Radio Wolinsky

The Gershwin Project III: Kitty Carlisle

Kitty Carlisle Hart (1910-2007), in conversation with Richard Wolinsky, recorded by phone. This interview has never been heard via radio or podcast.

Created for an unfinished radio documentary on the life of George Gershwin, this interview was the final of seven interviews recorded for the program before it was abandoned, recorded in 2001 or 2002.

Best known for a long stint as panelist on a popular television quiz show, To Tell the Truth, from 1956 to 1978, with cameos in a handful of films late in life, Kitty Carlisle was born in 1910 and died in 2007.  She came of age as an opera singer and Broadway performer, moving to Hollywood for a handful of  films, including the Marx Brothers A Night at the Opera.

She dated George Gershwin from 1933 until he moved to Hollywood six months before his death. After that, she married playwright Moss Hart, a marriage that lasted until his early death in 1961. She was a leading advocate for the arts and arts funding, serving on the New York State Arts Council for twenty years. In the interview, she mentions going out with George, accompanied by a friend, a “piano player.” Most likely, that person was composer Burton Lane (Finian’s Rainbow, On A Clear Day You Can See Forever).

George Gershwin was born in 1898 and his brother Ira two years earlier. At the age of 15 he took a job as a song-plugger, playing other people’s songs on a piano for Remick Music Publisher for the sale of their sheet music. His first composed song was published when he was 17, and at 21 he scored his first big hit, Swanee. But it wasn’t until 1924 when he teamed up with his brother Ira as lyricist that George Gershwin became, what we might call a superstar, which he remained until his untimely death from a brain tumor in 1937. Ira Gershwin, who went on to work with other composers until he retired in the early 1960s, died in 1983.

Previous Gershwin Project podcasts:
Interview I: English Strunsky, Ira Gershwin’s brother-in-law and George’s wingman in the 1920s.
Interview II: Musicologist Deena Rosenberg and Michael Strunsky, Ira Gershwin’s nephew.

Image from “A Night At The Opera,” Alamy stock photo available for non-profit use.