Friday, December 26, 2008

Eartha Kitt and Harold Pinter, R.I.P.

I returned home last night from our family feast to see that Eddie Copeland had e-mailed me about the passing of Eartha Kitt at age 81. Eddie posited an interesting question: “How many special guest villains from Batman are left?”

This is a question that I will let TDOY fans answer in their copious free time, because as I type this, I’m currently in negotiations for a DVD recorder/VHS combo player that my mother has graciously agreed to bestow upon me as a Christmas gift. (Needless to say, I’m happy as a clam.)

In all honesty, I’m not sure if I ever saw Kitt as the Catwoman on the popular Batman series—sure, I know there were about three or four actresses to play the role, but the only one I ever remember is Julie Newmar. I can’t recall any movie I ever saw her in…well, I guess Casbah (1948) would qualify, since she was a member of the Katharine Dunham Group at the time. I guess I’m more familiar with the musical side of her career, with hit records like C’est Si Bon and the Christmas classic Santa Baby. Other than this, I’m sort of ashamed to admit that I remember the Kitt persona than anything else—she’s one of the celebrities imitated by Terry Jones (as Mr. Gulliver) in that Monty Python episode about the bicycling tour.

Orson Welles once called Kitt “the most exciting woman in the world.” She will definitely be missed.

British playwright/Nobel Laureate Sir Harold Pinter has also gone on to his rich reward at the age of 78…and like Kitt, my familiarity with the man extends mainly to the movie screenplays he wrote, many based on his critically-lauded plays—The Servant (1963), The Pumpkin Eater (1964), The Quiller Memorandum (1966), Accident (1967), The Go-Between (1970) and The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1981), to name a few of the better-known (aka “the ones I’ve seen.”).

R.I.P., Sir Harold. You will be missed as well.


Samuel Wilson said...

Off the top of my head, we're left with Julie Newmar, John Astin(alternate Riddler, Eli Wallach (1 of 3 Mr. Freezes) Cliff Robertson (Shame) and Joan Collins (the Siren). You might also count Lee Merriwether, who played Catwoman in the 1966 movie.

Linda said...

My goodness, I thought Eartha Kitt was ageless. She did the definitive version of "Santa Baby."

Andrew Leal said...

First, counting only those who appeared on the show with "[extra] special guest villain/villainess" billing or thereabouts, there's those Sam named, plus Zsa Zsa Gabor (whose presence was a sure sign the show had gone beyond even enjoyable camp to just plain desperation), Dina Merrill (Calamity Jan to Robertson's Shame in one story), Glynis Johns (Lady Penelope Peasoup, in an episode I still have yet to see), Barbara Rush as Nora Clavicile (did have to look her up).... Jill St. John got "Special Guest Star" rather than villainess billing as the Riddler's first moll, Mousey, famous as the only person to clearly die on the Batman series.

On the whole, more females I think, though I'm done for now, plus a slew of non specialguest billed henchpersons (Sid Haig, Dick Bakalyan, Joe E. Tata, Barry Dennen), probably a few more less-famous molls, and a small assortment of non-villainous cameos (Chad and Jeremy!), victims, and bit players.

Sam said...

Screw all the cameos. The Green Hornet and Kato whupped the crap out of Batman and Robin. Not like they didn't deserve it, either.

That's right. I said it.

Edward Copeland said...

Zsa Zsa was the very last villain of the series too, so she really did kill it off. I'd forgotten about Wallach. I'd remembered Newmar, Astin, Collins, Robertson, and Merrill. Rush and Johns had slipped my mind. Meriwether played Catwoman in the quickie feature they made in 1966, never on the TV show.

hobbyfan said...

Eartha Kitt replaced Julie Newmar as Catwoman for the final season of Batman, presumably because Ms. Newmar had other commitments. I don't know what kind of logic predicated hiring Ms. Kitt for the part, but apparently whomever decided on a African-American Catwoman 4 years ago must've wanted to pay tribute.

Also, Jill St. John's character was named "Molly", not "Mousy". I remember seeing Mike Mazurki as a henchman for Catwoman (Newmar) more than once, I think.