Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Who Loves Ya, Baby? We All Did

Like probably 90 percent of the folks who remember watching actress, singer, and personality Kitty Carlisle (Hart) on the TV game show To Tell the Truth during the latter half of the 20th century, I was dismayed to hear that she died yesterday at the age of 96. And, probably like most of the people who read this blog, I figured she had no connection to crime fiction. But in that, I was wrong.

Born Catherine Conn (pronounced Cohen) in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1910--the same year that Mark Twain died--she appeared on Broadway and in several films, including the landmark Marx Brothers flick, A Night at the Opera (1935), before wedding American playwright Moss Hart (My Fair Lady, 1956) and signing on for two decades’ worth of quizzing contestants on To Tell the Truth and What’s My Line? Late in life, she appeared in Woody Allen’s Radio Days (1987) and the Will Smith movie Six Degrees of Separation (1993). But TV trivia buffs might also recall that Kitty Carlisle (as she was usually billed, ever since her Broadway days) guested on an episode of--believe it or not--Kojak. That installment, titled “Flowers for Matty,” was originally broadcast in 1990, after CBS had cancelled the Telly Savalas series (in 1978), only to see it resurrected as a component of the short-lived ABC Mystery Movie. According to the All Movie Guide, in “Flowers for Matty,”
Theo Kojak, now a police inspector, takes on the case of a murdered author. The dead man was just about to publish an inflammatory book about mob activities. There’s an overabundance of suspects, chief among them guest star Angie Dickinson. Dickinson plays a TV talk show hostess and the wife of the murdered man. She also happens to be the former love of Theo Kojak.
Since the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) doesn’t list a character name for Carlisle, she might have been playing herself on the show--which looks to have been one of only two appearances she made on TV dramas during her lifetime (the other, according to the IMBD, was a guest shot in 1988 on the eminently forgettable Tattingers). I don’t remember seeing that particular two-hour episode of Kojak, but perhaps someone else out there will remember enough to fill in the details of Carlisle’s performance.

In any event, Kitty Carlisle (Hart) was a member of a passing breed of New York sophisticates. And I shall miss seeing her around the airwaves. That’s the truth.

READ MORE:Kitty Carlisle Hart, Stage Legend, Dies at 96,” by Jeff Lunden (National Public Radio).

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