- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 18, 2007

NEW YORK (AP) — Kitty Carlisle Hart, whose long career spanned Broadway, opera, television and film, including the classic Marx Brothers movie “A Night at the Opera,” has died at age 96, her son said yesterday.

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

“She passed away peacefully” at home, said Mr. Hart. “She had such a wonderful life, and a great long run, it was a blessing.”

Miss Hart had appeared for years on the popular game show “To Tell the Truth” as a celebrity panelist.

The entertainer was also a tireless advocate for the arts, serving 20 years on the New York State Council on the Arts. In 1991, she received the National Medal of Arts from the first President Bush.

Well known for her starring role as Rosa Castaldi in the 1935 movie “A Night at the Opera,” her other film credits included: “She Loves Me Not” and “Here Is My Heart,” both opposite Bing Crosby; Woody Allen’s “Radio Days”; and “Six Degrees of Separation.”

She began her acting career on Broadway in “Champagne Sec,” and went on to appear in many other Broadway productions, including the 1984 revival of “On Your Toes.”

She made her operatic debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1967 in “Die Fledermaus,” and created the role of Lucretia in the American premiere of Benjamin Britten’s “Rape of Lucretia.”

From 1956 to 1967, she appeared on the CBS prime-time game show “To Tell the Truth” with host Bud Collyer and fellow panelists, such as Polly Bergen and Johnny Carson. The show featured three contestants, all claiming to be the same person. The panelists asked them questions to determine which was telling the truth.

Miss Hart’s late husband was the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Moss Hart, who wrote “You Can’t Take It With You” and “The Man Who Came to Dinner” with George S. Kaufman and won a Tony for directing “My Fair Lady” on Broadway.

Her film career began in 1934; in “Murder at the Vanities,” she sings “Cocktails for Two,” a song later made famous in a spoof version by Spike Jones.

Elegant and sophisticated then, and now — with hair, makeup and dress perfectly in place — Miss Hart has been called a “great dame.”

Miss Hart was born in New Orleans on Sept. 3, 1910. She attended the Sorbonne, the London School of Economics and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.

She and her husband married in 1946 and had a daughter, Catherine, in 1950. He died in 1961 at age 57.

Miss Hart’s concern for women’s role in society led to her appointment as chairwoman of the Statewide Conference of Women and later as special consultant to New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller on women’s opportunities. She also moderated a TV series called “Women on the Move.”

She was once asked which she loved more — the movies or television.

“I think television had more of an influence on my life than the movies because with television you came into somebody’s home,” she replied.

Besides Christopher Hart, 59, a director, writer and producer, survivors include her daughter, Catherine Hart, and three grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements were incomplete. “We’re working on a terrific memorial,” said her son.

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