Kitty Carlisle
Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1933
Catherine Conn

(1910-09-03)September 3, 1910
DiedApril 17, 2007(2007-04-17) (aged 96)[1][2]
Resting placeFerncliff Cemetery
Other namesKitty Carlisle Hart
Alma materUniversity of Paris
London School of Economics
Royal Academy of Dramatic Art
  • Actress
  • singer
  • TV personality
  • spokesman
Years active1932–2006
(m. 1946; died 1961)

Kitty Carlisle Hart (born Catherine Conn; September 3, 1910 – April 17, 2007)[1][2] was an American stage and screen actress, opera singer, television personality and spokesperson for the arts. She was the leading lady in the Marx Brothers movie A Night at the Opera (1935) and was a regular panelist on the television game show To Tell the Truth (1956–1978). 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.[3]

Early life

Kitty Carlisle was born Catherine Conn (pronounced Cohen) in New Orleans, Louisiana, of German-Jewish heritage. Her grandfather, Ben Holzman, was a 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, MD, was a gynecologist who died when she was ten years old. Her mother, Hortense Holzman Conn, was eager for her daughter to be accepted by local society. A taxi driver once asked if her daughter was Jewish, and she answered, "She may be, but I'm not."[4]

Carlisle's mother took her to Europe in 1921, where she hoped Kitty would marry European royalty, believing nobility were more likely to marry a Jewish girl. They traveled around Europe and often lived in what Carlisle recalled as "the worst room of the best hotel". Kitty was educated at the Château Mont-Choisi [de] 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] She studied singing with Estelle Liebling, the teacher of Beverly Sills, in New York City.[6]



1935 lobby card for film co-starring Carlisle

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.[7]

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.

For her contributions to the film industry, Carlisle was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960 with a motion pictures star located at 6611 Hollywood Boulevard.[8]


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

Carlisle in 2000

Carlisle dated George Gershwin in 1933 "until George went to California".[9] On August 10, 1946, she married playwright and theatrical producer Moss Hart, whom she met at the Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, Pennsylvania.[10][11] They had two children. Hart died on December 20, 1961, at their home in Palm Springs, California.[12] 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.[13]

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 chairperson 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.[14] 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.[15]

She also widely performed her one-woman show, in which she told anecdotes about the great men of American musical theater she had known, notably George Gershwin (who had proposed marriage),[16] Irving Berlin, Kurt Weill, Oscar Hammerstein, Alan Jay Lerner, and Frederick Loewe, and interspersed with songs that had made each of them famous.

Historic preservation

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, she directed many millions of dollars in support to preservation projects, from the Niagara Frontier to Staten Island. This was 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 (American comedian Paul Lynde was crowned King the same year).[17]

In recognition of this legacy, the Historic Districts Council presented its Landmarks Lion award to her in 2003.[18]


Carlisle died on April 17, 2007, from congestive heart failure resulting from a prolonged bout of pneumonia.[19] 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,[20] 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.[citation needed]

Theatre credits



Cultural activities



  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 December 15, 2015.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ Bernstein, Adam. "Kitty Carlisle Hart, 96; Singer, Arts Advocate", The Washington Post, April 19, 2007.
  6. ^ "Estelle Liebling Dies Here at 90; Was a Leading Operatic Coach". The New York Times. September 26, 1970.
  7. ^ Juilliard Archives: Anna E.Schoen-Rene scrapbooks
  8. ^ "Hollywood Walk of Fame – Kitty Carlisle". Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. Archived from the original on April 3, 2016. Retrieved February 11, 2018.
  9. ^ Feinstein, Michael; Jackman, Ian (2012). The Gershwins and me : a personal history in twelve songs (First Simon & Schuster hardcover ed.). New York: Simon et Schuster. p. 173. ISBN 978-1451645309.
  10. ^ "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.
  11. ^ "A Brief History of the Bucks County Playhouse…". Bucks County Playhouse. Archived from the original on February 10, 2007. Retrieved April 19, 2007.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ The passionate collector: eighty years in the world of art, by Roy R. Neuberger, Alfred Connable, Roma Connable
  14. ^ "Facilities & Rentals". The Egg. February 25, 2015. Retrieved December 15, 2015.
  15. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter H" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved July 25, 2014.
  16. ^ Holzer, Harold (February–March 2005). "The 94 Years of Kitty Carlisle Hart". American Heritage. Archived from the original on November 20, 2008.
  17. ^ "Royal Family". Archived from the original on September 14, 2016.
  18. ^ "Landmarks Lion Award 2015-Pride of Lions". Historic Districts Council. Archived from the original on December 22, 2015. Retrieved December 31, 2015.
  19. ^ "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.
  20. ^ Alexander, Ron (September 21, 1988). "Kitty Carlisle Hart Reflects". The New York Times. Retrieved March 5, 2019.
  21. ^ "Wit & Wisdom — Off-Broadway | Tickets, Reviews, Info and More". Retrieved December 15, 2015.
  22. ^ "In Memoriam". Archived from the original on September 14, 2016.
  23. ^ "George Foster Peabody Awards Board Members". The Peabody Awards. Archived from the original on December 4, 2018. Retrieved December 15, 2015.