Kitty Carlisle Hart Sings Out

“Kitty didn’t want to be pigeonholed or marginalized as a Jewish actress,” her son Chris Hart told Lilith recently. He’s speaking about a woman, who, at the self-disclosed age of 96, has had a stellar career in film, television and on stage. (She appeared both in the Marx Brothers film “A Night at the Opera” and with the Metropolitan Opera.) Born Catherine Conn (pronounced Cohen), “she and others, like Berlin, Gershwin, Rogers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Lowe — all Jews, mostly from immigrant families — built the American musical theater without emphasizing or denying their Jewishness. They wanted the biggest possible audience for their work.”

She had one of the first feminist shows on TV in the 60s — ”Women On The Move” — and as Chair of the New York State Council on the Arts from 1976 to 1996 she served four governors. “Although she called them all ‘Governor, Darling’,” said Chris Hart, “She got more money for the arts in the state than at any other time in the Council’s history.”

Kitty Carlisle Hart performed her most recent cabaret show — complete with reminiscences — to adoring audiences this past fall in Manhattan, St. Louis, San Francisco and Atlanta, and afterward spent time with photographer Joan Roth and me in her Manhattan apartment, where Joan took this shot.