Middle America knows her from TV's To Tell The Truth. Movie buffs remember A Night at the Opera. And arts-minded New Yorkers...


KITTY: An Autobiography

Middle America knows her from TV's To Tell The Truth. Movie buffs remember A Night at the Opera. And arts-minded New Yorkers know her as the operetta star who became the state's Chairman of the Council on the Arts. In this bright, tartly charming autobiography, however, Kitty Carlisle primarily presents herself--in tender, amusingly persuasive detail--as the daughter of an extraordinary mother and the wife of theater-genius Moss Hart. Father was a Mississippi-born doctor who died when Kitty was ten. Mother was a social-climbing bridge fanatic named Hortense Holtzman, daughter of Shreveport, La.'s first Jewish mayor. And Hortense--widowed and nearly 'always short of cash--spirited Kitty off to 1920's N.Y. and Europe to get the proper finish. . .and land a proper husband. (Though devoted to Kitty's welfare, Hortense was oddly distant: ""the moments of physical closeness were so rare that when I was fifty years old, I was still trying to crawl into her lap."") Despite a few brushes with Continental romance, Kitty was still single in 1929, when the Crash triggered an emergency plan: ""We'll find the husband we're looking for on the stage,"" said Hortense. Thus, pretty-voiced Kitty went through RADA, singing teachers, the audition circuit, and touring operetta before becoming a young Broadway star in Champagne Sec. Daunting Ups and (mostly) downs in Hollywood followed; so did courtship by George Gershwin (non-serious), Sinclair Lewis (ardent, unrequited), ""Bernie"" Baruch (briefly lecherous), a Brazilian diplomat, and others. But the husband worth waiting for was playwright-director Moss Hart; that he loved her was made clear when Moss defended Kitty against a putdown by mentor/father-figure George S. Kaufman. And for 15 years, through My Fair Lady and Camelot, she ""lived Moss's life completely and exclusively."" Since his premature death almost 30 years ago, however, she has slowly reemerged: as a performer (TV, the Met); as the object of Thomas E. Dewey's adoration; as mother, lecturer, and arts activist. An above-average, if low-key, entry in the celeb-memoir division, then--with a fair measure of the customary attractions (glamour, big names, droll anecdotes), but also with such rarer qualities as warmth, modesty, and tasteful candor.

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 1988


Page Count: -

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1988