Kitty Carlisle Hart may have been famous more for the way she allowed others to shine than for her own achievements. For decades, as a Manhattan society grande dame (a role she played to perfection on screen as well, in her cameo in the movie Six Degrees of Separation), she was a noted philanthropist and patron of the arts, as well as the keeper-of-the-flame for her late husband, the great playwright Moss Hart (You Can’t Take It With You, The Man Who Came to Dinner). TV viewers remember her as the quintessential celebrity game-show panelist, a role she filled for more than 40 years on To Tell the Truth. She was a straight-woman par excellence, as she demonstrated in her most famous movie role, as a lovestruck diva, opposite the Marx Brothers in A Night at the Opera.
Miss Carlisle, who made that movie back in 1935, was 96 when she died on Tuesday but always appeared decades younger. As recently as a few months ago, she was still singing Gershwin tunes and performing a cabaret show at the Regency Hotel. She may have been the last living link to what seems like a more sophisticated era, when a woman of wit and connections — let’s face it, she knew everybody — could make a living, even a lifelong career, as a sparkling conversationalist.
In her memory, GSN is airing some classic To Tell the Truth episodes featuring Carlisle on Sunday night (set your DVR; they start at the ungodly hour of 3 a.m.). As for PopWatch, we’ll pay tribute via this classic clip of her singing “Alone” in Night at the Opera.