Thursday, April 19, 2007

hello, kitty.

You’re not the prettiest girl I ever saw, and you’re not the best singer I ever heard, and you’re certainly not the best actress I ever hoped to see, but if we put them all together, we’ll find the husband we’re looking for on the stage.

Kitty Carlisle’s mother to Ms. Carlisle when she was still young, as reported this morning in the New York Times.

Later she would say to her daughter, after seeing her perform for the first time: “My dear, we’ve made a ghastly mistake.”

I’ve long had a crush on Kitty Carlisle, as I do on most dames. She died last night at 96.

There are so few true dames left. I still haven’t figured out the recipe, and the women who embody it so well – Ms. Carlisle, Ms. Stritch, a few old girls in my grandparents’ circle – are slowly aging out. Are they a product of a certain time when women were expected to be something very different and they insisted, instead, on being entirely who they were?

Give me time: it’s a nut I’m trying to crack.

There’s no evidence that Ms. Carlisle addressed her mother’s concerns directly, but she showed them to be completely wrong by living a vital life in which she performed up until this year on the stage. The New York Times reports her as saying, shortly after her 79th birthday:

”I’m more optimistic, more enthusiastic, and I have more energy than ever before.” Energy, she said, came from doing the things she wanted to do. “You get so tired when you do what other people want you to do.”

And maybe there it is.

p.s. Kitty Carlisle remembers her life in the theatre »


anniemcq said...

Here's to the Dames. I read the interview with her recently, and thought she was so amazing, so classy. I'm so surprised to hear that she's gone. Thanks for a great post.

enyasi said...

What a lovely remembrance of her in the Times. As always thanks for the wonderful post and the education(If I was a teacher, your blog would be required reading)...

Jillian said...

My theory about this is that in the 1930's comedy was the classiest thing going, in every artform. Elegant absurdity ran through music (the lyrics of Yip Harburg), screwball comedies in the movies, literature (Dorothy Parker), the New Yorker magazine correspondents (James Thurber, Robert Benchley, S. J. Perelman). And women were allowed to be smart as well as good looking. I remember reading a review that said that Cary Grant regarded Katharine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby with "bewildered awe". I have a soft spot for Myrna Loy in The Thin Man movies, which showed marriage as the sexiest and most enjoyable state to be in. And the best actor and comedian of the whole era was a fox terrier named Skippy who was in Bringing Up Baby, was the first Asta in the Thin Man movies and in the Awful Truth. This mood is still with us: My friend Susan Kandel writes mystery novels and her female detective, Cece Caruso, is a "dame" worthy of this company, smart and brainy and witty.

suttonhoo said...

great theory -- love it -- and now have a hankering to see a Thin Man flick. ;)

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