MOSS HART, American dramatist born (d. 1961); American playwright and director of plays and musical theater. After working several years as a director of amateur theatrical groups and an entertainment director at summer resorts, he scored his first Broadway hit with Once in A Lifetime (1930), a farce about the arrival of the sound era in Hollywood. The play was written in collaboration with Broadway veteran George S. Kaufman, who regularly wrote with others, notably Marc Connelly and Edna Ferber. (Kaufman also played a role in this play’s original Broadway cast: the role of a harassed screenwriter who solves other people’s problems.) During the next decade, Kaufman and Hart teamed on a string of successes, including You Can’t Take it With You (1936) and The Man Who Came to Dinner (1939). Though Kaufman had hits with others, Hart is generally conceded to be his most important collaborator.
You Can’t Take It With You, the story of an eccentric family and how they live during the Depression, won the 1937 Pulitzer Prize for drama. It is Hart’s most-revived play. When director Frank Capra and writer Robert Riskin adapted it for the screen in 1938, the film won the Best Picture Oscar and Capra won for Best Director.
The Man Who Came To Dinner is about the caustic Sheridan Whiteside who, after injuring himself slipping on ice, must stay in a Midwestern family’s house. The character was based on Kaufman and Hart’s friend, critic Alexander Woollcott. Other characters in the play are based on Noel Coward, Harpo Marx and Gertrude Lawrence.
Hart married Kitty Carlisle in 1946, and they had two biological children (a third pregnancy was a miscarriage). Nonetheless, the longtime bachelor was thought to be homosexual by many of his own friends and reportedly spent much time in therapy regarding his attraction to men. (Carlisle reportedly did ask him if he was Gay before they married and he responded that he was not.) In his screenplay for the 1952 film Hans Christian Andersen, Hart wrote the following line for bisexual actor Danny Kaye (playing the title character): “You’d be surprised how many kings are only a queen with a moustache.”