Eartha Kitt

Eartha Kitt

Infobox actor
name = Eartha Kitt

caption = photo by Carl Van Vechten, 1952
imagesize = 200px
birthdate = birth date and age|1927|1|17
birthplace = North, South Carolina, USA
birthname = Eartha Mae Keith
spouse = Bill McDonald (1960-1965)
emmyawards = Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program
2007 "The Emperor's New School"
2008 "The Emperor's New School"
awards = Annie Awards - Best Voice Acting in an Animated Television Production
2001 "The Emperor's New Groove"
2007 "The Emperor's New School"
2008 "The Emperor's New School"
Hollywood Walk of Fame
6656 Hollywood Boulevard

Eartha Mae Kitt (born on January 17 1927) [cite news | url= | title=Eartha Kitt Purr-severes | work=OutSmart magazine | author=Blase DiStefano | date=June 2004 | accessdate=2008-07-12] is an American actress, singer, and cabaret star. She is known for her role as Catwoman in the 1960s TV series "Batman", and for her 1953 Christmas song "Santa Baby." Orson Welles once called her "the most exciting woman in the world." [cite news | author=Kate X Messer | title=Just An Old Fashioned Cat | url= | work=The Austin Chronicle | date=2006-07-21 | accessdate=2008-07-12]


Early life

Kitt was born Eartha Mae Keith on a cotton plantation in the tiny town North, South Carolina. Though her ancestry is somewhat uncertain, she states her mother was of African-American and Native American descent, and her father, German- or Dutch-American. She was conceived of rape.cite news | author=James Bone | title=Legendary seductress Eartha Kitt — The Original Pussycat Doll | url= | work=The Times | date=11 April 2008 | accessdate=2008-07-31] Kit was raised by Anna Mae Riley, a black woman whom she believed to be her mother, but after Riley's death, she was sent to live in New York City with Mamie Kitt, reportedly Riley's sister. Eartha Kitt believes that Mamie Kitt was her biological mother; she still has no knowledge of her father's identity, except that his surname was Kitt and that he was the son of the owner of the plantation on which she had been born. Kitt suffered terrible abuse and neglect at the hands of a family to whom Anna Mae Riley entrusted her, or "given away for slavery" as Kitt describes in many interviews.


Kitt got her start as a member of the Katherine Dunham Company and made her film debut with them in "Casbah" (1948). A talented singer with a distinctive voice, her hits include "Let's Do It", "C'est si bon", "Just an Old Fashioned Girl", "Monotonous", "Love for Sale", "I'd Rather Be Burned as a Witch", "Uska Dara", "Mink, Schmink", "Under the Bridges of Paris", and her most recognizable hit, "Santa Baby." Kitt's unique style was enhanced as she became fluent in the French language during her years performing in Europe. She dabbled in other languages as well, which she demonstrates with finesse in many of the live recordings of her cabaret performances.


In 1950, Orson Welles gave her her first starring role, as Helen of Troy in his staging of "Dr. Faustus". A few years later, she was cast in the revue "New Faces of 1952" introducing "Monotonous" and "Bal, Petit Bal," two songs with which she continues to be identified. In 1954, 20th Century-Fox filmed a version of the revue simply titled "New Faces". Welles and Kitt allegedly had a torrid affair during her run in "Shinbone Alley", which earned her the nickname by Welles as "the most exciting woman in the world." In 1958, Kitt made her feature film debut opposite Sidney Poitier in "The Mark of the Hawk". Throughout the rest of the 1950s and early 1960s, Kitt would work on and off in film, television and on nightclub stages. In the 1960s television series "Batman", she played Catwoman after Julie Newmar left the role.

In 1964, Kitt helped open the Circle Star Theater in San Carlos, California.

In 1968, however, Kitt encountered substantial professional setback after she made anti-war statements during a White House luncheon. It was reported that she made First Lady Lady Bird Johnson cry. The public reaction to Kitt's statements were much more extreme, both for and against her statements. Professionally exiled from the U.S., she devoted her energies to overseas performances.


During that time, cultural references to her grew, including outside the United States, such as the well-known Monty Python sketch, "the cycling tour", where an amnesiac believes he is first Clodagh Rodgers, then Trotsky and finally Eartha Kitt (while performing to an enthusiastic crowd in Moscow). She returned to New York in a triumphant turn in the Broadway spectacle "Timbuktu!" (a version of the perennial "Kismet" set in Africa) in 1978. In the musical, one song gives a 'recipe' for "mahoun", a preparation of cannabis, in which her sultry purring rendition of the refrain "constantly stirring with a long wooden spoon" was distinctive.

In 1984, she returned to hit music with a disco song, "Where Is My Man", the first certified Gold record of her career. "Where Is My Man" reached the Top 40 on the UK Singles Chart, where it peaked at #36; [ [ UK Singles Chart info at] ] the song also made the Top 10 on the US "Billboard" dance chart, where it reached #7. [Whitburn, Joel (2004). "Hot Dance/Disco 1974-2003", (Record Research Inc.)] Kitt found new audiences in nightclubs across the UK and the US, including a whole new generation of gay male fans, and she responded by frequently giving benefit performances in support of HIV/AIDS organizations. Her 1989 follow-up hit "Cha-Cha Heels" (featuring Bronski Beat), and originally intended to be recorded by Divine, received a positive response from UK dance clubs and reached #32 in the UK charts.


In the late 1990s she appeared as the Wicked Witch of the West in the North American national touring company of "The Wizard of Oz". In 2000, Kitt again returned to Broadway in the short-lived run of Michael John LaChiusa's "The Wild Party" opposite Mandy Patinkin and Toni Collette. Begininng in late 2000, she starred as the Fairy Godmother in the National tour of "Cinderella" alongside Deborah Gibson and then Jamie-Lynn Sigler. In 2003, she replaced Chita Rivera in "Nine". She reprised her role of the Fairy Godmother at a special engagement of "Cinderella" which took place at Lincoln Center during the holiday season of 2004.

One of her more unusual roles was as Kaa the python in a 1994 BBC Radio adaptation of "The Jungle Book". Kitt lent her distinctive voice to the role of Yzma in Disney's "The Emperor's New Groove" and returned to the role in the straight to video sequel "Kronk's New Groove" and the spin-off TV series "The Emperor's New School", for which she has won an Emmy Award and two Annie Awards for Voice Acting in an Animated Television Production. She had a voiceover as the voice of Queen Vexus on the animated TV series "My Life as a Teenage Robot".

In recent years, Kitt's annual appearances in New York have made her a fixture on the Manhattan cabaret scene. She takes the stage at venues such as The Ballroom and, more recently, the Café Carlyle to explore and define her highly stylized image, alternating between signature songs (such as "Old Fashioned Millionaire"), which emphasize a witty, mercenary world-weariness, and less familiar repertoire, much of which she performs with an unexpected ferocity and bite that present her as a survivor with a seemingly bottomless reservoir of resilience — her version of "Here's to Life", frequently used as a closing number, is a sterling example of the latter. This side of her later performances is reflected in at least one of her recordings, Thinking Jazz, which preserves a series of performances with a small jazz combo that took place in the early 1990s in Germany and which includes both standards (Smoke Gets in Your Eyes) and numbers (such as "Something May Go Wrong") that seem more specifically tailored to her talents; one version of the CD includes as bonus performances a fierce, angry "Yesterdays" and a live rendering "C'est Si Bon" that good-humoredly satirizes her sex-kitten persona.

From October to early December, 2006, Kitt co-starred in the Off-Broadway musical "Mimi Le Duck". She also appeared in the 2007 independent film "And Then Came Love" opposite Vanessa L. Williams.

Personal life

After romances with the cosmetics magnate Charles Revson and banking heir John Barry Ryan III, she was married to Bill McDonald from 1960 to 1965. They had one child, a daughter, Kitt Shapiro. Eartha has two grandchildren, Jason and Rachel. She lived for many years in Pound Ridge, NY, but recently moved to Westport, Connecticut to be near her daughter's family. In 2007, she performed at the Hotel Carlyle in New York.

Kitt wrote three autobiographies – Thursday’s Child (1956), Alone with Me (1976), and I’m Still Here: Confessions of a Sex Kitten (1989).

Kitt was the spokesperson for MAC Cosmetics Smoke Signals collection in August 2007. She re-recorded "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" for the occasion, was showcased on the MAC website and the song was played at all MAC locations carrying the collection for the month.

Awards and nominations

Kitt has two Daytime Emmy Awards, three Annie Awards, and in 1960, honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. [cite news | author=Staff writers | title=Eartha Kitt tickets competition | url= | work=The Telegraph | date=2008-01-24 | accessdate=2008-07-31] She received nominations for two Tony Awards, two Grammy Awards, a one Drama Desk Award



*"Casbah" (1948)
*"New Faces" (1954)
*"The Mark of the Hawk" (1958)
*"St. Louis Blues" (1958)
*"Anna Lucasta" (1959)
*"Saint of Devil's Island" (1961)
*"Uncle Tom's Cabin" (1965) (voice only)
*"Synanon" (1965)
*"All About People" (1967) (short subject) (narrator)
*"Up the Chastity Belt" (1971)
*"Friday Foster" (1975)
*"" (1983)
*"The Serpent Warriors" (1985)
*"The Pink Chiquitas" (1987)
*"Dragonard" (1987)
*"Master of Dragonard Hill" (1989)
*"Erik the Viking" (1989)
*"Living Doll" (1990)
*"Ernest Scared Stupid" (1991)
*"Boomerang" (1992)
*"Fatal Instinct" (1993)
*"Unzipped" (1995)
*"Harriet the Spy" (1996)
*"Ill Gotten Gains" (1997)
*"I Woke Up Early the Day I Died" (1998)
*"" (1998) (voice)
*"The Emperor's New Groove" (2000) (voice)
*"The Making and Meaning of We Are Family" (2002)
*"The Sweatbox" (2002) (documentary)
*"Anything But Love" (2002)
*"Holes" (2003)
*"On the One" (2005)
*"Preaching to the Choir" (2005)
*"Kronk's New Groove" (2005) (voice)
*"And Then Came Love" (2007)


*"What's My Line?" (May 30, 1954 as Mystery Guest)
*"The Nat King Cole Show" (guest star in 1956)
*"I Spy" (guest star in "The Loser", 1965)
*"Batman" (guest star in 1967 and 1968)
*"" (guest star in "The Traitor," 1967, season 1)
*"Lieutenant Schuster's Wife" (1972)
*"To Kill a Cop" (1978)
*"Miami Vice" (as Priestess Chata, 1985)
*"Desperately Seeking Roger" (1991)
*"Living Single" (1995)
*"The Nanny" (guest star in 1996)
*"The Wild Thornberrys" (guest star in 1998) (voice)
*"Feast of All Saints" (2001) (miniseries)
*"Santa Baby!" (2001) (voice)
*"My Life as a Teenage Robot" (guest star in 2003) (voice)
*"The Emperor's New School" (2006-present) (voice)


* "Carib Song" (1945)
* "Bal Negre" (1946)
* "New Faces of 1952" (1952)
* "Mrs. Patterson" (1954)
* "Shinbone Alley" (1957)
* "Jolly's Progress" (1959)
* "Timbuktu!" (1978)
* "The Wild Party" (2000)
* "Nine" (2003)


External links

* [ Eartha Kitt official website]
*ibdb name|48248
*imdb name|457755
*Tvtome person|3748
* [ "Eartha Kitt talks about her early childhood"] on the WGBH series, Say Brother
* [ "The Long View: Eartha Kitt Still Sizzling"] , feature story on National Public Radio, December 31, 2007.

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