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TelevisionWeek Executive Editor Tom Gilbert joins our roster of bloggers with this forum all about classic television, where anything from "Leave It to Beaver" to "Malcolm in the Middle" is fair game for discussion. Reunion specials, DVD releases of classic shows, vintage commercials -- anything that's ever been telecast is the hot topic here.

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Timeless TV



Goodbye, Kitty

April 18, 2007 4:19 PM

Kitty Carlisle Hart was no longer a fixture on American television when she died Tuesday at age 96. But she was around for so many years that, for some of us, it seems impossible she’s no longer here.

kitty carlisle

Kitty brought a dollop of New York sophistication and social grace into America’s living rooms every week while a regular panelist on Goodson-Todman’s “To Tell the Truth,” which ran on CBS from 1956-68 (she also appeared in the subsequent 1969-77 syndicated version).

to tell the truth

When we were kids, my sister and I used to make fun of her because, besides her appearance in the Marx Bros. film “A Night at the Opera,” no one in the fly-over states where we were ever knew what she did to deserve to be a panelist on a prime-time game show. I remember my father, who knew more than a little something about life in the big city, taking umbrage when we ridiculed her: “Kitty Carlisle is a fine, classy woman,” he rebuked. (She didn’t use her married name professionally at the time though even then she was the widow of the esteemed Broadway playwright and director Moss Hart, with whom she had lived a charmed life at the apex of the New York theatre world).

Looking back on it, Dad was right. I remember being surprised by his level of vehemence in defending her. But she was indeed charming and elegant, dignified and learned, someone to look up to. And having lived in New York City for a dozen years subsequently, I came to know more about her work for the New York Council on the Arts and to perfectly understand why she was held in such high esteem by Goodson-Todman and CBS.

Last fall, she celebrated her 96th birthday by appearing in her one-woman show in several spots around the country, looking robust and much as she did 40 years ago. Even though I wanted to catch her show, I put off seeing her; she had been around forever. Wouldn’t she always be?

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[...] Like many such personalities (Peggy Cass, Kitty Carlisle, Paul Lynde and Orson Bean are others), Reilly rose to showbiz prominence on the Broadway stage, where he came to the attention of the New York-based television producers. But Reilly had that little extra bit of oomph, a unique, fun quality that set him apart and made you want to see more of him. [...] [Read More]

Comments (5)

MaTiMo:

What's not to love about Kitty! I'm sad to hear of her passing. I, like you, thought she would be around forever.

God Bless ...

Well, they are pretty much all gone now. Mark Goodson and Bill Todman sure did know how to pick panelists and hosts for the game shows. Arlene Francis, Dorothy Kilgallon, Bennett Cerf, Martin Gabel, Steve Allen, Fred Allen, John Daly, Bud Collyer and, of course, Kitty Carlisle Hart. They all had class but Kitty Carlisle Hart stood out as the classy of the class. All of them people I would have loved to have been able to meet to say hi and thank you for many memorable hours of entertainment and information. Sad to say, it never happened. However, through this wonderful medium called the Internet, we can express for the world what are feelings are at a time like this. To her son and daughter and grandchildren, know that Kitty Carlisle Hart will always be fondly remembered.

A very touching tribute to a grand dame (French or English pronunciation).
I bumped into her a couple of times at the Pierre Hotel, where she lived in
a condo on one of the higher floors. Always the warm smile and the
lively eyes. If she came along now, instead of then, TV would have no place
to put her -- nothing classy enough among regular programs.

Daniel Martin Cheuka:

There will never be another Kitty. For those of you who do not know, it was Kitty
who first took Dorothy Kilgallen's place on What's My Line the first week after her
untimely death. She said, with the same class as she has always had, that she
was taking her chair, but that no one could take her place.

I wonder if anyone could tell me if anyone had the foresight to record Kitty's one
woman show. I sure hope so. It would be nice if they had.

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