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William Kittredge

William Kittredge

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Eartha Kitt was a glamor figure of Hollywood's golden age, with a career that extended into the 2000s. She was born on a South Carolina cotton plantation and was apparently a mixed-race child; it was rumored that her father was the son of the plantation's owner and had conceived her by rape. She entered the Katherine Dunham Company of singer/dancers in her late teens, her elegant beauty standing out from the start. She became an accomplished cabaret singer and scored her first hit with the Cole Porter song, "Let's Do It." She was discovered in 1950 by Orson Welles who cast her as Helen of Troy in his staging of Doctor Faustus; this began a long string of film, television and nightclub work. The 1954 film "New Faces" was her first screen success, and spawned a vinyl EP that included her two signature songs: "C'est Si Bon" (the first U.S. hit version of the French pop standard) and "Santa Baby," the playfully vampish Christmas song that remained a seasonal fixture decades later. Her fame grew in the '60s with a recurring roles in "Batman" (ABC 1966-68) (where she took over the Catwoman role from Julie Newmar) and guest-starring roles in other popular series and her own TV variety special in 1967....

Eartha Kitt was a glamor figure of Hollywood's golden age, with a career that extended into the 2000s. She was born on a South Carolina cotton plantation and was apparently a mixed-race child; it was rumored that her father was the son of the plantation's owner and had conceived her by rape. She entered the Katherine Dunham Company of singer/dancers in her late teens, her elegant beauty standing out from the start. She became an accomplished cabaret singer and scored her first hit with the Cole Porter song, "Let's Do It." She was discovered in 1950 by Orson Welles who cast her as Helen of Troy in his staging of Doctor Faustus; this began a long string of film, television and nightclub work. The 1954 film "New Faces" was her first screen success, and spawned a vinyl EP that included her two signature songs: "C'est Si Bon" (the first U.S. hit version of the French pop standard) and "Santa Baby," the playfully vampish Christmas song that remained a seasonal fixture decades later. Her fame grew in the '60s with a recurring roles in "Batman" (ABC 1966-68) (where she took over the Catwoman role from Julie Newmar) and guest-starring roles in other popular series and her own TV variety special in 1967. However she stirred controversy in 1968 for speaking out against the Vietnam War when invited to a White House lunch by President Lyndon Johnson. She was investigated by the CIA and effectively blackballed from U.S. film and TV work for years afterward, though she had success in London's West End where she starred both in the musical Follies and a later one-women show. In 1976 she made a triumphant Broadway return in the musical Timbuktu!, which earned her a Tony nomination. Her next comeback came in the disco era, when she had a hit with "Where Is My Man" and a Bronski Beat collaboration, "Cha-Cha Heels," both of which led to her being embraced as an icon by the gay community. She later became an advocate for LGBT rights and a regular at fundraisers. She continued to tread the boards in the next two decades, returning to London for a Follies revival in the late '80s and touring America as the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz during the '90s while also making annual cabaret appearances in New York. A performer to the end, she returned to the UK for the Cheltenham Jazz Festival in 2008, releasing a DVD of the performance. She died on colon cancer on Christmas of that year, in her Connecticut home.

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