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Broadway Legend Kitty Carlisle Hart Passes Away at 96

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Kitty Carlisle Hart, the elegant legend whose seventy-year career encompassed theatre, films, opera, TV game shows and cabaret, has passed away at the age of 96.  Hart was also known for a sense of regal grace joined to easygoing charm - a combination which captivated millions of fans, dozens of Golden Age show biz glitterati, and her husband - playwright and director Moss Hart.

Carlisle Hart had been suffering from pneumonia for some time.  Her health had recently been on the mend, but she ultimately succumbed to the disease.

Kitty Carlisle was born Catherine Conn in New Orleans, Louisiana to a well-to-do German Jewish family who enrolled their daughter in a private school in Switzerland.  Carlisle - whose mother originally meant to marry her off into European nobility - subsequently studied at the Sorbonne in Paris and the London School of Economics before studying acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

Svelte and dark-eyed, Carlisle Hart made her Broadway debut in the Johann Strauss operetta Champagne, Sec before pursuing a short-lived career as a Hollywood singing starlet, with the Marx Brothers classic A Night at the Opera her most famous film.  Other movie credits included She Loves Me Not, Here Is My Heart and Murder at the Vanities.  Later film appearances included Larceny with Music, the Woody Allen film Radio Days and Six Degrees of Separation, the 1993 adaptation of the John Guare play.

Back on Broadway in the mid-thirties, Carlisle Hart appeared in the operettas White Horse Inn and Three Waltzes, the Hoagy Carmichael-Johnny Mercer musical Walk with Music, and also performed in the American premiere of Benjamin Britton's The Rape of Lucretia.  In 1954, she appeared in Moss Hart's popular comedy Anniversary Waltz and returned to Broadway in 1983, as a replacement in the role of Peggy Porterfield in On Your Toes.

In 1946, she met Moss Hart, who had already written a series of classic comedies with writing partner George S. Kaufman (and sometimes alone), as well as the books for musicals such as Face the Music and Lady in the Dark.  Later, he would go on to helm My Fair Lady and Camelot.  She would be married to her soul mate through his death in 1961.  The couple had two children together.

Carlisle Hart became known to a larger audience through her regular stint as a panelist on the game show "To Tell the Truth," with which she was associated from 1956 through 2002 during the show's various incarnations.  She also frequently appeared on the 1968 version of "What's My Line."

A prominent humanitarian and socialite later in her life, Carlisle (who was also known for a sharp fashion sense) was chair of the New York State Council of the Arts from 1976-1996 and was also involved with other New York arts foundations and institutions.  In 1966, she made her Metropolitan Opera debut in Die Fledermaus.  In recent years, Carlisle had been regaling audiences with her cabaret show, which she performed at venues such at Feinstein's at the Regency.  In addition to performing songs by legendary friends such as the Gershwins (George was said to have proposed marriage to her before she met Moss Hart), Irving Berlin and Kurt Weill, Carlisle recounted a life spent as a stage and film star, muse, TV and style icon, acclaimed performer and ageless class act.

Friends have been in touch with Carlisle Hart's family, and BroadwayWorld will update you with more information as it becomes available.

 

 


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