American singer and actress (1910) Kitty Carlisle were a British actress, singer, and writer. She became famous in England in the late nineteen-twenties, and by the early part of the twentieth century had established a reputation in Hollywood as an actress, singer, showgirl, and dancer. She is known chiefly for her Broadway work but also achieved success in films and on stage.
Kitty was born in Yorkshire, England, and was named after her mother’s family name of Carlisle. As she grew older, Kitty became interested in acting but was discouraged at first by the lack of recognition she felt she merited for being a woman. She began writing in her diary in the late nineteen-thirties, chronicling her life in Hollywood and sharing anecdotes about showgirls and showbiz gossip. In her diaries, Kitty described her favorite shows, songs, and moments. She described meeting Cleopatra, which resulted in her becoming a fan of the Roman Catholic faith.
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Kitty wrote in her diary that she had once attended a play in Hollywood with her mother, but the party given by the playwright, Jelly Roll Morton, caught her attention. She describes the play in great detail, even listing the different roles she played during the play. She described the dinner, the sit down at the piano, and how the play was concluded. Her memoir ends with a party given by Jelly Roll Morton to all his friends and fans, which she described in detail. Kitty’s fondness of Jelly Roll Morton’s theater and his gift for telling stories is evident in the fawning following her performance as a guest singer at his birthday celebration for him and her friend, Rose Maddox.
Kitty was not the only guest of Jelly Roll Morton. She describes other guests of her party who were as excited as she was about attending the famous birthday party of Jelly Roll. Among these guests were her friend Rose Maddox, Cleopatra, and several other notable people from Hollywood. Kitty was so overjoyed about this party given by the playwright that she began planning what she would wear to the event.
The party was to be held on a private yacht off the coast of Los Angeles, for the first anniversary of her marriage to George Ball, the famous director. She was to wear a long black dress, long gloves, black boots, and pearl bridal jewelry. She had not told her family or friends that she was going to the party, but when word got out, they all seemed so excited about it that she decided she would like to share the details of the event with them. It was her idea to have her wedding anniversary waltz performed by the Carousel Brass Band. She had been wanting to get back to this type of music since her early days of dancing in vaudeville.
With her friend Rose Maddox there, she chose a music which had some opera elements to it, and this music was a big hit at the time, “The Rose of Pearls.” It was a beautiful song, but Kitty liked the fact that it was performed by an all-out orchestra. She knew that she wanted something that would show her love for her husband, but she also did not want a boring performance, like some of her early days. So with help from the playwright, Kitty formed a committee to select the music for the party, which they chose out of a book of favorites, “Ladies of Lively Music.”