Kitty Carlisle

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Kitty Carlisle
Photograph by Carl Van Vechten (1933)
Born Catherine Conn
(1910-09-03)September 3, 1910
New Orleans, Louisiana, US
Died April 17, 2007(2007-04-17) (aged 96)[1][2]
Manhattan, New York City, US
Cause of death Congestive heart failure
Resting place Ferncliff Cemetery, Hartsdale, New York
Nationality American
Other names Kitty Carlisle Hart
Education Chateau Mont-Choisi
Alma mater University of Paris
London School of Economics
Royal Academy of Dramatic Art
Occupation Actress, singer, spokeswoman
Years active 1932–2006
Spouse(s) Moss Hart (1946-1961, his death)
Children 2

Kitty Carlisle (also known as Kitty Carlisle Hart; September 3, 1910 – April 17, 2007)[1][2] was an American singer, actress and spokeswoman for the arts. She is best remembered as a regular panelist on the television game show To Tell the Truth. Carlisle 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. Eight years later, in 1999, she was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.[3]

Early life[edit]

Kitty Carlisle was born as Catherine Conn (Kitty is a nickname for Catherine; the surname was pronounced Cohen) in New Orleans, Louisiana. Her family was of German Jewish heritage. Her grandfather, Ben Holtzman, was the mayor of Shreveport, Louisiana. A Confederate veteran of the American Civil War, Holtzman had been a gunner on the CSS Virginia, perhaps better known by its previous Union name of USS Merrimack, the famous Confederate ironclad warship that fought the USS Monitor. Carlisle's father, Dr. Joseph Conn, was a gynecologist who died when his daughter was 10 years old.[citation needed] Her mother, Hortense Holtzman Conn, was a woman obsessed with breaking into the prevailing Gentile society (She once reportedly told a taxi driver who asked if her daughter was Jewish, "She may be, but I'm not").[4]

Carlisle's early education took place in New Orleans. In 1921, she was taken to Europe, where her mother hoped to marry her off to European royalty, believing the nobility there more amenable to a Jewish bride – only to end up flitting around Europe and often living in what Carlisle recalled as "the worst room of the best hotel." Carlisle was educated at the Chateau 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.[5]

Kitty Carlisle, appears opposite the Marx Brothers in A Night at the Opera



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.[6]

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.


In the early 1950s, Carlisle was an occasional panelist on the NBC game show, Who Said That?, in which celebrities try to determine the speaker of quotations taken from recent news reports.[7]

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.

Personal life[edit]

Late in 1933, Kitty Carlisle dated George Gershwin, "until George went to California", per Michael Feinstein's The Gershwins and Me (2012), p. 173. Carlisle married playwright and theatrical producer Moss Hart on August 10, 1946, the two having met as actors at the Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, Pennsylvania.[8] The couple had two children. Hart died on December 20, 1961, at their home in Palm Springs, California.[9] Carlisle never remarried, but briefly dated former governor and presidential candidate Thomas E. Dewey after the death of his wife.

Known for her gracious manners and personal elegance, Carlisle 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 chair of the New York State Council of the Arts from 1976 to 1996. The New York State Theater, in Albany, New York is named the Kitty Carlisle Hart Theatre in recognition of this.[10] She also served on the boards of various New York City cultural institutions and additionally would make an appearance at the annual CIBC World Market's Miracle Day, a children's charity event at the former CIBC Center (300 Madison Avenue). She was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1997.[11]

During the 1980s and 1990s, Kitty Hart was the partner of diplomatic historian Ivo John Lederer, and their relationship lasted 16 years until Lederer's death in 1998. In her later years, she kept company with the financier and art collector Roy Neuberger.[12] She also widely performed her one-woman show in which she told anecdotes about the many great men in American musical theatre history whom she had personally known, notably George Gershwin who had proposed marriage (according to an interview in American Heritage magazine),[13] 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.

In 2006, Carlisle performed at Feinstein's at the Regency in New York City; in St. Louis, Missouri; Phoenix, Arizona; Atlanta, Georgia; and at the famed Plush Room in San Francisco. According to her official website, her appearances in Atlanta in November 2006 were her last public performances. In December 2006, she made her final public appearance as the special celebrity guest for the annual Noël Coward Society birthday tribute in which she laid flowers in front of Coward's statue at The Gershwin Theatre in New York City.

Historic Preservation[edit]

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 1976-1996, 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 coronated Queen of the Beaux Arts Ball, an annual event run by the Beaux Arts Society (Paul Lynde was coronated King the same year).[14] The Egg, a notable Mid-century modern structure at Albany, New York's Empire State Plaza, was also renamed in her honor.

In recognition of this legacy, the Historic Districts Council bestowed its Landmarks Lion award upon her in 2003.[15]


Carlisle died on April 17, 2007, from congestive heart failure resulting from a prolonged bout of pneumonia.[16] She had been in and out of the hospital since she contracted pneumonia some time prior to November 2006. She died in her 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.[17]

Theatre credits[edit]



Cultural activities[edit]



  1. ^ a b "Actress Kitty Carlisle Hart Dies at 96". April 18, 2007. Archived from the original on September 29, 2008. Retrieved April 18, 2007. 
  2. ^ a b 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]
  3. ^ "On Stage: New class of theater hall of famers". Retrieved 2015-12-15. 
  4. ^ Teicholz, Tom (July 1, 2005). "Heart to Hart". The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles. Retrieved December 13, 2006. 
  5. ^ Bernstein, Adam. "Kitty Carlisle Hart, 96; Singer, Arts Advocate", The Washington Post, April 19, 2007.
  6. ^ Juilliard Archives: Anna E.Schoen-Rene scrapbooks
  7. ^ "Show Overview: Who Said That?". Retrieved June 12, 2011. 
  8. ^ "A Brief History of the Bucks County Playhouse…". Bucks County Playhouse. Archived from the original on 2007-02-10. Retrieved April 19, 2007. 
  9. ^ Wallace, David (2008). A City Comes Out. Fort Lee, NJ: Barricade. p. 163. ISBN 978-1569803493. LCCN 2008022210. OCLC 209646547. 
  10. ^ "Facilities & Rentals". The Egg. 2015-02-25. Retrieved 2015-12-15. 
  11. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter H" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved July 25, 2014. 
  12. ^ The passionate collector: eighty years in the world of art, by Roy R. Neuberger, Alfred Connable, Roma Connable
  13. ^ Holzer, Harold (February–March 2005). "The 94 Years of Kitty Carlisle Hart". American Heritage. Archived from the original on November 20, 2008. 
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Landmarks Lion Award 2015-Pride of Lions". Historic Districts Council. Retrieved 2015-12-31. 
  16. ^ "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 2007-05-06. Retrieved April 18, 2007. 
  17. ^ Kitty Carlisle Hart at Find a Grave
  18. ^ "Wit & Wisdom — Off-Broadway | Tickets, Reviews, Info and More". Retrieved 2015-12-15. 
  19. ^
  20. ^ "George Foster Peabody Awards Board Members". The Peabody Awards. Retrieved 2015-12-15. 

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