Reading an Eartha Kitt biography is an amazing learning experience about the power of the human spirit. From poor daughter on a plantation to a global superstar and icon of theatre, movies, tv, and song, Eartha Kitt accomplishments are legion.
A Short Eartha Kitt Biography
From Farm to Show Biz
Born in South Carolina on January 17th, 1927, Ms. Kitt couldn't have had humbler beginnings. In fact, she didn't even know who her biological mother was for much of her early life, being raised by Anna Mae Riley, her aunt. Upon Riley's death she was reunited with her mother, Mamie, and learned that her father (who she never met) had been a poor cotton farmer.In New York City, Ms. Kitt joined the Katherine Dunham Company and appeared in the film Casbah in 1948. She was noted for her amazing voice and expressive singing. In the next seven years she achieved world renown with hits such as:
- Let's Do It
- C'est Si Bon
- Love for Sale
- Uska Dara
- Santa Baby
Her first starring role came in Orson Welles' production of Dr. Faustus in 1950, and in 1958 starred with Sidney Poitier in The Mark of the Hawk. She landed various roles on film and TV throughout the 1960s, also performing in nightclubs such as the Circle Star Theater in California. She became a cult icon when the Batman series chose her to be the new Catwoman after Julie Newmar left the series. She married John William McDonald in 1960, but divorced him in 1965, with one daughter, Kitt, resulting from the union.
In 1968 she was invited to the White House for a luncheon with President Lyndon Johnson. While this would seem to be an honor, it turned out to be a crippling blow to her career after she told the First Lady, point blank, how she felt about the Vietnam War. "You send the best of this country to be shot and maimed," was her opinion, and the public outcry over the statement caused her to become persona non grata in U.S. performance venues.
Success and Redemption
Far from being a low point in the Eartha Kitt biography, her travels overseas simply increased her fanbase and led to her becoming a cultural icon, referenced by all sorts of media, including the comedians in Monty Python's Flying Circus. Eventually her fame grew to the point where she could return to the U.S., appearing in a New York engagement of Timbuktu in 1978.
She continued to work in many different performing arts, ranging from touring companies of The Wizard of Oz to the disco charts with her hit Where is my Man? (which rose on the charts in the U.S. and the U.K.
Melding Fame with Service
Ever mindful of her fans, many of whom came from the gay population, Ms. Kitt began to devote time to charities and organizations addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic. She remained a firm advocate of gay marriage throughout her life, feeling that it was a civil rights issue. She also was an active participant in her local community at her home in Connecticut, helping out local charities.Throughout the remainder of her life, Ms. Kitt continued to cross genres in surprising roles:
- 1989: Her hit Cha-Cha Heels hits #32 on the UK charts
- 1992: Appears with Eddie Murphy in the movie Boomerang
- 1990's: Tours as the Wicked Witch of the West
- 2000: Appears with Mandy Patinkin on Broadway in The Wild Party
- 2003: Replaced Chita Rivera in Nine
- 2004: Reprises her role as Debbie Gibson's Fairy Godmother in Cinderella performed at Lincoln Center
- 2007: Becomes spokesperson for MAC cosmetics, lending her song Smoke Gets in Your Eyes to the campaign
She also began lending her voice to many animated features, such as The Emperor's New Groove from Disney, winning several "Annie Awards" for voice talent. She also continued to perform in New York cabarets, reprising her old songs in new ways, letting her songs grow and reflect the lessons she'd learned in her long life.
On Christmas day of 2008 the Eartha Kitt biography came to an end when she died in her home after a long battle with colon cancer. While the world mourned, her fans are thankful for all of the many talented and entertaining artistic gifts she left behind.