrote of the ending, "The problem was how to end it all and Heyes took the coward's way out. Everybody dies a violent death except Forsythe who goes back to his wife and will probably run for governor. There's a message here somewhere but I'm not going to work overtime figuring it out for you."[13]

See also


  1. ^ "FORGOTTEN BOOKS #260: KITTEN WITH A WHIP/KISS HER GOODBYE By Wade Miller". Retrieved 2020-02-22.
  2. ^ "Hollywood" by Hedda Hopper, September 1, 1959
  3. ^ "NEW FRENCH FILM WILL OPEN TODAY". The New York Times. Nov 16, 1959. ProQuest 114809806.
  4. ^ "Prepares 'kitten'". Los Angeles Times. Mar 24, 1960. ProQuest 167654836.
  5. ^ Hopper, H. (Oct 9, 1961). "Story of newlyweds, 18 children to be a movie". Chicago Daily Tribune. ProQuest 183063950.
  6. ^ Scheuer, Philip K. (Oct 14, 1963). "Films for Children Urged by Radnitz: They're Next Fans, He Says; De Mille 'Thrills' Recalled". Los Angeles Times. p. D9.
  7. ^ Hopper, H. (Oct 28, 1963). "'Tom jones' bonanza for star, director". Los Angeles Times. ProQuest 168400034.
  8. ^ Scheuer, P. K. (Oct 14, 1963). "Films for children urged by radnitz". Los Angeles Times. ProQuest 168403562.
  9. ^ DAVID H. KELSEY (Apr 7, 1964). "Meet Ann-Margret: Hard Work, Ambition Propel a Young Actress To the Top in Hollywood". The Wall Street Journal. p. 1.
  10. ^ MURRAY SCHUMACH (Jan 31, 1964). "DIRECTOR ASSAILS 'HICCUPING' FILMS". The New York Times. ProQuest 115655151.
  11. ^ Scheuer, P. K. (Sep 21, 1964). "Director typing hit by producer". Los Angeles Times. ProQuest 155016764.
  12. ^ Archer, Eugene (1964-11-05). "Screen: Mixed-Up Female Youngster". The New York Times. p. 50.
  13. ^ Harford, Margaret (1964-11-27). "'Kitten With Whip' Violent Melodrama". Los Angeles Times. p. 21, Part V.