Most people remember her as Catwoman on the 1960’s TV show “Batman”
Singer and actress Eartha Kitt was born on this day in 1927
Born in 1927 in North, South Carolina, Eartha Kitt became popular in Paris as a nightclub singer, then returned to the U.S. to appear in films and on Broadway. Her 1953 recording of “Santa Baby” is still a favorite today. In the 1960s, Kitt had a recurring role as Catwoman on TV’s “Batman”, but her career waned after she criticized the Vietnam War during a luncheon with Lady Bird Johnson. Eartha Kitt had a difficult childhood, her mother abandoned her, and she was left in the care of relatives who mistreated her. Kitt was often teased and picked on because of her mixed-race heritage her father was white, and her mother was African-American and Cherokee. Around the age of 8, Kitt moved to New York City to live with an aunt. There, she eventually enrolled in the New York School of Performing Arts. Around the age of 16, Kitt won a scholarship to study with Katherine Dunham, and later joined Dunham’s dance troupe. She toured with the group for several years before going solo. In Paris, Kitt became a popular nightclub singer. She was discovered in Europe by actor-director Orson Welles. Welles, who reportedly called her “the most exciting woman alive,” cast her as Helen of Troy in his production of “Dr. Faustus”. Kitt became a rising star with her appearance in the Broadway review “New Faces of 1952”. In the production, she sang “Monotonous.” Her performance helped launch her music career with the release of her first album in 1954. The recording featured such signature songs as “I Want To Be Evil” and “C’est Si Bon,” as well as the perennially holiday classic “Santa Baby.” On the big screen, Kitt starred opposite Nat “King” Cole in the W. C. Handy biopic “St. Louis Blues” in 1958. She netted her one and only Academy Award nomination the following year, for her role as the title character in “Anna Lucasta”. In the film, Kitt plays a sassy young woman who is forced to use her womanly wiles to survive. She stars opposite Sammy Davis Jr. In the late 1960s, Kitt played one of her most famous rolls villainous vixen Catwoman. She took over the role, on the TV series “Batman” 1967-1968, from Julie Newmar. Remarkably, Kitt only played Catwoman on three episodes of the short-lived campy crime show, starring Adam West and Burt Ward, but she made the role her own with her lithe, cat-like frame and her distinctive voice. The series found a second life in reruns, and it remains on the air today. Throughout her adult life, Kitt had a tremendous work ethic. She kept up a busy work schedule well into her 70s. In 2000, Kitt netted a Tony Award nomination for her work in “The Wild Party” with Toni Collette. She picked up a Daytime Emmy Award for her vocal performance on the animated children’s series “The Emperor’s New School” that same year. Kitt learned that she had colon cancer in 2006, a disease that ended up taking her life on December 25, 2008.
Watch Eartha Kitt performing “Black Little Angels”
Watch Eartha Kitt performing “Santa Baby”
By Ken Warren, 2018
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