First Pat Buckley, now Kitty Carlisle Hart: the old order passeth, which makes me feel more than usually middle-aged.
As a child I watched Kitty Carlisle on To Tell the Truth, the classic game show that introduced me to the word “affidavit,” and a little later I saw A Night at the Opera for the first time and was amazed to find that the distinguished and amusing lady who sat on a TV panel every afternoon had once been a movie star of sorts. Later on I played Beverly Carlton in a college production of The Man Who Came to Dinner and discovered to my further amazement that she was the widow of its co-author, Moss Hart.
It hardly seemed possible that such a self-evidently historic person as Kitty Carlisle Hart (as she now styled herself) should still be alive when I finally made it to New York twenty-two years ago, but she sure enough was, having outlived her far more famous husband to become one of the last surviving relics of an age in which I would have preferred to live. What’s more, she kept on ticking all the way to the end, appearing in cabaret and constantly popping up on the town.
I never met the Widow Hart, but I did sit behind her two years ago at a matinée performance of the grisly Broadway revival of The Glass Menagerie that starred Jessica Lange and Christian Slater. After intermission I saw her seatmate-companion fumbling with the assisted-listening device that Mrs. Hart had been using to hear the actors. Clearly she’d been having trouble getting it to work. Having recently watched Broadway: The Golden Age, the thought occurred to me that she had most likely seen Laurette Taylor in the original production, and I briefly thought of tapping her on the shoulder and saying, “Don’t bother–you’re not missing anything.” Alas, I didn’t have the nerve, and so missed an opportunity to amuse a legend.
The New York Times obituary of Kitty Carlisle Hart is here. For a lovely tribute by Stephen Holden, the Times‘ smartest critic, go here. The Times also ran a nice little piece today about Pat Buckley’s place in Manhattan’s “nouvelle society,” which you can read by going here.