Kathryn Grayson


Actor, Singer
Kathryn Grayson

About

Also Known As
Zelma Kathryn Elisabeth Hedrick
Birth Place
Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA
Born
February 09, 1922
Died
February 17, 2010
Cause of Death
Natural Causes

Biography

One of the favorite stars of screen musicals during their heyday in the late 1940s and early 1950s, Kathryn Grayson was a visually and vocally striking singer and actress who graced some of the most popular films of the postwar era, including "Anchors Aweigh" (1947) and "Kiss Me Kate" (1953). Blessed with a coloratura soprano from an early age, she caught the attention of MGM chief Louis...

Photos & Videos

Andy Hardy's Private Secretary - Kapralik Trade Ad
It Happened in Brooklyn - Movie Posters
The Kissing Bandit - Movie Posters

Family & Companions

John Shelton
Husband
Actor. Married in 1940; divorced in 1946; died in 1972.
Johnny Johnston
Husband
Singer, actor. Married in August 1947; divorced in 1951; died on January 6, 1996.
Robert Evans
Companion
Actor, producer. Dated in the late 1950s.

Notes

Some sources give Ms. Grayson's birth year as 1923.

Biography

One of the favorite stars of screen musicals during their heyday in the late 1940s and early 1950s, Kathryn Grayson was a visually and vocally striking singer and actress who graced some of the most popular films of the postwar era, including "Anchors Aweigh" (1947) and "Kiss Me Kate" (1953). Blessed with a coloratura soprano from an early age, she caught the attention of MGM chief Louis B. Mayer while a teenager, and was signed to a contract without the benefit of a screen test or drama lessons. Her lack of formal training left her somewhat wanting as a screen actress, but her combination of looks and voice made her an ideal leading lady opposite some of the biggest male musical performers of the day, including Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Mario Lanza, Gordon MacRae, and her personal favorite, Howard Keel, with whom she co-starred in several hit films. The demise of the Hollywood musical, however, brought her screen career to an end, though she remained active on stage in plays, musicals and opera for the next five decades, while the best of her film efforts earned classic status, ensuring her screen immortality.

Born Zelma Kathryn Elizabeth Hedrick in Winston-Salem, NC on Feb. 9, 1922, she moved to St. Louis, MO with her family in 1927, where she later studied voice training with singer Frances Marshall of the Chicago Civic Opera. Grayson's vocal talents were evident at an early age. After moving to Los Angeles with her family for more professional training, she was signed to a contract with RCA Redseal Records at the age of 15 after a label executive heard her performing in church. Her goal during this period was the operatic stage, but it was soon squashed by MGM executive Sam Katz, who sought a rival for Universal's singing ingénue Deanna Durbin, and signed Grayson to a contract with the studio. At the time, Grayson was prepared to make her debut at the Metropolitan Opera House, but MGM chief Louis B. Mayer convinced her to direct her attention towards her burgeoning film career, reportedly by faking a heart attack.

As Kathryn Grayson - a stage name built from her middle name and her mother's maiden name - she made her film debut in the low-budget comedy programmer "Andy Hardy's Private Secretary" (1941), which allowed moviegoers to hear her singing voice for the first time. More films of that ilk soon followed, including "Rio Rita" (1942), which teamed her with Abbott & Costello, but by the mid-1940s, she was firmly ensconced as a musical star, thanks to pictures like the World War II morale booster "Thousands Cheer" (1943) and the Oscar-winning "Anchors Aweigh" (1945). In both films, Grayson held her own with Gene Kelly, as well as newly minted movie actor Frank Sinatra, which signified to audiences and studio execs alike that she was a bonafide star.

More musicals followed, including "Till the Clouds Roll By" (1946), the fictionalized biopic of composer Jerome Kern - which served as a preview of her turn in "Show Boat" six years later - and two additional teamings with Sinatra - "It Happened in Brooklyn" (1947) and the campy "Kissing Bandit" (1947). The 1950s proved to be Grayson's most popular and successful decade on film ; she earned top billing in "That Midnight Kiss" (1949), which marked the debut of opera talent Mario Lanza, and the pair reunited for "The Toast of New Orleans" (1950), which proved an even bigger hit. Off-screen, their partnership was marred by a public feud. Grayson, who had a reputation for being one of the most charming and pleasant actresses in Hollywood, lashed out at Lanza after he was quoted in the press as saying that he had a soft spot in his heart for the actress for starring in "his" first pictures. Grayson, the established studio star of the pair, fired back with complaints about Lanza's ego and propensity for foul language.

Stage musical star Howard Keel was her ideal screen partner - the duo first joined forces on the 1951 Technicolor remake of "Show Boat," and its success led to additional screen collaborations in "Lovely to Look At" (1952) and their most enduring film musical, "Kiss Me Kate" (1953), which gave her not only some of her best musical numbers, but a chance to flex an acting muscle as the hot-headed theater diva Lili Vanessi, who matches wits and words with her ex-husband (Keel) while co-starring in a musical version of "The Taming of the Shrew." Grayson was also leading lady and musical partner to such top male musical stars of the period as Gordon MacRae in "The Desert Song" (1953) and Van Johnson in "Grounds for Marriage" (1951).

The decline in popularity of film musicals also contributed to the eclipse of Grayson's film career; her final screen acting role came in "The Vagabond King" (1956), opposite Maltese opera star Oreste Kirkop, who was a last minute replacement for the temperamental Lanza. She segued briefly into television, where she earned an Emmy nomination for a 1955 episode of "General Electric Theatre" (CBS, 1953-1962), but by the following decade, she was appearing exclusively on stage. In 1960, she finally achieved her earliest goal by making her operatic debut in some of the medium's most iconic productions, including "Madame Butterfly" and "La Boheme." Grayson also replaced Julie Andrews in the Broadway production of "Camelot," and later crisscrossed the United States for over a year with the wildly successful national tour. Grayson also reunited with Keel for a popular nightclub and Las Vegas act, as well as a tour of Australia.

Grayson remained active on stage throughout the 1970s and 1980s, including turns in drama with "Night Watch" in 1982 and farce with "Noises Off" in 1987. She also returned to television during this period with a recurring role on "Murder, She Wrote" (CBS, 1984-1996), and toured the country with a one-woman show, "An Evening with Kathryn Grayson" into the late 1990s. In her final years, Grayson gave private singing lessons in her Los Angeles home, and served as supervisor for a Voice and Choral Studies Program at Idaho State University that bore her name. Grayson died in her sleep at the age of 88 on Feb. 17, 2010.

Life Events

1937

Signed to a recording contract by RCA at age 15

1941

First film appearance was in "Andy Hardy's Private Secretary" as Andy Hardy's secretary Kathryn Land

1942

First romantic lead, "Seven Sweethearts"

1951

Starred in the film adaptation of the musical, "Show Boat," opposite Ava Gardner and Howard Keel

1953

Last film for MGM, "Kiss Me, Kate"

1955

First TV appearance, "General Electric Theater" (CBS), received an Emmy nomination for her performance in the episode "Shadow on the Heart"

1956

Co-starred in the musical film remake of "The Vagabond King"

1960

Made operatic debut in "Madame Butterfly"

1962

Replaced Julie Andrews as Guinevere in the Broadway production of "Camelot"

1978

Appeared on TV in "Gene Kelly... An American in Pasadena"

1982

Played first dramatic stage role in "Night Watch"

1987

Starred in a stage production of the British farce, "Noises Off"

1987

Had recurring role of Ideal Malloy on "Murder, She Wrote" (CBS)

1989

Made TV appearance on "America's All-Star Tribute to Elizabeth Taylor"

1997

Featured in "A Celebration of the Glorious MGM Musicals" at NYC's Carnegie Hall

Photo Collections

Andy Hardy's Private Secretary - Kapralik Trade Ad
Here is a trade ad for MGM's Andy Hardy's Private Secretary (1941), starring Mickey Rooney and Kathryn Grayson. The art is by mixed-media caricaturist Jaques Kapralik. Trade Ads were placed by studios in industry magazines like Variety and The Hollywood Reporter.
It Happened in Brooklyn - Movie Posters
Here are a few original release movie posters from It Happened in Brooklyn (1947), starring Frank Sinatra, Kathryn Grayson, and Peter Lawford.
The Kissing Bandit - Movie Posters
Here are a few original release American movie posters for MGM's The Kissing Bandit (1949), starring Frank Sinatra and Kathryn Grayson.
The Kissing Bandit - Publicity Stills
Here are a few publicity stills from MGM's Bedlam (1946), starring Frank Sinatra and Kathryn Grayson. Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
Kiss Me Kate - Publicity Stills for 3-D showings
Here are some Publicity Stills for 3-D showings of Kiss Me Kate (1953). The studio art department configured these stills to emphasize the depth in 3-D showings of the film.
Kiss Me Kate - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are several photos taken behind-the-scenes during production of MGM's Kiss Me Kate (1953). Look for composer Cole Porter, director George Sidney, and stars Kathryn Grayson, Howard Keel, Ann Miller, and others.
Two Sisters from Boston - Publicity Stills
Here are several Publicity Stills from Two Sisters from Boston (1946). Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
Andy Hardy's Private Secretary - Publicity Stills
Here are a few publicity stills from MGM's Andy Hardy's Private Secretary (1941), starring Mickey Rooney. Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
Anchors Aweigh - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are a number of photos taken behind-the-scenes during production of MGM's Anchors Aweigh (1945). Look for stars Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and Kathryn Grayson, director George Sidney, and even MGM cartoon stars Tom & Jerry!
That Midnight Kiss - Publicity Stills
Here are several Publicity Stills from MGM's That Midnight Kiss (1949), starring Mario Lanza, Kathryn Grayson, and Ethel Barrymore. Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
Show Boat (1951) - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for MGM's Show Boat (1951). One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
Lovely to Look At - Scene Stills
Here are some scene stills from MGM's Lovely to Look At (1952), starring Kathryn Grayson, Howard Keel, Ann Miller, and Red Skelton.
Kathryn Grayson - Publicity Photos at home in 1948
Here is a series of photos taken of MGM contract star Kathryn Grayson, at home in 1948 with her newborn daughter Patricia.
Anchors Aweigh - reissue Pressbook
Here is the campaign book (pressbook) for Anchors Aweigh (1945). Pressbooks were sent to exhibitors and theater owners to aid them in publicizing the film's run in their theater. This pressbook was prepared for the 1955 reissue.
The Kissing Bandit - Lobby Cards
Here are a few Lobby Cards from The Kissing Bandit (1949), starring Frank Sinatra. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
Thousands Cheer - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for Thousands Cheer (1944). One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.

Videos

Movie Clip

Anchors Aweigh (1945) - Jealousy! Kathryn Grayson as Susan, widowed de-facto mother of her nephew, who hasn’t sung a note thus far, is eager to thank her new on-leave Navy pals Joe and Clarence (Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra), at an L-A Mexican club, the famous song by the Danish composer Jacob Gade, English lyric by Patience Strong, in Anchors Aweigh, 1945.
Anchors Aweigh (1945) - I Always Get Sung To Sleep! On shore-leave in L-A sailors Joe and Clarence (Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra) have agreed to put their new pal Donald (Dean Stockwell) to bed, Frank supplying Brahms’ Lullaby, then hoping to apply Gene’s promised romantic advice to his guardian-aunt Susan (Kathryn Grayson), in MGM’s Anchors Aweigh, 1945.
It Happened In Brooklyn (1947) - Johann Sebastian Bach De-mobbed Danny (Frank Sinatra) gets a lift from schoolteacher Anne (Kathryn Grayson), acting on orders from a street cop, then to her classroom for her first vocal, a lyric from the credited songwriters (presumably Sammy Cahn, maybe Jule Styne) to a famous Bach miniature composition, Invention No. 1, in It Happened In Brooklyn, 1947.
Seven Sweethearts (1942) - Mozart's Cradle Song Co-top-billed Kathryn Grayson is introduced as “Billie,” the sixth of seven daughters of the owner of a Dutch-style hotel in Michigan, all of whom appear to have boys’ names, this one being the handy-type, with musical talent, further perplexing reporter-guest Henry (Van Heflin), in Seven Sweethearts, 1942.
Seven Sweethearts (1942) - I Am A Personality Stranded reporter-guest Henry (Van Heflin) ignores a spat between Michigan-Dutch innkeeper Van Master (S.Z. Sakall) and a guest (Isobel Elsom) as we finally meet Regina (Marsha Hunt), eldest of his seven daughters, the only one with a girls’ name, and lots of attitude, in MGM’s Seven Sweethearts, 1942.
Kissing Bandit, The (1948) - Tomorrow Means Romance First appearance of Kathryn Grayson as colonial California Spanish girls’ school graduate Teresa, song by Nacio Herb Brown, Earl Brent and Edward Heyman, early in MGM’s comedy-musical The Kissing Bandit,1948, also starring Frank Sinatra.
Andy Hardy's Private Secretary (1941) - How Are The Ancient Greeks Involved? Andy (Mickey Rooney) explains errors in financing for his high school graduation to his dad the judge (Lewis Stone), with visits from Beezy and Jimmy (George Breakston, Gene Reynolds) and girlfriend Polly (Ann Rutherford), in the 10th film in MGM’s series, Andy Hardy’s Private Secretary, 1941.
Andy Hardy's Private Secretary (1941) - He's Not My Type Huffy girlfriend Polly (Ann Rutherford) intrudes while class president Andy (Mickey Rooney) is innocently trying out lines for the graduation pageant with Kathryn (Kathryn Grayson, in her movie debut), who’s volunteered as his secretary in MGM’s Andy Hardy’s Private Secretary, 1941.
Andy Hardy's Private Secretary (1941) - Voci Di Primavera Andy (Mickey Rooney) is at the window while Kathryn (Grayson, in her MGM debut) and brother Harry (Todd Karns) undertake a song to cheer up their devoted, educated but unlucky widowed dad (Ian Hunter), a compositon by Gaetano Donizetti, in Andy Hardy’s Private Secretary, 1941.
Kissing Bandit, The (1948) - What's Wrong With Me? Young Teresa (Kathryn Grayson) is pouting because the notorious, but actually novice, title character (Frank Sinatra as Ricardo) failed to romance her in his bungled first robbery, and they share a song by Nacio Herb Brown, Earl Brent and Edward Heyman, in The Kissing Bandit, 1948.
Kiss Me Kate (1953) - Wunderbar Backstage on the anniversary of their divorce, musical Shakespeare co-stars Fred (Howard Keel) and Lilli (Kathryn Grayson) improvise Cole Porter's original Wunderbar, in MGM's Kiss Me Kate, 1953.
Kiss Me Kate (1953) - Too Darn Hot Between shows at the Copa, Lois (Ann Miller) drops in to audition for Cole Porter (Ron Randell) and his fictional co-stars (Howard Keel, Kathryn Grayson) with the real Porter's Too Darn Hot, shot for 3-D, in MGM's Kiss Me Kate, 1953.

Trailer

Andy Hardy's Private Secretary - (Original Trailer) For number 11 in the series, Andy feels he needs social assistance in Andy Hardy's Private Secretary (1941).
Vanishing Virginian, The - (Original Trailer) A conservative southern patriarch tries to cope with changing times in Frank Borzage's The Vanishing Virginian (1942).
Anchors Aweigh - (Original Trailer) A pair of sailors on leave try to help a movie extra become a singing star in Anchors Aweigh (1945) starring Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Kathryn Grayson.
Ziegfeld Follies - (Original Trailer) Legendary showman Flo Ziegfeld imagines the kind of Follies he could produce with MGM's musical stars in Ziegfeld Follies (1946) starring Judy Garland.
Toast Of New Orleans, The - (Original Trailer) Mario Lanza is a Louisiana shrimp hauler who becomes an opera star in the MGM Technicolor musical The Toast Of New Orleans (1950).
Two Sisters from Boston - (Original Trailer) Two Sisters from Boston (1946) have their sensibilities bent when they find work in a Bowery saloon in this hit MGM musical.
Rio Rita (1942) - (Original Trailer) A pair of nitwits try to stop Nazis from infiltrating a Western ranch in Rio Rita (1942), starring Bud Abbott & Lou Costello.
Thousands Cheer - (Original Trailer) An egotistical acrobat (Gene Kelly) joins the Army and falls in love with his commander's daughter in the all-star spectacular Thousands Cheer (1943).
Lovely to Look At - (Original Trailer) Original trailer for MGM's All-star musical comedy, Lovely To Look At, 1952, with Howard Keel, Kathryn Grayson, Red Skelton and Ann Miller, a remake of the 1936 hit Roberta.
Kissing Bandit, The - (Original Trailer) A timid young man (Frank Sinatra) is forced to follow in his father's footsteps as a notorious outlaw - The Kissing Bandit (1948).
Kiss Me Kate - (Original Trailer) Feuding co-stars reunite for a musical version of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew in Kiss Me Kate (1953), directed by George Sidney and starring Kathryn Grayson and Howard Keel.
Till the Clouds Roll By - (Original Trailer) Robert Walker stars in the true story of composer Jerome Kern's rise to the top on Broadway and in Hollywood - Till the Clouds Roll By (1946), co-starring Van Heflin and Judy Garland.

Family

Clarence Hedrick
Father
Lillian Hedrick
Mother
Died at age 56 in December 1954.
Clarence Hedrick Jr
Brother
Older.
Michael Hedrick
Brother
Actor. Born c. 1917.
Mildred Frances Kurstin
Sister
Born c. 1924.
Patricia Kathryn Johnston
Daughter
Born in October 1948; married to actor Bobby Towers.

Companions

John Shelton
Husband
Actor. Married in 1940; divorced in 1946; died in 1972.
Johnny Johnston
Husband
Singer, actor. Married in August 1947; divorced in 1951; died on January 6, 1996.
Robert Evans
Companion
Actor, producer. Dated in the late 1950s.

Bibliography

Notes

Some sources give Ms. Grayson's birth year as 1923.