Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Batscholar on Episode 108

By Joel Eisner

Eartha Kitt was interesting choice to subsititute (not replace) Julie Newmar as the Catwoman. Julie might have returned had the show had another season. She was off filming McKenna's Gold and was unavailable to return. Kitt was not Black as everyone believed. Her mother was half black and half Cherokee indian and her father was white. But she was different enought to end the romance between Batman and Catwoman. This left the character to be cat like but without the three dimensional detail Julie gave it. Nothing to write home about.

They later used a Julie stand-in in the Dr Cassandra episode later in the season.

This episode was filmed right after the Joker/Catwoman teamup and aired before this one, which makes her appearance in her kittycat car picking up Joker more of a surprise when you see Catwoman for the first time and see it isn't Julie. But since they aired this one first, it ruined the surprise. According to Casting Director Larry Stewart, Kitt was not hired because she was black, but because she spoke fluent French (from years of living in Europe). In the later episode, it was required for Catwoman to speak French to translate the Pirate's message. He told her to go into the audition (like Meriwether before her, Kitt had to audition for the part) speaking nothing but French. The line producers were not aware of who she was, and this was before her political anti-war stand and fight with President Johnson, so they hired her

Assistant Producer Charles FitzSimons: “We felt it was a very provocative idea, to hire Eartha Kitt. She was a cat woman before we ever cast her as Catwoman. She had a cat-like style. Her eyes were cat-like and her singing was like a meow. This came as a wonderful off-beat idea to do it with a black woman.”

The episode was tailored by Stan Ross for Kitt, to eliminate any of Julie's playful banter with Adam and just made the character a tough little bitch.

Alan Napier, “Julie Newmar was the best Catwoman, but Earth Kitt was kind of marvelous. She did bitch a lot on the set, though.”

Yvonne Craig “I thought Eartha was perfect because she was very catlike anyway. And I liked that she was my size. I could beat her up. I come up to Julie Newmar’s bellybutton. Not good in a fight.”

Catwoman's henchmen were played by James Griffith, appeared mostly in tv westerns and drama shows, including the Lone Ranger (as the Durango Kid), Little House on the Prarie, Boris Karloff's Thriller and as an army officer in the low budget film The Amazing Transparent Man. He was formally a musician with the Spike Jones Band.He died in 1993. Dirk Evans was a bit part/stuntman who disappeared in the 1970's

Austrian costume/clothing designer Rudi Gernreich who appeared as himself later designed those awful costumes for the Space:1999. He died in 1985.

Queen Bess's Karen Huston, was one of the last of the Fox contract starlets later married actor John Ericson and all but retired from acting. Her last appearance was in the 1988 horror film Night of the Demons, using the name Karen Ericson.

Alfred makes a nice turn as the world's oldest hippie, in another of his disguised characters this season.

Next the return of Egghead and Olga, in the second part of the previous two part team up that was cut and re-edited to air as a one part story.


  1. I really question the idea that "MacKenna's Gold" had anything to do with Julie's unavilability at this point. She found time to do her "Star Trek" episode which aired at the beginning of S3 of "Batman" and this script was already done for her and waiting, but I suspect that given her annoyance with how the character was increasingly becoming a less interesting one in S2 with too much the lovesick fascination with Batman that she wasn't inclined or anxious to come back. If she wanted to keep playing Catwoman, she would have made herself available IMO.

  2. if you read my comments on the two part Joker Catwoman it contains quotes from writer Stanley Ralph Ross who specifically said Julie was busy with the movie. The villains never had a contract, when ever they had a Batman script available the actor was notifed and if they were available they were used. When they had a committment from Julie on available time, they tried to work her in. Which is why she was forced into the Sandman episode. Neither Julie or the writer Ellis St Joseph were happy with the rewrite. But they had to push her in to fit her schedule. When McKenna's Gold ran overtime in filming she was not able to leave the film to return to Batman. It had nothing to do with her tired of the lovesick idea, in fact she enjojed it and included little bits of business to enhance it. She you are completely on the wrong track with your assumption.

  3. Julie is quoted in the book "Sweethearts of 60s TV" as not being in favor with the direction the character was going in, specifically the "lovesick" angle.

    I'd also prefer to see contemporaneous documentation than after the fact recollection on the matter of Julie's availability. "Friday's Child" was one of the very first episodes shot for Trek's third season which she had time to do at the same time she wasn't appearing in "Batman" so if she had time to do that, I think it's quite logical to assume she could have found time to do "Batman". There's nothing off the mark in thinking that reasonable in the absence of some contemporaneous documentation to lock things down.

  4. Love the moment Eartha Kitt's eyes lit up like a cats. Didn't think the knockout of Batgirl in the changing room was well presented, though.

  5. The statement "'Friday's Child' was one of the very first episodes shot for Trek's third season" is incorrect. "Friday's Child" was a second season episode of Star Trek, filmed in late May 1967. "McKenna's Gold" was released in May 1969, but it was actually filmed in 1967. We know this because George Lucas did a school project around the making of the film while at USC that was completed - and titled - 6-18-67. Lucas has been quoted as saying he was on the movie site for "a couple of months". So it is quite feasible that Newmar ran to do her scenes in "Gold" right after Trek, and was unable to do Batman during that time. The timing is about right, anyway.

  6. The error was on the matter of what season it was in Trek's run, but my point was that it was the same season as Batman's S3 and that Julie made time for that show and thus was not exactly in an impossible position to do Batman. As I said before, I find SRR's recollections to be worthless on this point because contrary to the claim that the script was removed of signs of "playful banter" Catwoman's line about "submitting to Batman's muscular custody" was pure Julie across the board and meant the script was still being written with her in mind.

  7. Strange thing about "Friday's Child"... It was the 2nd episode filmed for STAR TREK's 2nd season, and if you watch it in that order you'll notice some really terrific music had been written special for it and then reused endlessly afterwards (just as with the 1st episode filmed that season, "Catspaw"-- hey, try imagining Antoinette Bower as Catwoman!! --heehee.)

    However, it was held back in the schedule until December.

    And then, it was PRE-EMPTED... until just about the end of the season, not aired until 4 months later. I know, I was there. The 2nd "Klingon" story actually aired 4th!!! This is reflected in Gene Roddenberry's book, "THE MAKING OF STAR TREK", which came out in the summer of '68.

    And yet, somehow, the originally-scheduled date has become "official" in countless online databases.....

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  9. If Eartha Kitt was not Black then how come she was treated just like any other Black actress ?? You think it was an accident on the part of the producer and his writers that the romance angle between Batman and Catwoman when she starred as the character did not turn up at all?? Wow.

  10. Imo EK was a purrrrrrfictly fabulous Catwoman! All the. Stand ins were used for the 119th Eppisode of Dr. Casandra.