A pioneer of the femme fatale character, Julie Newmar was an early Hollywood it-girl that showed she had the claws that came with the Catwoman role she played. Alongside Adam West and Burt Ward, she would round out the cast of the 1966 Batman show that saw the Caped Crusader fighting crime in the most camp-filled fun way possible.
Born to Dance
Born in 1933 to a former NFL player father and fashion designer mother, Julie was the oldest of three siblings and the only daughter of the family.
She would have a fairly normal childhood growing up, leaning into the arts at a young age with an initial focus on dance and ballet. Julie Newmar would even go on to graduate high school early at the age of 15, leading to even more free time to focus on dance.
Julie Newmar would take initial steps into acting through stage plays, first starring in a local production of Alice in Wonderland at seven years old in 1940.
She would act and dance in almost a dozen roles between 1952 and 1953 but only be credited for two of them. She would officially start choreographing and instructing dance for Universal Studios at the age of 19, not long after securing her first credited role as an actress.
While she would find varied success for the remainder of the 1950s and through the early 1960s with guest roles and bit parts in film and television, it wasn’t until 1964 that Julie would land her first starring role on a sitcom, playing the lead in My Living Doll.
She would gain acclaim and award nominations for her role as an android adapting to human life, although the show would end after only a year on air.
The Nefarious Catwoman!
Julie Newmar wouldn’t let it get her down though, and took a couple more guest roles before hitting the cultural zeitgeist with her greatest role- Catwoman.
The Batman “played” by Adam West was a goof, one hundred percent cheese, and camp in thirty minutes of primetime television. With other heavyweight actors like Burt Ward and Cesar Romero knowing what was needed and diving all into the insanity, Newmar would only raise the bar (while lowering the belt).
No seriously, it was her idea to have Catwoman’s belt around her hips instead of her waist, believing it emphasized her femininity better. Iconic choice, as it’s followed in most iterations of the character since, even in animated versions.
Despite how iconic she was in the series, a conflicting schedule would see her hang up her claws after the show’s second season, instead taking guest roles in episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series, Twilight Zone and Get Smart.
Throughout the 70s and 80s, Julie would hop around so many roles she could be on all five television channels at once, but the output was shaky at best when it came to the quality of the film or show.
Everything from Chips to Monster Squad could have an appearance from Julie Newmar, and she would also relish taking part in what many consider bad movies.
A fantastic trait for an actor, Julie Newmar was keenly aware of when she was acting in something that was doomed in every way, but she would take the roles to the extreme and knead scenery like a cat at a scratching post.
Most notably, check out the Bo and John Derek joint feature Ghosts Can’t Do It, which is a Razzie Hall of Fame contender. Newmar dives right in and goes all out.
Throughout the 70s she would take a more entrepreneurial role as well, getting into real estate and filing patents for clothing.
Newmar has mostly stepped back since some low-budget sci-fi and a videogame voice acting role in the 90s.
She did have a meta-hit in 1995 with To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar (sounds like an anime title) would also further establish herself as an LGBTQ+ icon and ally by playing herself in the film about drag culture.
Julie Newmar is no stranger to tragedy as well as success, unfortunately, having lost her brother in a skiing accident in 1962.
While the loss would affect her, she is close with her remaining brother and credits him as her inspiration to advocate for the LGBT community.
Where is Julie Newmar Now?
With no plans other than just enjoying her retirement and being with her son, Julie Newmar always seems willing to be involved wherever she can as Catwoman.
She could potentially see a return for the 60th anniversary in 2026. Meanwhile, she regularly posts updates on Instagram with behind-the-scenes pictures. She’s also teased an upcoming memoir.
No matter what, she’ll continue being an advocate for the betterment of everyone, and that makes her a real-life superhero.
In 1977, Julie Newmar would marry lawyer J. Holt Smith, with their son being born in 1981. Her son’s diagnosis of Down’s Syndrome and hearing impairment have led Julie to advocate for research and donations to causes for others like him.
Julie would file for a divorce from Smith in 1984 and has been unmarried since. While she’s currently in retirement (she’s 90 years old, she’s earned it!) Julie Newman did most recently come back to the role of Catwoman in the two Batman ‘66 animated films before the passing of star Adam West.