The Three Lives of Thomasina is a 1963 British-American Disney fantasy feature film starring Patrick McGoohan, Susan Hampshire, child actress Karen Dotrice and child actor Matthew Garber in a story about a cat and her influence on a family. The screenplay was written by Robert Westerby and Paul Gallico and was based upon Gallico's 1957 novel Thomasina, the Cat Who Thought She Was God. The film was directed by Don Chaffey, and shot in Inveraray, Argyll, Scotland, and Pinewood Studios, England. Thomasina has been broadcast on television and released to VHS and DVD.
Set in the town of Inveranoch, Scotland in 1912, the story centers around Andrew MacDhui (Patrick McGoohan) a coldly-scientific, atheist veterinarian, his seven year old daughter Mary (Karen Dotrice), and her cat Thomasina (voiced by Elspeth March). Thomasina the cat narrates the movie. (Thomasina was originally called "Thomas" by her adoptive family. She explains that they amended her name "after they... well... got to know me better.")
MacDhui is a widower. His wife's death killed his belief in God, as well as his empathy for others. He has little sympathy for people's pets, preferring "useful" animals such as hard-working farm beasts and the blind man Tammas' dog, Bruce.
One night Thomasina is chased by dogs in the marketplace and falls off some boxes sustaining an injury. Mary and her friends find her the following day. Meanwhile MacDhui is operating on Bruce (who was struck by a car). He is interrupted during the surgery by his daughter begging him to help her cat. He sees that Thomasina's muscles are stiff and diagnoses tetanus.
Although tetanus is treatable and even if untreated is fatal only 73% of the time), MacDhui, as with other pets brought to him in similar situations, considers it easier to simply have the cat euthanized. He orders his assistant Willie Bannock (Wilfrid Brambell) to put Thomasina to sleep.
Mary is completely shattered by Thomasina's death, and loses faith in her father, who had promised to save her cat. She turns emotionally bitter to MacDhui and declares her father dead, refusing to speak to or look at him.
Meanwhile, Thomasina goes to "cat heaven" in a surrealistic scene where cats who have used all of their nine lives are transformed into Siamese and live with the Egyptian cat-god Bast for eternity. But Thomasina has only lived once, and is returned to her body alive but in a coma.
Mary and her playmates Hughie Stirling (Vincent Winter), and Jamie and Geordie McNab (Denis Gilmore and Matthew Garber) and other friends give Thomasina a funeral. They take her out to the glen beyond the town, but are (unintentionally) frightened away by "Mad Lori" MacGregor (Susan Hampshire), a beautiful and kindhearted young woman who lives in the glen and was attracted by the children's singing and bagpipe playing. The children believe she is a witch, one reason being that she seems to have a magic power to calm and cure animals. Lori brings Thomasina back to her makeshift animal hospital, but although the cat recovers she has no memory of her "First Life" with Mary. Thus begins her second life.
Lori doesn't have the surgical skill needed to repair a wounded badger she finds in a trap, and she asks God to give her help. Immediately after that, MacDhui arrives to confront Lori, because the children have told the townspeople to boycott his practice and to bring their pets to her instead. But that is forgotten as he treats the animal's wound while Lori watches in amazement.
Lori (and later, MacDhui) realizes that they each have half of what is needed to treat sick animals. He has the science and surgical knowledge, while she has the love and compassion. They start to bond emotionally when they learn that each had lost their parents at a young age, though Lori never lost her faith in God. She also learns that MacDhui only became a vet at the strict demand of his father, having prefered the life of a doctor to humans.
Meanwhile, Thomasina's memory is slowly returning. She realizes she misses something very important, but she doesn't know what. She also is humbled by the fact that she is treated as equally as all the other animals, compared to the doting lifestyle she shared with the MacDhui family. She does remember the way back home, but doesn't recognize Mary, who chases her into a rainstorm. Thomasina returns to the safety of Lori's cabin in the woods, but Mary contracts pneumonia after MacDhui finds her lying in the street in the rain.
MacDhui prays for the first time in four years that God will somehow cure his daughter.
While MacDhui and Lori continue to work together, Mary's friends soon witness a travelling gypsy circus demonstrating cruel treatment of their animals. Knowing that MacDhui is the only one with authority to have the gypsies arrested, the boys reluctantly request his help. Lori also visits the circus where she demands that the animals be treated more humanely. MacDhui arrives and orders a closure of the circus, which breaks out into a brawl. Later, when Lori tends to a wound MacDhui received from the fight, he opens up to her about his daughter's dying condition, that the loss of a beloved pet was the cause, and he begs Lori to try and heal Mary, too. Upon arriving at MacDhui's home, Lori notices that Mary is near death, having lost the will to live.
Off in the glen, a lightning bolt (which may be a miracle from God) strikes a tree next to Thomasina and her memory is suddenly restored. Thomasina returns home, only to recognize MacDhui (who had her killed) and refuses to enter through the window despite MacDhui's pleas.
At this point, Thomasina realizes that she could get revenge on MacDhui by not entering, but (she tells us as the narrator), Lori's love has changed her, and she no longer desires revenge.
MacDhui places Thomasina in Mary's arms, thereby restoring Thomasina to Mary, Mary's life, and Mary's love for her father.
Lori's love has changed MacDhui, too, and they get married, making the perfect veterinary team. Thomasina now begins her "Third Life" with all of them together.
- Patrick McGoohan - Andrew MacDhui
- Susan Hampshire - Lori MacGregor
- Karen Dotrice - Mary MacDhui
- Laurence Naismith - Reverend Angus Peddie
- Jean Anderson - Mrs. MacKenzie
- Wilfrid Brambell - Willie Bannock
- Finlay Currie - Grandpa Stirling
- Vincent Winter - Hughie Stirling
- Denis Gilmore - Jamie McNab
- Ewan Roberts - Constable McQuarrie
- Oliver Johnston - Mr. Dobbie
- Francis DeWolff - Targu
- Charles Carson - Doctor
- Nora Nicholson - Old Lady
- Jack Stewart - Birnie
- Matthew Garber - Geordie McNab
- Thomasina - Herself--the Cat
- Elspeth March - the voice of Thomasina
- Director - Don Chaffey
- Screenplay - Robert Westerby
- Book as Source Material - Paul Gallico
- Producer - Walt Disney
- 2nd Unit Director - Gordon Stone
- Associate Producer - Hugh Attwooll
- Unit Manager - Basil Appleby
- Production Manager - Peter Manley
- Assistant Director - Dennis Bertera
- Assistant Director - Terry Churcher