Eartha Kitt honoured with blue plaque at Riverside Studios

"The most exciting woman in the world" has been celebrated at the BBC’s former riverside home, commemorating the groundbreaking 1956 Sunday Night Theatre broadcast starring Kitt as Mrs. Patterson.

Eartha Kitt blue plaque unveiling at Riverside Studios in Hammersmith

Stage and screen sensation Eartha Kitt has been immortalised with a blue plaque in Hammersmith.

The Santa Baby singer and actor starred as Mrs. Patterson in a groundbreaking Sunday Night Theatre broadcast live from Riverside Studios in 1956. Nearly 70 years on, the superstar’s legacy has been celebrated at the BBC’s former riverside home.

At the blue plaque unveiling on Thursday (21 March), Cllr Patricia Quigley – Mayor of H&F – lauded Kitt's talents and her significant contributions to the arts, saying:

Eartha Kitt was an incredible woman, who believed in breaking barriers.

She conquered the stage, screen and the charts with her distinctive voice and looks. However, her outspoken views in America to promote civil rights and oppose the Vietnam War forced her to spend her later career in Europe.

I’m delighted to unveil this blue plaque and immortalise her time with the BBC at Riverside Studios in Hammersmith.

She was the epitome of being a classy and sassy woman, who had huge amounts raw talent, and it is fitting that the H&F Women’s history trail should have a trailblazer that was Eartha Kitt.

Miss Baby Sol (right) performing "C'est si bon" in honour of the late Eartha Kitt


In partnership with the Nubian Jak Community Trust, the plaque was installed as part of H&F’s Women’s History Month 2024. Dr Jak Beula, founder of the Nubian Jak Community Trust said:

"It was always our intention to honour Eartha Kitt as part of international Women's Month, as she has proved an inspiration to women all over the world. The blue plaque, the 10th we have done in partnership with Hammersmith & Fulham, will serve as a lasting legacy to Eartha's time in London, and no doubt in time will become a tourist attraction for Londoners and visitors to the capital for generations to come" 

The event included performances from pupils from Wendell Park primary school in Shepherds Bush, as well as Zairean-English singer songwriter Miss Baby Sol, who performed Kitt’s iconic song C’est si bon.

Meanwhile, Britain’s “first lady” of house music, Kym Mazelle, honoured her former mentor as a “fireball with the courage to stand up for what she believed in”.

Flick through the photos from the day in our gallery.

Kym Mazelle with a photo commemorating hers and Kitts first time meeting in 1989

Stage and screen icon

Dubbed "the most exciting woman in the world" by filmmaker Orson Welles, Kitt found her path to stage and screen in New York. She was able to join America's first Black modern dance company, run by Katherine Dunham.

During the group's European tour Kitt broke away to make a solo career in Britain, which later became a second home for her and her daughter, Kitt McDonald Shapeiro.

Kitt quickly rose to fame with her distinctive voice and magnetic stage presence. Her repertoire spanned jazz, cabaret, and pop genres, drawing in audiences with a mix of sensuality and wit.

In 1948, Kitt made her stage debut as a dancer in the film Casbah. Her first starring role followed as Helen of Troy in Welles’ staging of Dr Faustus two years later.

In her role as Catwoman, she became the first Black woman to achieve mainstream TV success in America in Batman and broke racial barriers by flirting with her screen partner, Adam West.

Eartha Kitt carried onto the stage on a chaise longue by men during rehearsals for the Royal Variety Performance at the Palladium Theatre in London, 29 October 1962. Credit: Getty Images
Kitt in costume sitting in a leopard skin covered chair in a publicity still issued for the US television series, 'Batman', USA, circa 1968. The series starred Kitt as 'Catwoman'. Credit: Getty Images

Advocate and voice

Beyond her artistic achievements, Kitt was a fierce advocate for civil rights and later, LGBTQ+ rights. Her outspokenness led to her being forced to relaunch her career in Europe after condemning the Vietnam War.

Together with her daughter, she lived in Fulham and Knightsbridge, where Kitt continued to shine on stage and screen.

Across the 1970s and 80s, she dazzled audiences in London's West End with her role in Stephen Sondheim's Follies and a sold-out one-woman-show.

New York Times interview around the time quotes Kitt as she reflects on the challenges she faced in America's entertainment industry:

I need the satisfaction of the theatre, and England is one of the few places for me to appear. America just doesn't know what to do with me.

She also appeared several times on BBC's long-running variety show, The Good Old Days and, in later years of her 50-year career, lent her distinctive voice to several Disney characters including Yzma in The Emperor's New Groove.

Eartha Kitt died in 2008. Hammersmith’s latest blue plaque is a testament to her extraordinary life and contributions to the world of arts and activism which has and will transcend generations for years to come.

Eartha Kitt blue plaque at Riverside Studios

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