Biography

New Orleans-born stage and film actress Kitty Carlisle Hart launched herself with towering success in numerous performance arenas during her long lifetime. The first consisted almost exclusively of cinematic roles during the early years of film (when she was credited as "Kitty Carlisle"), such as the ingenue in Mitchell Leisen's Murder at the Vanities, and -- on a more prominent level -- one of the two romantic leads used by studio head Irving Thalberg to regenerate the waning popularity of the Marx Brothers, in their A Night at the Opera. Alongside this cinematic work, Carlisle tackled occasional operatic roles, such as that of Lucretia in the American premiere of Benjamin Britten's Rape of Lucretia. After a period of professional inactivity that found her marrying and parenting children with legendary composer Moss Hart, Carlisle Hart turned up again, in a second capacity: that of television game-show panelist. She became a fixture on the popular program To Tell the Truth, with regular host Bud Collyer, and did guest spots on the popular series What's My Line? and I've Got a Secret.That period lasted for 11 years, from 1956-1967. In 1967, when To Tell the Truth wrapped, Hart resumed operatic work for the first time in 20 years; she portrayed Orlofsky in Die Fledermaus at the Met in December 1967, to much acclaim and recognition. Hart returned to film during the '80s, with small roles for Woody Allen in his classic Radio Days (1987); Fred Schepisi and John Guare, in their Six Degrees of Separation (1993); and Steven Spielberg, in his Catch Me If You Can (2002). Astonishingly, at the age of 94, Carlisle returned to Broadway to perform a well-received one-woman musical show -- an unabashed tribute to the golden age of musical comedy, packed with droll, nostalgic anecdotes about her friends Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein, Cole Porter, Jerome Robbins, and George Gershwin. After a long and full life, Carlisle contracted pneumonia in late 2006, not long after her 96th birthday. She found it difficult to shake the illness, and experienced a series of hospitalizations thereafter, which ultimately led to her death from heart failure on April 18, 2007. She outlived Moss Hart by 46 years; they had two children, Christopher and Catherine, as well as several grandchildren. ~ Nathan Southern, Rovi