Actress Kitty Carlisle Hart Dead at 96

NEW YORK (AP) - Kitty Carlisle Hart, whose long career spanned Broadway, opera, television and film, including the classic Marx Brothers movie "A Night at the Opera," has died at age 96, her son said Wednesday.

Christopher Hart 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 the first President Bush.

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 "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, all claiming to be the same person. The panelists asked them questions to determine which 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.