Moss Hart Biography

Screenwriter, Actor, Theater Actor, Playwright(1904–1961)
Moss Hart was an award-winning playwright and screenwriter known for works like Once in a Lifetime, You Can't Take It With You and A Star Is Born.

Synopsis

Born in New York City on October 24, 1904, Moss Hart became a celebrated and commercially successful playwright, collaborating with fellow writer George S. Kaufman on works like Once in a Lifetime and the Pulitzer Prize-winning You Can't Take It With You. Hart was also a stage director and film screenwriter, having penned Judy Garland's A Star Is Born. He died on December 20, 1961.

Background

Moss Hart was born on October 24, 1904, in New York City, in a working class/immigrant neighborhood on the Upper East Side, to Lillie Solomon and Barnett Hart. He was introduced to the power of storytelling and theater at an early age by his grandfather, Barney, and his mother's sister, Aunt Kate.

Hits With George S. Kaufman

Hart left school as a teen to bring in income for his family and eventually became a recreations director in the Catskills, turning to acting as well. Having experienced Broadway in his youth, Hart made it big on the stage by writing comedic plays. He co-wrote 1930's Once in a Lifetime with George S. Kaufman, and the two went on to successfully work together on a number of projects, including 1934's Merrily We Roll Along and 1936's You Can't Take It With You; the latter depicted a zany family culture clash and won the Pulitzer Prize.

Hart and Kaufman found further success with the long-running The Man Who Came to Dinner (1939), telling the story of a theater critic who makes demands upon a clan's sensibilities during his convalescence from an injury. Other Kaufman collaborations include The Fabulous Invalid (1938) and George Washington Slept Here (1940).

Hart wed actress and singer Kitty Carlisle in 1946, with the couple going on to have two children.

Writes 'A Star Is Born'

Hart worked with other theatrical luminaries as well, including Ira Gershwin and Jerome Robbins, and was known for writing the books for such musicals as Irving Berlin's Face the Music (1932) and Cole Porter's Jubilee (1935). Hart also turned to screenwriting work, notably penning the Judy Garland classic A Star Is Born (1954).

In addition to directing some of his own plays, Hart served as a director on other productions like Anniversary Waltz, which starred Carlisle, and My Fair Lady, for which he won a 1957 Tony. Additionally, he produced and handled staging for 1960's Camelot.

Personal Conflicts

With his major successes and an air of social savoir faire, Moss Hart was nonetheless laid low by a number of demons. Taking on a relentless workaholic schedule that wreaked havoc with his health, he struggled with what is believed to have been a bipolar disorder and depression, immersing himself in psychotherapy. He is also thought to have been emotionally conflicted over his sexuality.

Death and Literary Legacy

Moss Hart died of a heart attack on December 20, 1961, in Palm Springs, California. He had penned the popular 1959 memoir Act One, which was turned into a 1963 film starring George Hamilton. A biography by Steven Bach—Dazzler: The Life and Times of Moss Hart—was published in 2001.

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