The World of Pluto
Patricia "St. Kitten" Braden is a character so vivid that she seems to catwalk straight off the pages of Patrick McCabe's Breakfast on Pluto. Director Neil Jordan worked with McCabe to bring the character to the screen, and Cillian Murphy imbued her with such life that he still refers to her as a real person.
Kitten was in love with the world through music, movies, and fashion. These were her salvation in an often-hellish world of personal and political turmoil. Here are a few links to follow if you're interested in peeking further into Kitten's world.
Mitzi Gaynor and
Gene Kelly with
Mitzi and the girls
Jennifer Jones and
"...Ireland was a bit behind in the '60s. When they got the shock of Marc Bolan, David Bowie, and even television, it must have been a real surprise to them." (Cillian Murphy, RainbowNetwork)
"Just give me Vic Damone, South Pacific, plus a yummy stack of magazines and I'll be happy..." (Patrick "Pussy" Braden in Breakfast on Pluto)
"...she looked just like any old ordinary priest's housekeeper ... most definitely not a perfume-sprayed vision called Mitzi Gaynor with a head of gorgeous bubble-cut curls..." (Patrick McCabe, Breakfast on Pluto)
This musical, which stars Mitzi Gaynor, appears prominently in the original novel. Neil Jordan intended to use it in his film, but after reading the script the Rodgers & Hammerstein estate said "no way." (Neil Jordan, FutureMovies)
Thwarted by the Rodgers & Hammerstein estate, Neil Jordan instead used Cole Porter's romp through Gay Paree to introduce us to Kitten: "Champers, darling?" "Don't mind if I do."
Love is a Many-Splendored Thing
A 1955 melodrama with a classic melodramatic theme song. Kitten watches the movie through a shop window while the song swells on the soundtrack.
Pussy Braden look-a-like
"Kitten becomes obsessed with the more saccharine, less intellectually challenging music, because there was a lot of that serious music being made in the late 60s, early 70s. Kitten identifies with Sugar Baby Love and stuff like that, which is great, because she attaches so much importance to these trashy tunes." (Cillian Murphy, Suicide Girls)
Marc Bolan, Gary Glitter, David Bowie, and other British artists (along with the New York Dolls across the pond) merged theatricality with driving rock & roll to create this musical phenomenon in the first half of the 70s.
Marc Bolan and T. Rex
Sometimes credited as the originators of glam rock, T. Rex set the standard for the jagged guitars, theatrics, and androgyny that would become hallmarks of the genre. Their 1972 hit "Children of the Revolution" became an anthem for the time.
Pussy (in McCabe's original novel) is told that she looks like this English pop singer.
Goldsboro is best known for "Honey", "…a maudlin tale about the tragic death of a young bride."
"While Bowie was deemed too mature a voice for Kitten's naïveté, Harry Nilsson was a revelation—his falsetto felt like "finding an alternative version of the Beatles…" (Neil Jordan, Seattle Weekly)
- AllMusic.com entry
- The Point! includes Nilsson's hit "Me and My Arrow", the story of a misfit who takes an important journey.
Up on the moon, we'll all be there soon,
Watching the earth down below
We'll journey to Mars and visit the stars,
Finding our breakfast on Pluto.
Film fans might remember "Britain's greatest pop diva" singing "The Windmills of Your Mind," but "Son of a Preacher Man" holds special meaning for Pussy in the novel.
"Sugar Baby Love" was the Rubettes first—and biggest—hit.
Vogue, Dec. 1974
Chanel No. 5
Emma Peel and her
High above the crowd
In Breakfast on Pluto, the costumes and the characters who wear them reflect a libertine subculture from decades past. "Because of the androgynous vibe of Bowie, Jagger, and [T.Rex glam rocker] Marc Bolan, everyone was fucking with their sexuality a bit, so you could have total license … it was probably the coolest era for dressing." (Cillian Murphy, Time Out New York)
The World of Fashion
Known for her little black dress and signature scents, Coco Chanel was more than just an inventive designer—with her bohemian streak and passionate spirit, she rose from an austere beginning in an orphanage to define the face of 20th century fashion.
Faye Dunaway's appearance in Bonnie and Clyde ushered in the resurgence of 1930s fashion in the 1970s.
The costumers of Breakfast on Pluto undoubtedly found inspiration for Kitten's black catsuit in Diana Rigg's character from The Avengers.
The Platform Shoe
This fashion accessory made a comeback in the 1970s—with a little help of celebs like Elton John—and it wasn't unusual to see both men and women sporting a pair of heels. Some versions raised the wearer nearly a foot above the crowd!
Irish Catholic Church
buried in soiled laundry
Speaking out for gay
rights in the U.K., 1970
"In the present period, the corruption of morals has increased, and one of the most serious indications of this corruption is the unbridled exaltation of sex." (Vatican Persona Humana, 1975). On the Pluto DVD, Neil Jordan explains how "Kitten's pansexuality is also a rebellion against the harsh Catholic Church, and offers his definition of childhood: 'a paradise from which you'll never recover.'" (Seattle Weekly)
Few options were open to unwed Irish women in trouble. Some terminated their pregnancies in Britain, although travel and even providing abortion information was illegal in the Republic. Others, like Eily Bergen, were simply packed away never to return. Still others remained in Ireland, consigned to Catholic workhouses where they became known as "Magdalenes" after Jesus' fallen companion, Mary Magdalen.
- Wiki entry on Magdalene Laundries
- WikiInfo entry on Magdalenes
- The Magdalene Sisters IMDb entry
- Abortion in Ireland Wiki entry
Stance on Homosexuality
The Vatican's 1975 Persona Humana stated that, while some persons were born homosexual, to engage in homosexual acts was a sin; further, admittance to the clergy was forbidden not only to homosexuals but to those who "support the so-called 'gay culture'."
Kitten chooses St. Cettin as her confirmation saint, for he ("or she") was an acolyte of Saint Patrick.
Armed police enter
Derry's Bogside, 1969
Violence erupted through-
out the North
The civil rights march
that led to Bloody Sunday
Mural commemorating the
Bloody Sunday massacre
Margaret Thatcher, 1970
"Quite how Irwin ever managed to get around to conceiving of himself as a real soldier really must be classified amongst the great unsolved mysteries of our time…But now, of course, nothing could stop him, it being 1971 and with the balloon in Northern Ireland having gone up in earnest…" (Breakfast on Pluto)
The 1921 partition of Ireland left the six northern counties in the U.K. After decades of economic and social discrimination, and inspired by Martin Luther King and the U.S. civil rights movement, Catholics in Northern Ireland began campaigning for civil rights. "The Troubles" erupted in 1968 after the Royal Ulster Constabulary attacked demonstrators in Derry, injuring nearly 100 people. Over the ensuing years violence escalated on both sides. Tensions heightened after the much-hated internment was re-introduced in 1971, allowing authorities to hold (and in many cases, torture) suspects without charge or trial.
The Provisional IRA
Escalating tensions in Northern Ireland resurrected the age-old struggle over Ireland's disputed status as part of the U.K. The Irish Republican Army was divided over the question of whether to engage in armed combat, and in 1969 the Provos split off. Their aggressive campaign was designed to inflict such casualties on the occupying forces that they would be forced to withdraw; instead, reinforcements were deployed from Britain.
"13 of you lot shot in Derry…13 less of you lot to deal with." The squaddy's caustic taunt to the Mohawks at the border checkpoint on 30 January 1972 marks a turning point in Kitten's story, a moment when things start getting "serious, serious." The massacre of 14 demonstrators in Derry (a 59-year-old man died of injuries shortly after the shooting), and the ensuing whitewashed inquiry, was indeed a serious event that catalyzed opposition to British rule and intensified sectarian violence on both sides … including the Provos' bombing campaign in Britain.
An aspiring Conservative MP throughout the '60s, Thatcher was appointed Secretary of Education in 1970. The Tories lost the next election, but Thatcher won leadership of the party in 1975 and won the Prime Minister's post in 1979. "[Kitten's] vain enough to want to be pretty, he wanted to be Margaret Thatcher, which every transvestite wanted to be at the time, as far as I remember." (Neil Jordan, FutureMovies)
"…the film was so much about music and I was listening to so much music of the period that I just thought of Bryan. I didn’t know him, but he seemed to be acting in his performances back then, with the white suit and the elegant image. He’d never actually acted, but he came over and did a little rehearsal and was very good." (Neil Jordan, FutureMovies)
Friday's appearance in Breakfast on Pluto was quite apropos—Patrick McCabe dedicated his novel to the Irish post-punk legend back in 1998. "He was in Disco Pigs, actually, had a small part and I remember saying 'God, this guy is fantastic' and then Neil thought of casting him in that role and he just... eats it up, you know, he's wonderful." (Cillian Murphy on the Ian Dempsey show)
A native of Clones, Co. Monaghan, a small town perched on the border between the Republic and its northern neighbour, Irish novelist Pat McCabe has developed a keen sense of what it means to navigate the space in-between—whether it be physical space between volatile nations, the tricky path of a child to adulthood, or the uncharted territory of gender identity.
Underground, Overground, Wombling Free,
The Wombles of Wimbledon Common are we.
Making good use of the things that we find,
Things that the everyday folks leave behind.