An Evening with Eartha Kitt

An Evening With Eartha Kitt premiered February 2009.

This hour long, one-on-one interview program provides an inside look into the life and career of legendary actress and singer Eartha Kitt. The interview was taped live as a PBS special in Chicago, Illinois by The HistoryMakers, the nation's largest African American video oral history archive. Eartha Kitt was interviewed by PBS journalist Gwen Ifill.

Eartha Kitt SingingEartha Kitt singing. Her acting and singing career spanned 5 decades.
It is Eartha Kitt's last interview and performance before her death on December 25, 2008 at the age of 81. Eartha Kitt distinguished herself in film, theater, cabaret, music and on television. The interview covers Kitt's childhood, her musical and acting career in the United States and abroad, working with such greats as Sidney Poitier and Orson Welles, her career on Broadway and her role as Catwoman on the 1960s live-action "Batman" television series. This program also includes three musical performances by Eartha Kitt. She sings "Ain't Misbehavin'," "La Vie En Rose" and "Here's to Life."

Eartha Kitt was an international star who gave new meaning to the word versatile. She was one of only a handful of performers to be nominated for a Tony (three times), a Grammy (twice), and an Emmy Award (twice).

Last PerformanceEartha Kitt performing for the last time.
As a child, Kitt was ostracized because of her mixed-race heritage. At eight years old, she was given away by her mother and sent from the South Carolina cotton fields to live with an aunt in Harlem. In New York, her distinct individuality and flair for show business manifested itself, and on a friend's dare, the shy teen auditioned for the famed Katherine Dunham Dance Troupe. She won a spot as a featured dancer and vocalist and before the age of twenty toured worldwide with the company. During a performance in Paris, Kitt was spotted by a nightclub owner and booked as a featured singer at his club. Her unique persona earned her fans and fame quickly, including Orson Welles, who called her "the most exciting woman in the world." Welles was so taken with her talent that he cast her as Helen of Troy in his fabled production of "Dr. Faust."

Back in New York, Kitt was booked at The Village Vanguard and soon spotted by a Broadway producer who put her in "New Faces of 1952." This led to a national tour of the production and a film version produced by Twentieth Century Fox. Broadway stardom led to a recording contract and a succession of best-selling records including "Love for Sale," "I Want to Be Evil," "Santa Baby" and "Folk Tales of the Tribes of Africa," which earned her a Grammy nomination. Kitt then returned to Broadway in the dramatic play Mrs. Patterson and received her first Tony nomination. Other stage appearances followed, as did films including "The Mark of the Hawk" with Sidney Poitier, "Anna Lucasta" with Sammy Davis, Jr. and "St. Louis Blues" with Nat King Cole.

Kitt and IfillEartha Kitt and Gwen Ifill enjoy a clip from Kitt's career.
In 1967, Kitt made an indelible mark on pop culture as the infamous Catwoman in the television series "Batman." She immediately became synonymous with the role and her trademark growl became imitated worldwide.

Even at the age of 80, Kitt remained devoted to performing in front of live audiences, from intimate cabarets to concert halls with local symphonies. Her career spans over fifty years and she is just as beloved today as she was when she first debuted.

Produced by The HistoryMakers, An Evening With Eartha Kitt is enlightening, engaging and provides rich insight on one of entertainment's all-time greats. Eartha Kitt will be sorely missed!

For more Gwen Ifill visit her blog at http://www.pbs.org/weta/washingtonweek/blog.                          For more information on An Evening With Eartha Kitt, visit The HistoryMakers' Web site at http://www.thehistorymakers.com/.
 

Funded by:

 
Mcdonald's
Discover Financial Services
Walgreens
Verizon
The Coca-Cola Company
 
Illinois Tool Works
Allstate
The Best Portion Foundation

Produced by:

The History Makers

© 2008 The HistoryMakers. All Rights Reserved. Text by Kitt Shapiro and The HistoryMakers. Photos courtesy of Toya Werner Martin.

 
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