With the much anticipated The Dark Knight Rises coming out this Friday, there has been a ton of PR hype for the film, and naturally, many articles and media segments about Anne Hathaway, who plays the role of Catwoman in the film.
Of course, she’s not the first actress to play the role. There was Michelle Pfeiffer in Batman Returns, and former Miss America winner Lee Meriwether, who played the role in the 1966 film version of the ABC TV series.
And oh yes there was Halle…whatshername in that unspeakable Catwoman film travesty, which one could argue she has yet to recover from, career-wise; the film that the originally-cast Ashley Judd bailed out on, when she saw that the project was headed off a ciliff.
But there was, perhaps most memorably, Eartha Kitt, who played Catwoman several times during the final season of the Batman TV show, from 1967-68. She replaced the previous Catwoman, the Amazon-built, 1960s sex bomb, Julie Newmar, who played the role during the first two seasons of the show, but decided not to continue.
Needless to say, when Kitt was cast in the role, it was a big deal. I mean a HUGE deal. It got a lot of publicity, and there was a lot of anticipation.
First of all, there weren’t many black actresses on TV back then with regular TV roles, with the exception of Diahann Carroll and her NBC show Julia, which premiered in the fall of 1968 (I have previously written about it on S & A). You would have a black actress in an occasional guest role here and there, but having a black woman playing Catwoman, and, no less than Eartha Kitt, was a major event.
And being the great performer that she was, Kitt made the role uniquely hers, with her own special charisma. To this day, she is, to me, the definite Catwoman. I don’t care what Anne Hathaway does, or what special Bat Bike she rides on in the film. All I’ll be thinking is, she doesn’t quite measure up to Kitt. Yes, you can say her performance was campy, but that was the point. The TV show was a campy comedy, and Kitt went into it with everything she had.
Unfortunately for Kitt, it was a short-lived triumph. First of all, as I mentioned earlier, the Batman TV series ended its run in late spring of 1968. But, to make matters worse, Kitt’s carrer was seriously set back when she got caught up in a political controversy.
That same year, she was invited to a luncheon at the White House and used the opportuniity to openly criticize then President Lyndon Johnson’s Vietman war policy, and practically overnight, became a persona non grata in the business. It took her years to recover.
But still, to this day, when I think of Catwoman, I think of Ms. Kitt.
Anybody want to disagree?