Richard Comstock Hart (April 14, 1915 – January 2, 1951) was an American actor, who appeared in film and TV productions, but was most active on stage.
Born in Providence, Rhode Island, Hart is the son and grandson of Henry Clay Hart and Richard Borden Comstock, leading Rhode Island lawyers. He went to Moses Brown School and Brown University, where he was an all-American soccer player. He married his teenage sweetheart, Eugenia Getchell in 1938, and had one son Christopher. Hart first worked as a journalist and at the Gorham Silver Company before becoming seriously interested in acting through a summer theater in Tiverton, Rhode Island. That soon led to studying acting in New York City, some off-Broadway roles and divorce from his wife, who chose to stay in Providence with their son.
Hart's big break came when, as resident juvenile in a summer theater at the Brattle Playhouse in Cambridge, Massachusetts, he played John the witch boy, the lead role in a new play trying out there, Dark of the Moon. The Shuberts took it to Broadway (1945), keeping little of the original company except Hart, who went on to win a Theatre World Award for his debut. A Broadway run of 318 performances then led to a national tour and a contract with Metro Goldwyn Mayer.
Hart appeared in four films, three for MGM. Hart's first two were as a leading man: Green Dolphin Street (1947), where he was loved by two sisters, played by Lana Turner and Donna Reed, and Desire Me (1947), as the villain who takes Greer Garson away from Robert Mitchum. Hart's final two films were supporting roles: B.F.'s Daughter (1948), as the jilted first love of the title character, played by Barbara Stanwyck, and Reign of Terror (1949), aWalter Wanger production (released by Eagle-Lion) directed by Anthony Mann.
He married actress Louise Valery, whom he had met in Dark of the Moon, had two daughters, then voluntarily left MGM to go back to the stage. Back on Broadway he appeared in a flop, Leaf and Bough, then took over for Sam Wanamaker in Goodbye, My Fancy and had a hit as the original Uncle Desmonde in The Happy Time opposite Claude Dauphin and Eva Gabor.
He also did a lot of television on Silver Theater, Ford Theatre Hour, Masterpiece Playhouse, and Studio One, playing such roles as Eilert Lovborg inHedda Gabler and Marc Antony in Julius Caesar. He had played four episodes as Ellery Queen in the DuMont Television Network series The Adventures of Ellery Queen -- the first to do so on TV—when he died suddenly at age 35 of a heart attack.
Hart's surviving acknowledged children are:
- Christopher Comstock Hart Rawson; as Christopher Rawson, he is theater critic for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and on the English faculty at the University of Pittsburgh.
- Hillary Hart, professor of writing in the Engineering School at the University of Texas.
- Sheila Hart Brown, who raises horses in Ohio.