Friday, January 17, 2014

January 17: Eartha Kitt was born on this date in 1927...

... she died on Christmas Day, December 25, 2008.

Eartha Mae Kitt was born on a cotton plantation in the town of North, South Carolina, a small town in Orangeburg County near Columbia, South Carolina. Kitt was conceived by rape.

Kitt had no knowledge of her father, except that his surname was Kitt and that he was supposedly a son of the owner of the farm where she had been born.

Eartha was an actress, singer and cabaret star. She was perhaps best known for her highly distinctive singing style and her 1953 hit Christmas song "Santa Baby." She took over the role of Catwoman for the third season of the 1960s Batman television series, replacing Julie Newmar, who was unavailable for the final season.
Kitt began her career as a member of the Katherine Dunham Company in 1943 and remained a member of the troupe until 1948. A talented singer with a distinctive voice, her hits include "Let's Do It," "Champagne Taste," "C'est si bon," "Just an Old Fashioned Girl," "Monotonous," "Je cherche un homme," "Love for Sale," "I'd Rather Be Burned as a Witch," "Uska Dara," "Mink, Schmink,"  and "Under the Bridges of Paris." Her most recognizable hit, "Santa Baby," was released in 1953.

(Continued below video and Amazon portals ...)

(Press album cover for direct link to the entire Amazon Website):
Purr-Fect: The Eartha Kitt CollectionConfessions of a Sex Kitten

Kitt's unique style was enhanced as her French improve, and her English performances seemed to be enhanced by a softer French inflection.  She also developed skill in other languages too, and learned to speak four languages while singing in seven.

In 1950, Orson Welles gave Kitt 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" and "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, in which she performed "Monotonous," "Uska Dara" and "C'est si bon." Her other films in the 1950s included The Mark of the Hawk, St. Louis Blues and Anna Lucasta.

Throughout the rest of the 1950s and early 1960s, Kitt would record, work in film, television and nightclubs, and return to the Broadway stage in Mrs. Patterson during the 1954-55 season, Shinbone Alley in 1957, followed by Jolly's Progress in 1959.

In 1964, Kitt helped open the Circle Star Theater in San Carlos, California. Also in the 1960s, the television series Batman featured her as Catwoman after Julie Newmar left the role.

In 1968, during the administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson, Kitt encountered a substantial professional setback after she made anti-war statements during a White House luncheon. Kitt was invited to a White House luncheon and was asked by Lady Bird Johnson about the Vietnam War. She replied: "You send the best of this country off to be shot and maimed. No wonder the kids rebel and take pot." Her remarks reportedly caused Mrs. Johnson to burst into tears and led to a derailment in Ms. Kitt's career. The public reaction to Kitt's statements was extreme, both pro and con.

Publicly ostracized in the US, she devoted her energies to performances in Europe and Asia. During that time, cultural references to her grew, including outside the U.S., such as the well-known Monty Python sketch "The Cycling Tour."

She returned to New York in athe Broadway spectacle Timbuktu! (a version of the perennial Kismet set in Africa) in 1978.  That same year, Kitt did the voice-over in a TV commercial for the album Aja by the rock group Steely Dan. She wrote three autobiographies — Thursday's Child in 1956, Alone with Me in 1976, and I'm Still Here: Confessions of a Sex Kitten in 1989.

In 1984, she returned to the music charts 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; The song also made the Top 10 on the US Billboard dance chart, where it reached #7. The single was followed by the album I Love Men on the Record Shack label.

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.

In 1992, Kitt had a supporting role as Lady Eloise in the film Boomerang starring Eddie Murphy. 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 November 1996, she appeared on an episode of 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, for which she won her first Annie Award, 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 won two Emmy Awards and two more Annie Awards (both in 2007–08) 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 her later years Kitt made annual appearances in the New York Manhattan cabaret scene at venues such as the Ballroom and the Café Carlyle. 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 Williams.


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