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Hart, Moss (1904-1961)  
page: 1  2  3  4  5  

Later Career

Following the dissolution of his partnership with Kaufman, Hart sought to realize his ambition to write significant dramas for the stage. However, with the notable exception of the musical Lady in the Dark, his "serious" plays received poor reviews and incurred significant financial losses. Hart was particularly disappointed by the failure of The Climate of Eden, which closed after only twenty performances in 1952. Hart based his script on Edgar Mittelholzer's novel Shadows Move Among Them about an emotionally tormented bisexual playwright, who finds refuge in an unorthodox mission and orphanage in an African jungle. Apparently reluctant to tackle a controversial theme, Hart simplified the central character by removing all indications of his bisexuality.

Although they generally received only lukewarm reviews, many of his later musicals and comedies were popular and financially successful. The exuberant musical review Winged Victory (1944) appealed to patriotic sentiment during the final stages of World War II. Although Hart maintained that the comedy Light Up the Sky (1948), concerning the difficulties of staging a play, contained some of his finest writing, critics complained that he had recycled material from earlier plays.

During the later phases of his career, Hart gained the greatest critical recognition for his film scripts, even though he preferred to write for the stage. His screenplays included Gentleman's Agreement (directed by Elia Kazan; recipient of the Academy Award for Best Picture, 1947), Hans Christian Andersen (directed by Charles Vidor, 1952), and A Star is Born (directed by George Cukor, 1954).

Historically, Gentleman's Agreement was important for its frank revelation of anti-Semitism in America. Hart succeeded in giving narrative coherence to a storyline that, with less skilled treatment, could easily have become pedantic. Judy Garland insisted that Hart was the only writer capable of devising an effective treatment for the musical remake of A Star is Born, and she agreed that he would receive a higher salary than she did for the undertaking.

Hart also gained great acclaim for his skillful and sensitive direction of many different types of theatrical presentations, and he is credited with developing the final form of such hits as the Lerner and Loewe musicals My Fair Lady (1956) and Camelot (1960). Both these shows went through long, complex, and stressful processes of development. Actor Robert Goulet and many others involved in Camelot have maintained that Hart behaved in a notably flirtatious manner toward him.

In 1961, Hart and Carlisle moved to Palm Springs, California, in the hope of finding an environment that would be less stressful for him. However, on December 21, he suffered a fatal heart attack.


From 1930 until his death in 1961, Hart was a significant presence in the American theater. On the basis of currently available evidence, it is clear that he had significant emotional and sexual relationships with other men, but that his attraction toward men was also disturbing to him.

In the musical Lady in the Dark, Hart articulated the ideas about homosexuality held by his therapist Kubie. However, The Man Who Came to Dinner may involve a more affirmative presentation of queer perspectives. When more of Hart's personal papers become publicly accessible, it may be possible to develop a more complete understanding of the interactions of his sexuality with his many professional achievements.

Richard G. Mann

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Bach, Steven. Dazzler: The Life and Times of Moss Hart. New York: Knopf, 2001.

Gussow, Mel. "Kaufman and Hart." New York Times (January 5, 1980): 12.

Hart, Moss. Act One. New York: Random House, 1959.

Kaufman, George, with Edna Ferber, Moss Hart, Ring Lardner, and Morrie Ryskind. Kaufman & Co.: Broadway Comedies. Laurence Maslon, ed. New York: The Library of America, 2004.

Kaiser, Charles. The Gay Metropolis 1940-1996. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.

Laurents, Arthur. Original Story: A Memoir of Broadway and Hollywood. New York: Random House, 2000.

Merrick, Gordon. The Lord Won't Mind. New York: Bernard Geis, 1970.

mccclung, bruce d. American Dreams: Analyzing Moss Hart, Ira Gershwin, and Kurt Weill's Lady in the Dark. Ph.D. diss. University of Rochester, 1994.

Stuckey-French, Ned. "The Odd Couple: Alexander Woollcott and Harpo." English Department, Florida State University:

Zaretsky, Eli. "Charisma or Rationalization? Domesticity and Psychoanalysis in the United States." Critical Inquiry 26. 2 (Winter 2000): 328-54.


    Citation Information
    Author: Mann, Richard G.  
    Entry Title: Hart, Moss  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2006  
    Date Last Updated January 6, 2006  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2006, glbtq, inc.  


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