By Alexandria Sage and Rob Lang
CANNES (Reuters) - A white poodle with cataracts stole the limelight from Hollywood star Michael Douglas by winning the Palm Dog award during the Cannes film festival on Friday.
Critics at the prestigious festival on the Mediterranean coast may have hailed Douglas for his performance as Liberace in Steven Soderbergh's "Behind the Candelabra", but it was the flamboyant pianist's blind "Baby Boy" who walked away with a prize.
The Palm Dog award ceremony takes place each year on the sidelines of the official cinema showcase to honor the festival's most memorable canine performance. The name is a play on the Palme d'Or, the Cannes festival's top prize.
Organizer Toby Rose said audiences were transfixed by the "cuddliness" of "Baby Boy", whose failing health in the movie brings together Liberace and his new young lover.
Perhaps the most famous dog on celluloid in recent years is "Uggie", the Jack Russell terrier star of the 2011 French film "The Artist", who is now in retirement.
"In the last two or three years, we've seen a lot more films that have featured dogs, and a lot more films that have featured dogs for the purposes of bringing in box office - and they certainly do that," Rose said.
This year's Cannes films feature an array of challenging dog roles, including a very small canine actor's portrayal of Paris Hilton's chihuahua in Sofia Coppola's "The Bling Ring".
Underscoring the versatility of man's best friend, more dramatic roles were seen in Amat Escalante's "Heli", in which a dog protects a drugs cache, and Arnaud des Pallieres' "Michael Kohlhaas", in which two guard dogs maul a man.
But perhaps the most memorable performance on four legs this year was from the orange cat in Ethan and Joel Coen's "Inside Llewyn Davis", in which an unlucky singer manages to lose a kindly older friend's feline pet.
"The movie doesn't really have a plot. That concerned us at a certain point, which is why we brought the cat in. It's really about the cat," Joel Coen joked before the film's premiere.
(Editing by David Goodman)