Eartha Kitt Blue Plaque

Eartha Kitt

Eartha Kitt, originally Eartha Mae Keith, was born in the quiet town of North, South Carolina, in 1927. Her mixed heritage, with an African and Native American mother and a father of alleged white descent, was a product of a forbidden love affair.

Abandoned by her parents, Eartha’s early life was marked by hardship. She was raised by relatives and eventually found herself under the care of her aunt, Mamie Kitt, in the vibrant city of Harlem, New York.

From a young age, Eartha displayed remarkable talents in acting and singing. She honed these skills at the Metropolitan Vocational High School, later known as the High School of Performing Arts. Despite her aunt’s aspirations for her to become a concert pianist, Eartha chose a different path. She left home and ventured into various jobs in downtown New York, demonstrating her independence and determination to make her own way.

As a teenager, Eartha’s life took a significant turn when she met a dancer from the renowned Katherine Dunham Dance Company. This encounter led to an audition, a scholarship, and a chance to tour the world with the dance troupe.

In 1948, she made her screen debut as a dancer in the film ‘Casbah ‘, directed by John Berry. Her talents extended beyond dancing and acting. With her unique vocal range and distinctive purr, she recorded popular songs like ‘Let’s Do It’, ‘Champagne Taste’, ‘C’est si Bon’, and the 1953 hit ‘Santa Baby’.

Her years of performing and living in Europe enriched her cultural repertoire, as she spoke four languages, sang in eleven, and became fluent in French. Her rise to stardom was meteoric in the fifties and sixties, appearing in several stage plays and films.

On 17th June 1956, Eartha Kitt, now a global star, starred as Mrs Patterson in a Sunday Night Theatre broadcast live by the BBC. The play was the first BBC production televised from the new Riverside studios in Hammersmith. Kitt would continue to spend a lot of time in the UK, appearing on television several times on BBC’s long-running variety show The Good Old Days.

In 1987, she followed fellow American Dolores Gray in the London West End production of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies and, at its conclusion, returned to star in a one-woman show at the Shaftesbury Theatre.

On 12th March, for International Women’s Month 2024, Nubian Jak Community Trust, in partnership with Hammersmith and Fulham Council, installed a blue heritage plaque at Riverside Studios to commemorate Kitt’s long career and her groundbreaking Sunday Night Theatre broadcast. Location: Riverside Studios, 101 Queen Caroline St, Hammersmith, London W6 9BN