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Kim Cattrall: Mannequin

The film, Mannequin, is the fantasy tale of a young woman from ancient Egypt, who is mysteriously reincarnated as a shop window dummy when she prays to the gods to save her from an arranged marriage.

It stars Kim Cattrall, best known in more recent years for her role as Samantha Jones in the American series, Sex and the City. Back in 1987, when Mannequin was released, she was already a well-established actress, whose first movie was the action thriller, Rosebud, in 1975.

She had starred in several hit films, such as the Oscar-nominated Tribute in 1980, Porky's in 1982 and Big Trouble in Little China in 1986. She also featured in many popular television dramas, such as Columbo, Starsky and Hutch, The Incredible Hulk, Charlie's Angels and the Nancy Drew Mysteries.

Kim Cattrall

© George Pimental / CC BY 2.0


Mannequin origins

The idea for the film was sparked when director Michael Gottlieb imagined he saw a mannequin move in the window of the luxury department store, Bergdorf Goodman, as he walked down Fifth Avenue in New York.

However, some critics said it was similar to a romantic Hollywood comedy released in 1948, One Touch of Venus, in which a statue of the Roman goddess Venus, on display in a department store, came to life.

Venus was played by screen goddess Ava Gardner, while Eddie, the window dresser who inadvertently brought her to life, was played by Robert Walker. Eddie fell for Venus and various comic capers ensued after she turned up at his apartment.



The plot of Mannequin was similar, in that Cattrall, as the mannequin, was the love interest of a department store employee, Jonathan, a stock boy, who became a window dresser.


 Prior to working at Prince & Company, he had done a number of odd jobs, one of which was assembling a mannequin until he thought she was beautiful and perfect, but his employer sacked him for deviating from the set pattern and taking too long.

The mannequin ended up in the window of Prince & Company, where she became the star of Jonathan's flamboyant displays, but suddenly, she came to life and told him her name was Emmy and that she was really from Ancient Egypt.

Jonathan fell in love with her, which caused him plenty of problems initially, as no-one else could see her when she was in human form.

They enjoyed some romantic moments, such as dancing together in the store, but it was hard to see where their romance was going.


However, it was a happy ending when she finally allowed other people to see her in human mode and they were married.



After being cast as Emmy, Cattrall admitted it wasn't easy playing a shop window dummy. Prior to filming, she spent six weeks posing for a sculptor, so that several mannequins, wearing different expressions, could be made for the film.

She also worked out and did body-building, as she wanted to be streamlined, so she matched the mannequin's toned physique as accurately as possible.

She was 31 when she was cast as Emmy and said she felt like a "leading lady" for the first time, as she was playing a "grown-up" character, rather than a girl. She said she learned a lot from filming Mannequin, including learning "old Hollywood techniques".

Andrew McCarthy, who was 25 at the time, was cast as Jonathan. He wasn't a massive star, but Hollywood market researcher Joseph Farrell noted that he appealed to girls (the target audience), so he won the role.


Excessive eighties

The 1980s was a decade of big hair and excessive, over-the-top outfits, so Mannequin has become a bit of a time capsule to the era. The glittering, foil-curtained shop walls were a fashionista's dream, while Emmy's outfits included everything from a bright pink flapper-style dress to bright green silk and abundant frills.

In the final wedding scene, she wears a glamorous gown, featuring a white lace bodice, puff sleeves and a tiered silk train, in keeping with the 1980s' mentality of “bigger is better”.

Cattrall said one way to play a mannequin was to "sit there like a dummy" - but on the contrary, she gave Emmy a feisty personality.

When Jonathan added a bright scarf as an accessory to one of her outfits, she swapped it for a red hat. He asked, rather flippantly, "What's the matter, don't you like your scarf." A disgruntled Emmy replied, "Not especially," as she chose her own ensemble. As she transitioned from a mannequin to human model, she wore a typically '80s peach-coloured jumpsuit, with a snakeskin belt pulled in tight at the waist.



Mannequin wasn't particularly well received by the critics when it was first released. A review in the Washington Post described it as being "about dummies, for dummies". The television review programme, Siskel and Ebert at the Movies, deemed it to be "full of clichés".

However, a review in Philadelphia Magazine described it as the "most uplifting film ever made" about Philadelphia, where it was set - although the actual plot of the film was panned in the same critique.

The fans disagreed and mannequin made $42.7 million at the box office in the United States, making its debut at number one in the film charts. It has become a cult classic over the years, as it provides a snapshot of the 1980s.



A sequel called Mannequin Two: On the Move was released in 1991, starring Kristy Swanson as Jessie, a shop window dummy who was really a human girl who had been turned into a wooden mannequin for 1,000 years by an evil spell.

Her love interest was William Ragsdale, an employee in Prince & Company's visual display department, who inadvertently brought her to life.

The film received worse reviews than the first Mannequin and unlike its predecessor, it wasn't liked by the fans either and was a box office flop.

Cattrall's career went from strength to strength after playing Emmy and in 1998, she won the role of Samantha in Sex and the City - the cult series that continued until 2004.

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