Obituary: Cat People actress Jane Randolph

Jane Randolph treads water in Cat People.
Jane Randolph treads water in Cat People.

We are saddened to learn that Jane Randolph – the blond actress who starred in a trio of classic 1940s horror films – died in Switzerland on May 4 at the age of 94.
Randolph had a short film career; not counting a handful of uncredited roles, she appeared on screen only from 1942 to 1948. Nevertheless, she earned her place in horror history by co-starring in one of the acknowledged classics of cinefantastique: the 1942 Val Lewton production of CAT PEOPLE. In the mini-masterpiece of suggestive horror, Randolph plays Alice, whose co-worker Oliver (Kent Smith) has married Irena (Simone Simon), a woman who fears she will turn into a murderous wild cat if her passions are aroused. When the sexually frustrated Oliver seeks sympathy from Alice, the jealous Irena stalks her in a pair of memorable sequences: one a long walk that climaxes with the unexpected arrival of a (very loud) bus; the other a shadowy nail-biter with Randolph treading water in a hotel swimming pool, convinced that an unseen predator is lurking in the darkness.
Randolph recreated her role two years later in CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE, which was more of a childhood fantasy than horror. And in 1948, she made her last credited screen apperance in the best of Universal Pictures’ monster rallies, ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN, which also included Dracula (Bela Lugosi) and the Wolf Man (Lon Chaney Jr.).
Randolph’s passing marks a side milestone. She was the last surviving actor to have had a starring role in any of the class Lewton horror films, which are regarded by fans and critics as among the best the genre has to offer. She was also one of the last actors to have appeared in any of the classic Universal horror films.*

  • Happily, Carla Laemmle, who had a bit in Universal’s DRACULA(1931), and Lupita Tovar, who starred in the Spanish-language version that was shot simultaneously with DRACULA, still survive.

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