Actress Kitty Carlisle Hart dies at 96


Kitty Carlisle Hart, a popular TV personality as Kitty Carlisle and a panelist for 23 years on "To Tell the Truth" who also starred on Broadway, in films and in the opera, has died at age 96, her son said Wednesday.

Christopher Hart told the Associated Press that said his mother had been in and out of the hospital since contracting pneumonia over the Christmas holidays.

"She passed away peacefully" Tuesday night at her Manhattan apartment, said Hart, who was at her side when she died. "She had such a wonderful life, and a great long run, it was a blessing."

She had been touring around the country in her one-woman show "Here's to Life" until getting sick.

David Lewis, her longtime musical director, said: "The show was about everyone she had known: Irving Berlin, George Gershwin and her wonderful relationship with her husband, (Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright/director) Moss Hart."

Lewis said when he once asked her "why she would attend events every single night of her life and dress up and be the grand dame Kitty Carlisle Hart, she said that the grim reaper was lapping at her feet. She had to outpace him."

A December appearance in Atlanta was her last, her son said.

Carlisle's varied career spanned more than six decades, as an opera singer, star of Broadway musicals and as a witty TV personality. She appeared with the Marx Bros. in "A Night at the Opera" and more recently played herself in "Catch Me If You Can" and "Six Degrees of Separation." She also starred in two Bing Crosby movies, "She Loves Me Not" and "Here Is My Heart," and appeared in Woody Allen's "Radio Days."

Considered a grand dame of American stage, TV and film, Hart was awarded the National Medal of Arts from President George W. Bush in 1991.

Known for her elegance and graciousness, Hart was appointed chair of the New York State Council on the Arts in 1976 and served in that capacity until 1996. In addition, she served on the Visiting Committee of the Board of Overseers of Harvard's Music School and to the Visiting Committee for the Arts at MIT.

She was born on Sept. 3, 1910, in New Orleans and educated at the Sorbonne and the London School of Economics. While in England, she studied acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

Hart made her Broadway debut in "Champagne Sec" in 1933, and more than 50 years later appeared in a 1984 Broadway revival of "On Your Toes." Hart made her operatic debut with the Metropolitan Opera in 1967 in "Die Fledermaus."

Her film credits also include Mitch Leisen's murder mystery/musical "Murder at the Vanities" (1934), where she co-starred with Victor McLaglen, Jack Oakie and Danish star Carl Brisson. Utilizing her vocal gifts, she also performed in Larceny with Music" and "Hollywood Canteen"

She wrote her autobiography, "Kitty," in 1984.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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