Eartha Kitt was an actress, singer, and dancer. She was born Eartha Mae Keith on a cotton plantation in South Carolina. Her familial background is a bit murky because neither her father nor her mother was ever 100% identified. Eartha Kitt was raised by her maternal aunt, Ana Mae Riley, but there was some doubt as to whether Riley was her aunt or her mother. Kitt’s father was rumored to be a white plantation owner who had allegedly raped her mother. Eartha Kitt claimed that her child life was full of abuse, neglect, and taunting from her peers for being “high yellow.” What is known is that Kitt was eventually sent away from South Carolina to live with her “aunt” in New York by the time she was a pre-teen.
While in New York, Eartha Kitt did not fare well in school. She skipped classes most of the time and she eventually wound up cutting her show business teeth, by great fortune, in the fold of the Katherine Dunham Company (dance). She found a modicum of success soon afterwards as she was cast in her first television film role in 1948.
Eartha Kitt worked steadily in film and television throughout the 1950’s, and most of the 1960’s. She found great success as a cabaret singer in Europe, and one of her greatest success through a live action children’s television show based off of a DC Comics Superhero. In Batman, Eartha Kitt would replace Julie Newmar as Catwoman in 1968. Although Kit did not continue the role for the entire season, (she was replaced later on in the same year by former beauty queen Lee Merriwhether), she made a huge impact as the feline foe to the winged Superhero. Her natural cat-like appearance, distinctively sexy voice, playful personality, and tiger like moves made her the perfect choice for Catwoman and the fans absolutely adored her.
In a dinner at the White House, Eartha Kitt made disapproving remarks about the Vietnam War to Lady Bird Johnson. Some claimed that Kitt was professionally black-listed for her “insubordinate” and “disrespectful” comments, but she continued to work throughout the next two decades – nothing earth shattering, but she was still working.
During the 1990’s, Eartha Kitt’s star spiked as she was cast as a vampish corporate figurehead with her sights set on Eddie Murphy’s character. Throughout the years, Eartha Kitt has been rumored to have had an affair with Orson Wells, she was best friends with James Dean, she was shunned by one country’s leader, Lyndon Baines Johnson, and she was praised by another, Sir Winston Churchill. Eartha Kitt sang, danced, and acted her way into the annals of Hollywood and Broadway history, and she continued her craft until she died on Christmas Day of 2008. When it comes to the performing arts, Eartha Kitt was not just a performer; she was the quintessential performing artist. Sorry TNT, ER may be a wonderfully dramatic show…but Eartha Kitt is Drama.
Now would be the perfect time to visit the career of Eartha Kitt by putting most of these films into your Netflix queue:
St. Louis Blues (1958) – Eartha Kitt stars here as Go Go Germaine, a sexy singer with an eye for talent and no time for small town performers — such as a yet to be discovered W.C. Handy. In this film, Kitt stars opposite screen and music legends Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Mahalia Jackson, Cab Calloway, and Ruby Dee. You can occasionally check Turner Classic Movies (TCM) schedule because they have been known to frequently air this film.
Anna Lucasta (1958) – Anna Lucasta is absolutely my favorite Eartha Kitt film. The film serves as a grim reminder that some of the starkest social issues of today were just as prominent yesterday; they just weren’t broadcast for the whole world to view the way that they are now. Anna Lucasta offers a gripping view inside the lives of an “all American” family. Eartha Kitt has the lead /title role, and, as such, is the centerpiece of the action. This film also stars Sammy Davis Jr.
Boomerang (1992) – Watch Eartha Kitt chase Eddie Murphy around in this film. Kitt has to be some thirty years Murphy’s senior in this one, and the end result of her chase is a comedic classic. Halle Berry, Martin Lawrence, David Alan Grier, and Robin Givens also star in this one. This film can be watched in its entirety online @ Netflix.com
Something’s Gotta Give(2003) – In this movie you will not see Eartha Kitt, but you will feel her presence when you hear her belt out two of the most prominent pieces of music from this soundtrack: Je Cherche Un Homme and C’est Si Bon. Eartha Kitt originally recorded these two songs during her stellar stint as a French Chanteuse many years ago. This film stars Diane Keaton, Jack Nicholson, and Keanu Reeves, Frances McDormand, and Amanda Peet.
Besides all this there are Disney Performing Arts brought popular music workshop that are there in the memory of Eartha Kitt. You get several beautiful covers for her different songs. She is considered one of the fine actresses of this industry which is why you get a premium experience of her life at the music workshop at Disney Performing Arts.