- Kitt, Eartha Mae
▪ 2009American singer and dancerborn Jan. 17, 1927, North, S.C.died Dec. 25, 2008, Connecticutwas a shapely singer who seduced audiences with her extraordinary and distinctive sultry voice; she also achieved success as a dramatic stage and film actress, earning numerous Tony and Grammy Award nominations. The daughter of a white man and a black woman, Kitt from the age of eight grew up with relatives in an ethnically diverse section of Harlem, New York City. At 16 she joined Katherine Dunham's dance troupe, touring the U.S., Mexico, South America, and Europe. When the Dunham company returned to the U.S., the multilingual Kitt stayed in Paris, where she won immediate popularity as a nightclub singer. She made her acting debut in 1950 as Helen of Troy in Time Runs, an Orson Welles adaptation of Faust. With her appearance in the Broadway revue New Faces of 1952 and with early 1950s recordings such as “C'est Si Bon,” “Santa Baby,” and “I Want to Be Evil,” Kitt became a star. Her success continued in nightclubs; theatre productions, such as Mrs. Patterson (1954) and Shinbone Alley (1957); films, including St. Louis Blues (1958) and Anna Lucasta (1959); and television appearances, notably the role of Catwoman in the late 1960s series Batman. After she publicly criticized the Vietnam War at a 1968 White House luncheon in the presence of the first lady, Lady Bird (Claudia) Johnson, Kitt's career went into a severe decline; in the 1970s it began to recover after news surfaced that she had been subjected to U.S. Secret Service surveillance. She made a comeback in the U.S. with Timbuktu! (1978), a remake of Kismet featuring an all-black cast. Kitt continued to perform in nightclubs, theatres, and films and on recordings until her death, and she received two Daytime Emmy Awards (2007 and 2008) for her role as the scheming Yzma in the children's television program The Emperor's New School. Kitt published three autobiographies: Thursday's Child (1956), Alone with Me (1976), and I'm Still Here: Confessions of a Sex Kitten (1989).
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