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They just gotta have Hart

Garland, Andrews, even Capra got a boost from the magnetic and multitasking Moss Hart. Audiences still do.

April 17, 2005|Mike Boehm | Times Staff Writer

"Nothing that they wrote was casual; everything was there for a reason," concurs James Lipton, the "Inside the Actors Studio" TV host who immersed himself in the inner workings of Kaufman-Hart comedy while writing the book and lyrics for "Sherry!" a 1967 musical adaptation of "The Man Who Came to Dinner."

One thing that rankled Moss Hart was the failure of the serious dramas he sometimes wrote to duplicate the success he regularly achieved with musicals and comedy. His final and most determined bid was "The Climate of Eden," a darkly tinged 1952 play about an English missionary in Africa. It lasted just 20 performances, the shortest run of Hart's playwriting career.

"I just remember his kindness and his keeping our spirits up when we realized that perhaps things weren't going as planned," recalls Rosemary Harris, who made her Broadway debut in the show. "We were crushed, because we all loved the play."

Harris excuses herself from the phone for a moment and retrieves a scrapbook from the spot in her Winston-Salem, N.C., home where she keeps memorabilia from a 54-year acting career that includes playing Tobey Maguire's Aunt May in the two "Spider-Man" movies.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday April 20, 2005 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 0 inches; 32 words Type of Material: Correction
Moss Hart -- An article in Sunday's Calendar section about playwright Moss Hart said his 1952 drama "The Climate of Eden" was set in Africa. The setting is Guyana in South America.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday April 24, 2005 Home Edition Sunday Calendar Part E Page 2 Calendar Desk 1 inches; 35 words Type of Material: Correction
Moss Hart -- An article about playwright Moss Hart last Sunday incorrectly stated that his 1952 drama, "The Climate of Eden," was set in Africa. The setting is British Guiana (now Guyana) in South America.

She begins reading, in a fond, cultured voice, from a yellowed newspaper article that Moss Hart wrote as "The Climate of Eden" was about to open. Harris thinks it's something people should hear if they want to know what Hart was about.

"I have said that the theater is a foolish profession. It is. To depend on it for an honest livelihood is lunacy, and its working conditions are idiotic. But there is no other profession, I think, that can possibly give one that feeling of exhilaration and joy, that indescribable excitement of walking toward a first rehearsal with a play under your arm that you believe in, to meet the cast that is going to bring that play alive. There is no other feeling like it in the world."


`You Can't Take It With You'

Where: Geffen Playhouse at the Brentwood Theatre, Veterans Administration grounds, 11301 Wilshire Blvd.

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 4 and 8:30 p.m. Saturdays, 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays

Ends: May 22

Price: $31.50 to $52

Contact: (310) 208-5454,


Kitty Carlisle Hart in "Here's to Life"; 7:30 p.m. April 18; Brentwood Theatre; $49; (310) 208-5454

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