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While Academy voters are weighing Oscar votes for his performance in The Power of the Dog, Benedict Cumberbatch made another 2021 film that somehow slid under the radar.

Narrated by Olivia Colman, this story revolves around British artist Louis Wain (1860-1939) who became famous for his brightly colored drawings of anthropomorphized cats with huge eyes and dilated pupils. He was also an eccentric who believed electricity could transform everyday life.

Born with a cleft palate, young Louis had to support his widowed mother and five sisters. When governess Emily Richardson (Claire Foy) moved in, socially awkward Louis fell in love with her, only to lose her several years later to breast cancer.

To amuse Emily, Louis drew sketches of Peter, their beloved cat, in comical poses. In December, 1886, Wain was commissioned by Sir William Ingram, publisher of the Illustrated London News, to create a double-page spread depicting “A Kitten’s Christmas Party.”

Its immediate success made him the cat’s meow, but Wain never bothered to copyright his images which were reproduced on biscuit tins, tea cups and postcards. Between 1900 and 1940, more than a thousand postcards were distributed by75 different publishers, none of whom paid him anything. Deeply in debt, Wain then created cartoon strips for Hearst newspapers.

In 1924, he was certified as insane, confined in the pauper ward of Springfield Mental Hospital in Tooting with a diagnosis of schizophrenia. He spent the rest of his life in psychiatric hospitals – from Bethlem to Napsbury. During that confinement, he fashioned his most original work.

Scripted by Simon Stephenson and director Will Sharpe, this film is beguilingly visual – thanks to cinematographer Erik Alexander Wilson and production designer Suzie Davies.

FYI: Wain was a fluent mirror-writer, sketching with two hands simultaneously. Instead of CGI, animal wrangler Charlotte Wilde worked with 40 different cats, rewarding them with tasty snacks.

On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, The Electrical Life of Louis Wain is a poignantly surreal 6 – unless you’re a feline fanatic – then it leaps to a 7…streaming on Prime Video.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.