The face of James Dean is one of the most iconic images Hollywood has ever produced. The acclaimed actor, who tragically died in a car accident at the age of just 24, is still fiercely celebrated for his commitment to cinema. One person who remembers him much more fondly than others is the late, great, singer and actor, Eartha Kitt.
The pair shared a romantic relationship for some time behind the closed doors of Hollywood and in the clip below Kitt remembers the last time she saw the icon James Dean, known to her more affectionately as Jamie.
The clip shows Eartha Kitt sharing the final time she locked eyes with James Dean, one of the most tragic figures of film history. Dean had become a star by the time of his death and had also proven himself to be far more concerned with the art of acting than the pursuit of fame and fortune. It was an attribute that had attracted Kitt to the young actor.
“Our love for each other just happened. I became his confidante and I taught him about stage presence. We were like soul brother and sister,” Kitt once said of their relationship, which resembled a strong connection rather than a wild love affair. Though there were still plenty of those around with Kitt once engaging in a threesome with Dean and another Hollywood heartthrob, Paul Newman. “That time back in my dance studio ranks as one of the most celestial experiences of my life,” she’s been quoted as saying. “Those two beauties transported me to heaven. I never knew that lovemaking could be so beautiful.”
Newman aside, it was James Dean with whom Kitt shared a true spiritual connection. It’s an attachment that she suggested gave her an inclination that Dean’s spirit had left his body when she saw him for the final time just a few days before he crashed his Porsche race car on September 30, 1955.
“That was our connection,” says Kitt in the clip below. “I came from the cotton fields of South Carolina and James Dean from Indiana. We were really country folk.” Two country people in the big bad city of New York brought the two closer together. “We always felt we were lost, looking up at these tremendously tall buildings and we realised this is a vast city we’re in and we’re only two very tiny people—how are we going to fit into this huge world?
“He didn’t like Hollywood,” Kitt reveals, “because he found fame, the way he was being treated as a business, as a piece of flesh, a thing. It was not becoming beautiful to him anymore.”
Kitt also shared the final moments she had with James Dean: “When I was with him in Hollywood and he met me at the door because he had been staying with Arthur Lowe, he opened the door for me and we hugged one another, like we always did” says Kitt gripping herself, trying to replicate the lost embrace.
“I didn’t feel him, I didn’t feel his spirit. And I said ‘Jamie, what are they doing to you in Hollywood?’ I don’t feel your spirit.”
Sadly, the premonition fell on deaf ears and Dean dismissed Kitt’s suggestion, “He said, ‘Kitt, you’re on one of your voodoo trips again,'” continues the singer. “I went to Las Vegas the next day to open my show. A few days later, one of the girl’s in the chorus came to my dressing room and she said ‘Jamie’s dead’—I already knew it. He was gone the Sunday before when I had hugged him. He wasn’t there.”
You can watch the video below and see the genuine sadness and loss in Kitt’s eyes. Whatever her and James Dean shared, be it romantic or platonic, it’s clear that there was love between them.