With the official announcement today of what had been
rumored for months, that Warner Home
Video would be releasing the much anticipated entire “Batman” TV series that was broadcast on ABC, from January 1966 to March 1968, I thought it would be a perfect time to go back and take
a second look at a piece I wrote some two years ago.
But, as always, a little bit of background. It’s hard to
believe it now, but the show was an absolute phenomenon at the time. It was
broadcast in two parts every week, with the first episode followed the next day later by the conclusion.
The entire country went Batman crazy.
However the frenzy wasn’t that long lasting, and, by late 1967, the popularity and ratings began to drop big time, and that was reflected by the poor and lazy quality of
the shows by then. With no place to go but further down, as a result, the show
was canceled soon after.
Despite its rapid rise and quick downfall, the show has
always had its hard core devotees. Produced by 20th
Century Fox Television, it will finally be released
on DVD, which it couldn’t be for years due to certain rights problems and
But with news of the, at long last, DVD release of the series, I’ve come to the main subject of this piece – Eartha Kitt, who played the
role of Catwoman on the show, and who still is, for me, the best one ever in the role, as
far as I’m concerned.
Now, of course, she’s not the only or 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 no doubt, there are
those who will say that Anne Hathaway in “The Dark Knight Rises” was the best.
And, oh yes, I haven’t forgotten (though I try to) that there was Halle
Berry in that unspeakable “Catwoman” travesty, which one could argue she still 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 cliff).
But there was, perhaps, most memorably, Eartha Kitt, who
played Catwoman several times during the final season of the “Batman” TV show,
She replaced the previous Catwoman, the Amazon-built,
1960’s sex bomb, Julie Newmar, who
played the role during the first two seasons of the show, but decided not to
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’ll have to it Google it). During those years, 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
And being the great performer that she was, Kitt made the
role uniquely hers, with her own special charisma. Yes, you can say her performance was over-the-top
and way too campy, but that was the point of her performance and the show. This
wasn’t some dark, brooding, tortured, angst ridden Batman like in a Christopher Nolan film. The series was conceived as a campy comedy with
broad oversized performances, 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
spring of 1968. But, to make matters worse, Kitt’s career 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 opportunity to openly criticize then President Lyndon Johnson’s Vietnam War policy, and practically
overnight, became persona non grata in the business, and was spied on for
years by the FBI under orders of the paranoid J.Edgar Hoover. It took her years
But now, as I mentioned at the beginning, the entire
series run of “Batman,” all 120 episodes, will be released by Warners on Blu-ray,
Standard DVD and Digital HD download in November, later this year. So now you’ll
soon be able to see the definitive Catwoman in her digitally remastered,
sparkling, crystal clear glory.
I can’t wait.