Kitty Carlisle

Kitty Carlisle Hart

Kitty Carlisle Hart (also billed as Kitty Carlisle; September 3, 1910April 17, 2007) was an American singer, actress and spokeswoman for the arts. She is best known as a regular panelist on the television game show To Tell the Truth. She served 20 years on the New York State Council on the Arts. In 1991, she received the National Medal of Arts from President George H. W. Bush.

Early life

Kitty Carlisle was born as Catherine Conn (Kitty is a nickname for Catherine; the surname was pronounced Cohen) in New Orleans, Louisiana. Her family was of German Jewish heritage. Carlisle's father, Dr. Joseph Conn, was a gynecologist who died when she was 10. Her mother, Hortense Holtzman Conn, was a daughter of the first Jewish mayor of Shreveport, Louisiana, and a woman obsessed with breaking into the prevailing Gentile society. (She once said to a taxi driver who asked if her daughter was Jewish, "She may be, but I'm not.")

Carlisle's early education took place in New Orleans. In 1921, she was taken to Europe, where her mother hoped to marry her off to European royalty, believing the nobility there more amenable to a Jewish bride — only to end up flitting around Europe and living in what Carlisle recalled as "the worst room of the best hotel." Carlisle was educated in Switzerland (Chateau Mont-Choisi in Lausanne), then at the Sorbonne and the London School of Economics. She studied acting in London at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

Career

Early roles

After returning to New York in 1932 with her mother, she appeared, billed as Kitty Carlisle, on Broadway in several operettas and musical comedies, and in the American premiere of Benjamin Britten's The Rape of Lucretia.

Films

Carlisle's early movies included Murder at the Vanities (1934), A Night at the Opera (1935) with the Marx Brothers, and two films with Bing Crosby, She Loves Me Not (1934) and Here Is My Heart (1934).

Carlisle would resume her film career late in life, appearing in Woody Allen's Radio Days (1987) and in Six Degrees of Separation (1993), as well as on stage in a revival of On Your Toes, replacing Dina Merrill.

Television

Carlisle became a household name through To Tell the Truth, where she was a regular panelist from 1957 to 1978, and later appeared on revivals of the series in 1980, 1990-91 and one episode in 2000. She was also a semi-regular panelist on Password, Match Game, Missing Links, and What's My Line.

Opera

On December 31 1966, Carlisle made her debut with the Metropolitan Opera, as Prince Orlofsky in Strauss's Die Fledermaus. She sang the role 10 more times that season, then returned in 1973 for four more performances. Her final performance with the company was on July 7, 1973.

Fashion patronage

During this period, Carlisle became an early patron of Scaasi: "At Wednesday night's Broadway salute to the New York City Mission Society on its 175th anniversary at Avery Fisher Hall, the fan-bodice Scaasis unfurled again. At least one of them did, a turquoise number on Kitty Carlisle Hart, who said she's been Scaasified ever since the designer dressed her for the London opening of My Fair Lady".

Personal life

Carlisle married playwright and theatrical producer Moss Hart on August 10 1946, after having met as actors at the Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, Pennsylvania. The couple had two children. After Moss Hart died on December 21, 1961, Kitty Carlisle Hart never remarried. She dated former New York governor and presidential candidate Thomas Dewey.

Philanthropy

Known for her gracious manners and personal elegance, Carlisle became prominent in New York City social circles as she crusaded for financial support of the arts. She was appointed to various state-wide councils, and was chair of the New York State Council of the Arts from 1976-1996. She also served on the boards of various New York City cultural institutions.

In her later years, she was linked romantically to financier and art collector Roy Neuberger and had an act consisting of anecdotes about the many great men in American musical theatre history that she had known, notably George Gershwin, who proposed marriage (according to a recent interview in American Heritage magazine), Irving Berlin, Kurt Weill, Oscar Hammerstein, and Frederick Loewe, interspersed with a few of the songs that made each of them famous.

Illness and death

In 2006, Carlisle performed at Feinstein's at the Regency in New York City, in St. Louis, Missouri, Phoenix, Arizona, Atlanta, Georgia, and at the famed Plush Room in San Francisco. According to her official website, her appearances in Atlanta in November 2006 were her last public performances, as she had already contracted the pneumonia that would lead to her death six months later.

She died on April 17, 2007 from congestive heart failure resulting from a prolonged bout of pneumonia. She had been in and out of the hospital since she contracted pneumonia some time prior to November 2006. She died peacefully in her apartment, with her son, Christopher Hart, at her bedside. She was buried in a crypt next to her husband, Moss Hart, at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York.

Theater

Films

Television

Cultural activities

  • Vice Chair of the New York State Council of the Arts 1971-1976
  • Chair of the New York State Council of the Arts - 1976 - abt 1996
  • Chair Emeritus of the New York State Council of the Arts
  • Board member of Empire State College
  • Honorary trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Honorary trustee of the Museum of Modern Art
  • Board member of the Center for Arts Education
  • Chair of the New York Statewide Conference of Women
  • Special consultant to Governor Nelson Rockefeller on Women's Opportunities.
  • Honorary Life Director of the Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt Institute (FERI)
  • Keynote speaker at the San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI) graduation ceremony, 1999

Bibliography

References

External links

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