Welcome to the Weekend Binge. Every Friday, we’ll suggest a binge-able title designed to keep you from getting too stir crazy. Check back throughout the weekend for even more gloriously queer entertainment.
The Pussy Galore: Eartha Kitt’s Batman (“The Joke’s on Catwoman,” “The Funny Feline Felonies,” & “Catwoman’s Dressed to Kill”)
God rest the soul of Eartha Kitt, the cabaret superstar, recording artist, and LGBTQ icon. Throughout her life, the sex symbol and activist celebrated the queer community, and at one point, hailed it for saving her career. Despite her moniker as “The Catwoman” (not to be confused with the Batman anti-heroine…more on that in a sec) for her purring voice and elegant style, the cat never had Kitt’s tongue when it came to political causes. In fact, she once so horrified Lady Bird Johnson during a White House lunch with her anti-Vietnam comments, the entertainment industry blackballed her. Kitt credited gay men with keeping her employed on the stage with sustaining her, and later, resurrecting her career.
For Kitt at her most iconic and thoroughly campy, look no further than her recurring role as Catwoman on the 1960s Batman TV series. Though she was technically the third actress to play the part (after Julie Newmar and Lee Meriwether), Kitt’s turn in the role proved one of the show’s most memorable guest stars. It also is a prime example of early race-swap casting. Prior to Kitt’s taking the part, Catwoman had always been portrayed as a caucasian woman. Kitt’s Catwoman helped pave the way for other African-American comic book characters on screen, including Zoe Kravitz and Halle Berry’s modern-day takes on the role.
And she did it in the 1960s, folks.
The episodes “The Jokes on Catwoman” and “The Feline Felonies” pair Kitt’s Catwoman opposite Cesar Romero’s Joker, as the two plot to discover a cache of gunpowder hidden under Gotham. We absolutely love these episodes for the chemistry between Romero–who was gay, incidentally–and Kitt. Oh, and Catwoman gets her own “Catmobile” to cruise Gotham. Chartreuse, covered in fur and sporting a massive tail, it’s absolutely hideous…which makes it kind of awesome.
“Catwoman’s Dressed to Kill” finds Kitt’s Catwoman trying to conquer Gotham’s fashion industry. Coded gay designers abound, and as an added bonus, Catwoman gets to tango with Batgirl (Yvonne Craig). Hey, once upon a time as a little gay boy, we used to squeal every time we caught a Batgirl episode in syndication. And no, we’re not ashamed.
In her final years, Kitt experienced a career resurgence thanks to a Tony-nominated performance in The Wild Party and her unforgettable turn voicing the witch Yzma in The Emperor’s New Groove. During that time, she took on marriage equality as one of her pet causes. She also performed at countless LGBTQ fundraisers and helped raise money for HIV/AIDS charities. That gives us more than enough reason to celebrate this awesome woman with a mini film fest…saucer of milk totally optional.
Streams on Amazon, Tubi, YouTube, iTunes and VUDU.