Kiss Me Kate
A musical extravaganza featuring the witty tunes of Cole Porter, Kiss Me Kate (1953) is a remake of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. Set behind the scenes of a spectacular Broadway production of Kiss Me Kate, this fetching musical concerns the tensions that erupt between former husband and wife Fred Graham (Howard Keel) and Lilli Vanessi (Kathryn Grayson) while performing together as Petruchio and Katherine. The combative relationship between Lilli and Fred often carries over onto the stage where they bicker and feud as enthusiastically as their fictional counterparts, Petruchio, the hunk intent on wooing, and Katherine, the maiden adamantly opposed to being wooed. Things become even more complicated when a pair of mildly bumbling, stagestruck crooks Lippy (Keenan Wynn) and Slug (James Whitmore) arrive backstage to collect on a gambling debt -- and vow not to leave Lilli or Fred's side until Fred pays up.
Keel and Grayson had appeared together in a George Sidney-directed picture once before - Show Boat in 1951. Kiss Me Kate was an adaptation of a hit Broadway show by Lemuel Ayers and Arnold St. Subber which ran for more than 1,000 performances. Director Sidney reimagined the play for Hollywood with the 1950s novelty of 3-D. Unfortunately, though Kiss Me Kate was shot in both flat and 3-D versions, the rapid decline of the fad meant the film was never released in its 3-D version. So viewers were never able to experience the peculiar thrill of Lois Lane (Fred's new love interest, played by Ann Miller) kicking her gams out at the audience or Lilli Vanessi in a shrewish temper pitching bouquets and vases at the audience, or the final close-up embrace with Katherine and Petruchio popping out at their audience, all gimmicks used to show off the 3-D techniques.
But one of the better gimmicks in Kiss Me Kate is surely Cole Porter's songs, like a smoky rendition of "Too Darn Hot" performed by a madly tap-dancing Lois (Ann Miller) in the compact Manhattan living room of her boyfriend (Fred Graham), or the uproarious, cleverly phrased number "Brush Up Your Shakespeare," performed by gangsters Lippy and Slug.
Saul Chaplin, who was nominated along with Andre Previn for Best Scoring for a Musical, called Porter's score for the film "one of his best." Ironically, the hit song that emerged from the film, "From This Moment On," was a tune recycled from a Porter musical flop, "Out of This World." Andre Previn had previously arranged "From This Moment On" for Woody Herman and his band, though he kept that information to himself when, during the production of Kiss Me Kate, Porter told him how much he despised "Herman's" interpretation.
"From This Moment On" was inserted in Kiss Me Kate to accommodate three dancing couples in a final number, which featured Carol Haney and Bob Fosse as one of the couples. That brief -- but unforgettably sultry -- two-minute dance number turned out to be responsible for launching three showbiz careers. Bob Fosse choreographed the brief Kiss Me Kate dance between Haney and himself, showing off the sharp, quirky dance style that would be seen by film audiences decades later in the semi-autobiographical film version of his life, All That Jazz (1979). Fosse's distinctive dance styles in Kiss Me Kate caught the attention of fellow choreographer Jerry Robbins, who recommended Fosse to Pajama Game producers Robert Griffith and Harold Prince. Fosse quickly sent for Carol Haney to appear in the show. Haney was a hit and Fosse went on to win a Tony award for his work on that Broadway smash. And when Haney sprained her ankle one evening during "Pajama Game" and her understudy took her place, that small fluke determined one performer's future in Hollywood. In the Pajama Game audience that night was Warner Brothers producer Hal Wallis, who was so impressed with understudy Shirley MacLaine's performance in Haney's role he arranged to put her under contract at the studio.
Producer: Jack Cummings
Director: George Sidney
Screenplay: Dorothy Kingsley, based on the play by Cole Porter, Sam Spewack, Bella Spewack, from the play The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare
Cinematography: Charles Rosher
Production Design: Cedric Gibbons, Urie McCleary
Music: Andre Previn, Saul Chaplin
Principal Cast: Kathryn Grayson (Lilli Vanessi/Katherine), Howard Keel (Fred Graham/Petruchio), Ann Miller (Lois Lane/Bianca), Tommy Rall (Bill Calhoun/Lucentio), Bobby Van (Gremio), Keenan Wynn (Lippy), James Whitmore (Slug), Kurt Kasznar (Baptista), Bob Fosse (Hortensio), Ron Randell (Cole Porter).
C-110m. Closed captioning. Descriptive Video.
by Felicia Feaster