Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Kitty Carlisle Hart - RIP

Kitty Carlisle Hart - RIP

Sadly, I'm sorry to report that the lovely, legendary Kitty Carlisle Hart passed away yesterday. Mrs. Hart had been ill with pneumonia.

With her passing, the theatre world has lost a true treasure and one of its last remaining links to the Golden Age of Broadway. Last summer, I provided the following brief overview of her amazingly vital career:

Carlisle Hart may best be remembered by the vast majority of Americans for her expert quizzing of contestants on television's various versions of "To Tell the Truth." But the 95 year old entertainer is still regaling audiences with her tales of her marriage to renowned playwright Moss Hart of You Can't Take It With You and Once In A Lifetime fame, as well as
her accounts of long-since departed friends like Irving Berlin and George Gershwin.

A native of New Orleans, Kitty Carlisle Hart began her Broadway career an astonishing 73 years ago this fall in Champagne, Sec (based on the operetta Die Fledermaus) and went on to perform in six more Great White Way productions through 1983's On Your Toes.

Additionally, Carlisle Hart's movie career spans 59 years beginning with 1934's "Murder At The Vanities," and includes such notable films as "A Night At The Opera" (1935) with the Marx Brothers, Woody Allen's "Radio Days" (1987) and "Six Degrees of Separation" (1993).

A 1991 recipient of the National Endowment of the Arts' American National Medal of the Arts, Carlisle Hart is perhaps one of our last surviving treasures from Broadway's Golden Age. It's no wonder her acclaimed show has become so iconic for anyone who wants a moment to bask in the glory of a bygone era.

Not long after posting that story, I journeyed to Los Angeles to take in her sold-out one-woman show, An American Icon: Kitty Carlisle Hart. I was thrilled to be able to sit in the presence of the woman, who for most of the 20th Century, was considered the doyenne of Broadway society. Even at 96 years of age -- a milestone she observed last September 3 -- Mrs. Hart remained sharp as a tack, graceful as American theatrical royalty and the epitome of class and sophistication. There she stood, poised on the stage of North Hollywood’s El Portal Theatre for more than one hour, regaling the enthusiastic audience with an erudite cross-section of her illustrious, captivating life.

As I said then, Kitty Carlisle Hart's descriptions of her personal relationships with the legends who made Broadway such a powerful medium were testament to the amazing life she herself had led. I was honored to have the opportunity to bask in her continued glow and even meet her in person (she posed for a picture with me right after I took the one above) -- it was not only one of the best evenings I spent last year, but it made me all the richer for the unforgettable experience.

Appropriately, the Great White Way will honor her this evening by dimming the lights of its theatres for one minute at 8 pm.

Rest in peace, Kitty Carlisle Hart. You will be missed tremendously.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Related Stories:
SOB's 6 Singular Sensations Of '06 - #5: Kitty Carlisle Hart (December 28, 2006)
Walking With Music: Kitty Carlisle Hart to Perform at Feinstein's (September 7, 2006)
An American Icon: Kitty Carlisle Hart (The SOB Review) - El Portal Theatre, North Hollywood, CA (August 7, 2006)
Will It Play in Peoria? How About Iowa? (July 24, 2006)
American Theatre Icon Kitty Carlisle Hart to Perform in North Hollywood (June 26, 2006)

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At 18 April, 2007, Blogger Cameron Kelsall said...

My dad was friendly with the Harts in the 1950s (they had vacation homes next to each other) and told me wonderful stories about them. She was the epitome of class, style and New York City in general. Rest in peace, dear lady.

At 19 April, 2007, Blogger Sarah B. Roberts said...

Amen. What a grand dame.

At 19 April, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was in her presence one time. It was at the opening night party for the revival of "Wonderful Town."

That's what she was...a presence. And there are no more like her.

At 20 April, 2007, Blogger buddyindc1 said...

My earliest tv recollections included watching "To Tell the Truth" with Gary Moore every evening. Kitty Carlisle, dressed to the nines, was joined most regularly by Orson Bean, Peggy Cass, and Bill Cullen. I was lucky to see Kitty in 2005 on a panel at the Kennedy Center with Debbie Reynolds, Carol Channing, and Dick Cavett recalling stories about the 1950s. She was a treasure of information. My favorite was her story that her husband Moss removed all the pills from the bathroom cabinets when Judy Garland came to their house for a visit.


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