Catherine Conn (September 3, 1910 – April 17, 2007), better known professionally as Kitty Carlisle and also billed as Kitty Carlisle Hart, was an American stage and screen actress, singer and spokeswoman for the arts. She is best remembered 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. She was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in 1999.
Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1933
September 3, 1910
|Died||April 17, 2007 (aged 96)|
|Resting place||Ferncliff Cemetery, Hartsdale, New York|
|Other names||Kitty Carlisle Hart|
|Alma mater||University of Paris|
London School of Economics
Royal Academy of Dramatic Art
(m. 1946; his death 1961)
Kitty Carlisle was born as Catherine Conn (pronounced Cohen) in New Orleans, Louisiana, of German Jewish heritage. Her grandfather Ben Holtzman was the mayor of Shreveport, Louisiana, and a Confederate veteran of the American Civil War. He had been a gunner on the CSS Virginia, the Confederate ironclad warship that fought the USS Monitor at the Battle of Hampton Roads. Her father Joseph Conn was a gynecologist who died when she was 10 years old. Her mother Hortense Holtzman Conn was obsessed with breaking into the prevailing gentile society. A taxi driver once asked if her daughter was Jewish, and she answered, "She may be, but I'm not".
Carlisle's mother took her to Europe in 1921 where she hoped to marry her off to European royalty, believing that the nobility there were more amenable to a Jewish bride. The two of them traveled around Europe and often lived in what Carlisle recalled as "the worst room of the best hotel." She was educated at the Château Mont-Choisi in Lausanne, Switzerland, then at the Sorbonne and the London School of Economics. She studied acting in London at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
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. She also sang the title role in Georges Bizet's Carmen in Salt Lake City. She privately studied voice with Juilliard teacher Anna E. Schoen-Rene, who had been a student of Pauline Viardot-Garcia and Manuel Garcia.
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 resumed her film career later 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. Her last movie appearance was in Catch Me If You Can (2002) in which she played herself in a dramatization of a 1970s To Tell the Truth episode.
Carlisle became a household name through To Tell the Truth, where she was a regular panelist from 1956 to 1978, and later appeared on revivals of the series in 1980, 1990–91 and one episode in 2000. (One of her most notable hallmarks was her writing of the number one: When she voted for the member of the team of challengers who occupied the number one seat, it was written with a Roman numeral I.) She was also a semi-regular panelist on Password, Match Game, Missing Links, and What's My Line?
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. She reprised this role during the Beverly Sills Farewell Gala in October 1980.
Carlisle dated George Gershwin in 1933 "until George went to California". On August 10, 1946, she married playwright and theatrical producer Moss Hart, whom she met at the Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, Pennsylvania. They had two children, but Hart died on December 20, 1961, at their home in Palm Springs, California. She never remarried, although she briefly dated former governor and presidential candidate Thomas E. Dewey after the death of his wife. During the 1980s and 1990s, Carlisle was the partner of diplomatic historian Ivo John Lederer, a relationship that lasted 16 years until Lederer's death in 1998. In her later years, she kept company with financier and art collector Roy Neuberger.
Carlisle was known for her gracious manner and personal elegance, and she became prominent in New York City social circles as she crusaded for financial support of the arts. She was appointed to various statewide councils, and was chairman of the New York State Council on the Arts from 1976 to 1996. One of the two state theaters housed at The Egg performing arts venue in Albany is named the Kitty Carlisle Hart Theatre in her honor. She also served on the boards of various New York City cultural institutions and made an appearance at the annual CIBC World Markets Miracle Day, a children's charity event. She was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1997.
She also widely performed her one-woman show in which she told anecdotes about the many great men in American musical theater history whom she had known, notably George Gershwin (who had proposed marriage), Irving Berlin, Kurt Weill, Oscar Hammerstein, Alan Jay Lerner, and Frederick Loewe, interspersed with a few of the songs that made each of them famous.
Carlisle Hart was a longtime champion of Historic Preservation in New York City and State. While chair of the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) from 1976 to 1996, Mrs. Hart directed many millions of dollars in support to preservation projects from the Niagara Frontier to Staten Island in an effort to keep historic preservation as a core program of the New York State Council on the Arts, the only arts council in America that provides such funding. In 1980, she was crowned Queen of the Beaux Arts Ball, an annual event run by the Beaux Arts Society (Paul Lynde was crowned King the same year). One of the theaters in The Egg, a notable Mid-century modern structure at Albany, New York's Empire State Plaza, was also named in her honor.
Carlisle 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 in her Upper East Side, Manhattan apartment, with her son, Christopher Hart, at her bedside. She was interred in a crypt next to her husband, Moss Hart, at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York.
- Champagne, Sec (1933)
- White Horse Inn (1936)
- French Without Tears (1936)
- Three Waltzes (1937)
- Night of January 16th (1938)
- Walk With Music (1940)
- Larceny with Music (1943)
- The Merry Widow (1943)
- Design for Living (1943)
- There's Always Juliet (1944)
- The Rape of Lucretia (1948)
- The Man Who Came to Dinner (1949)
- Anniversary Waltz (1954)
- Die Fledermaus (1967)
- You Never Know (1975)
- On Your Toes (1983)
- Wit & Wisdom (2003)
- Murder at the Vanities (1934)
- She Loves Me Not (1934)
- Here Is My Heart (1934)
- A Night at the Opera (1935)
- Larceny with Music (1943)
- Hollywood Canteen (1944)
- Radio Days (1987)
- Six Degrees of Separation (1993)
- Catch Me If You Can (Cameo role, 2002)
- Vice Chair of the New York State Council of the Arts 1971–1976
- Chair of the New York State Council of the Arts – 1976 – c. 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 Emeritus in Memoriam 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)
- Life Member of the Beaux Arts Society, Inc. (1980-2007)
- Keynote speaker at the San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI) graduation ceremony, 1999
- Member of the Peabody Awards Board of Jurors from 1977 to 1983
- "Actress Kitty Carlisle Hart Dies at 96". Townhall.com. April 18, 2007. Archived from the original on September 29, 2008. Retrieved April 18, 2007.
- Barnes, Steve (April 19, 2007). "Theater world loses more than an actress: Kitty Carlisle Hart, champion of the arts in New York, dies at 96". Albany Times Union. Retrieved April 19, 2007.[dead link]
- "On Stage: New class of theater hall of famers". Old.post-gazette.com. Retrieved December 15, 2015.
- Teicholz, Tom (July 1, 2005). "Heart to Hart". The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles. Archived from the original on May 16, 2006. Retrieved June 24, 2019.
- Bernstein, Adam. "Kitty Carlisle Hart, 96; Singer, Arts Advocate", The Washington Post, April 19, 2007.
- Juilliard Archives: Anna E.Schoen-Rene scrapbooks
- "Hollywood Walk of Fame - Kitty Carlisle". walkoffame.com. Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. Archived from the original on April 3, 2016. Retrieved February 11, 2018.
- "Show Overview: Who Said That?". tv.com. Retrieved June 12, 2011.
- Feinstein, Michael; Jackman, Ian (2012). The Gershwins and me : a personal history in twelve songs (First Simon & Schuster hardcover edition. ed.). New York: Simon et Schuster. p. 173. ISBN 1451645309.
- "Moss Hart And Kitty Carlisle", photograph of wedding of Hart and Carlisle on August 10, 1946, New Hope, Pennsylvania. Underwood Archives, Getty Images, Seattle, Washington. Retrieved November 3, 2019.
- "A Brief History of the Bucks County Playhouse…". Bucks County Playhouse. Archived from the original on February 10, 2007. Retrieved April 19, 2007.
- Wallace, David (2008). A City Comes Out. Fort Lee, NJ: Barricade. p. 163. ISBN 978-1569803493. LCCN 2008022210. OCLC 209646547. Archived from the original on June 17, 2013.
- The passionate collector: eighty years in the world of art, by Roy R. Neuberger, Alfred Connable, Roma Connable
- "Facilities & Rentals". The Egg. February 25, 2015. Retrieved December 15, 2015.
- "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter H" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved July 25, 2014.
- Holzer, Harold (February–March 2005). "The 94 Years of Kitty Carlisle Hart". American Heritage. Archived from the original on November 20, 2008.
- "Landmarks Lion Award 2015-Pride of Lions". Historic Districts Council. Archived from the original on December 22, 2015. Retrieved December 31, 2015.
- "Kitty Carlisle Hart, actress and advocate of the arts, dies at 96". International Herald Tribune. Associated Press. April 18, 2007. Archived from the original on May 6, 2007. Retrieved April 18, 2007.
- Alexander, Ron (September 21, 1988). "Kitty Carlisle Hart Reflects". The New York Times. Retrieved March 5, 2019.
- "Wit & Wisdom — Off-Broadway | Tickets, Reviews, Info and More". Theatermania.com. Retrieved December 15, 2015.
- "George Foster Peabody Awards Board Members". The Peabody Awards. Retrieved December 15, 2015.
- Kitty Carlisle at the Internet Broadway Database
- Kitty Carlisle at Internet Off-Broadway Database
- Kitty Carlisle on IMDb
- Kitty Carlisle at the TCM Movie Database
- Kitty Carlisle at Find a Grave
- Moss Hart and Kitty Carlisle Hart Papers at the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research
- New York Times article on Kitty Carlisle Hart at 95
- MetOpera database