Hart, whose long career spanned Broadway, opera,
television, and film, including the classic Marx Brothers
movie ANight at the Opera, has died at age 96 in New
York City, her son said Wednesday.
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 Hart.
''She had such a wonderful life and a great long run,
it was a blessing.'' 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 President George H.W.
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 1933 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, Johnny Carson,
Bill Cullen, and Don Ameche. The show featured three
contestants who all claimed to be the same
individual. The panelists asked them questions to determine
who was telling the truth. (The popular show also had
runs, sometimes including Carlisle, in daytime and in
syndicated versions.) 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.
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.
A Night at the Opera the following year was the
Marx Brothers' sixth film and their first for MGM, where
they shifted after their career at Paramount sagged at
the box office. MGM's Irving Thalberg added more
romance to the Marxes' formula, bringing in Carlisle
and Allan Jones to play the young opera singers in love, and
the film became a huge hit.
sophisticated then and now--with hair, makeup, and
dress perfectly in place--Hart has been called a
In a piece on
CBS's 60 Minutes in 2000, Marie Brenner, author
of Great Dames: What I Learned From Older
Women, said: ''A great dame is a soldier in high
heels.... They lived through the Depression. They
lived through the war.
tough, intelligent, and brassy women,'' said Brenner, who
described Hart as a great dame who ''walks into a room, and
the room lights up.''
Hart's success. She began every day with an exercise
routine, even after she turned 90. ''I can do things a woman
a fifth my age can't do.... I do 40 leg lifts without
stopping. And then I take my legs, I put them over my
head, and I touch the floor behind me with my toes,
and then very slowly I let myself down, touching every
vertebrae as I go,'' Hart told 60 Minutes.
Hart was born in
New Orleans on September 3, 1910. She attended the
Sorbonne, the London School of Economics, and the Royal
Academy of Dramatic Art in London. She and Hart
married in 1946 and had a daughter, Catherine, in
1950. He died in 1961 at age 57. In later years, she lived
on the next block from Kaufman's daughter, Anne Kaufman
Schneider, and the two would confer when a revival of
a Kaufman-Hart play was in the offing. In a 2002
Associated Press interview, Schneider called her ''my
best friend.'' She served on the state arts council from
1971 to 1996, including 20 years as its chairwoman. In
1988, she testified in Albany to a legislative
committee amid complaints that the council had funded
gay-oriented projects. ''We fund art,'' she said. ''We are
neutral as far as anyone else is concerned. We don't
fund anyone's point of view.''
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 governor Nelson
Rockefeller on women's opportunities. She also
moderated a TV series called Women on the Move. She
served on the board of Empire State College in New
York and was an honorary trustee of the Metropolitan
Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art.
She was once
asked which she loved more--the movies or television.
television had more of an influence on my life than the
movies because with television you came into
somebody's home,'' Hart replied. ''People remember me
from television. They don't even remember me from A Night
at the Opera. They have no idea that I played
the lead and did all the singing. But they do remember
television, particularly To Tell the Truth.''
Christopher Hart, 59, a director, writer, and producer,
survivors include her daughter, Dr. Catherine Hart,
and three grandchildren. Funeral arrangements were
incomplete. ''We're working on a terrific memorial,''
said her son. (AP)
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