Thursday, April 19, 2007

Kitty Carlisle Hart R.I.P.

Kitty Carlisle Hart, perhaps better known simply as Kitty Carlisle, died Tuesday, April 16, 2007, after a long bout of pneumonia, at the age of 96. I rather suspect many of my younger readers may not recongise her name, but Carlisle was a established actress of stage and screen and a long time panellist on the show To Tell the Truth.

Kitty Carlisle was born Catherine Conn on September 3, 1910. She was educated in Europe and studied acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. She made her debut on Broadway in the operetta Champagne Sec in 1933. She made her screen debut in 1934 in Murder at the Vanities.

Carlisle was primarily an actress of the stage, making several appearance on Broadway in such musicals as White Horse Inn, Walk with Music, and On Your Toes. She appeared at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, making her debut there in Die Fledermaus.

Carlisle also appeared on screen, her most famous role perhaps being as Rosa Castaldi in the Marx Brothers classic A Night at the Opera. Later in her career she appeared in Woody Allen's movie Radio Days. Perhaps Kitty Carlisle is most familiar to many older TV viewers as a panellist on the TV show To Tell the Truth. The original version on CBS ran from 1956 to 1967, and she was with the show from 1957 to 1967. She would later be a panellist on nearly every version of To Tell the Truth in syndication. For those not familiar with the series, To Tell the Truth was a show on which a panel of celebrities would interview three individuals, all claiming to be the same person, and would try to guess who really was that person.

Carlisle was also known as a supporter of the arts. She served on New York's state arts council from 1971 to 1996, for twenty of which she was its chariman. She toured nearly up until the day she died.

In 1946 she married composer Moss Hart. They would have two children. Hart died in 1957.

Growing up, I can remember the show To Tell the Truth from when I was very young. In fact, like many, for a long time it was the only one of Carlisle's works with which I was familiar. As I got older I was able to see Carlisle in her films, most notably A Night at the Opera. I must say that not only did she have a good voice, but she also had a real talent for comedy. Indeed, I suspect it was her wit and gift for humour that lent her success in her career as a panellist on To Tell the Truth. One thing is certain, she won't soon be forgotten.

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