Eartha Kitt & James Dean, early 1950s.
Dean studied dance with Kitt and said he learned more about acting from her lessons than he had in any acting class.
“[James Dean] said to me, ‘I want to move like you, can you teach me how to move my body like you do on stage?’ And I told him where to meet me, here in New York and that’s where we met for dance classes. And that’s where Jamie and I always met downstairs from that studio to have coffee, to have our little tete-a-tete conversations.”
“He was like my brother. He had something in him that he didn’t understand. He wanted to learn from me how to move on the stage the way I do, so I taught him how to control his body and how to let the words physically carry you from this point to that point. I was in a play and he’d just done his first film so we were both becoming known at that time. It was a good time.”
Kitt often hung out with Dean in the passenger seat of his Porsche convertible. Dean often got grief from studio bosses for hanging out with Kitt, but he ignored them and often took her out in public (with the top down) despite their objections. One evening, they were driving on Mulholland Drive when Kitt told him, ‘James, I don’t like this car; it’s going to kill you.’ Dean laughed as he calmly took the curves to finish their journey back to Miller Drive. A week later, she heard on the radio-James Dean is dead. He was on his way to a car race and crashed. Kitt was devastated.