Kiss Me Kate
Cast & Crew
At his New York apartment, actor Fred Graham and composer Cole Porter discuss plans to recruit Fred's ex-wife, actress Lili Vanessi, to star in their new show, Kiss Me Kate , a musical version of William Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew . Lili arrives, and after singing the love duet with Fred, agrees to consider taking the role of "Katherine." They are interrupted by the arrival of flashy dancer Lois Lane, who has used her wiles on Fred to secure the role of "Bianca." Jealous words fly between the two women, and Lili prepares to leave, after informing Fred that she is going to be married soon. When she thinks that Lois is going to get the starring role, however, Lili agrees to be in the show. At the final rehearsal, Lois is horrified to learn that her boyfriend, dancer Bill Calhoun, has signed Fred's name to an IOU to cover his gambling debts. Meanwhile, Fred and Lili continue to bicker, and Lili points out that today is the one-year anniversary of their divorce. As they begin to reminisce about their early days as struggling performers, however, tender feelings overtake them, and they kiss. Still shaken, Fred returns to his dressing room to discover Lippy and Slug, collectors for a gangster named Hogan, waiting to discuss the IOU with him. Fred denies any knowledge of the debt, and the thugs leave, vowing to return. Lili receives a bouquet, and, assuming that Fred sent it, is deeply moved. Moments before the show is to begin, Fred asks his valet Paul if he delivered the bouquet to Lois, and is shocked to learn that Lili has it. Fred tries to get the card from the flowers before Lili can read it, but she slips it inside her blouse. The show begins, and right before their first scene together, Lili sneaks a look at the card. When she discovers it is a romantic note to Lois, her fury cannot be contained. After Lili persists in striking Fred, he spanks her in front of the amused audience and bewildered cast members. At intermission, Lili calls her fiancé, Texas cattle baron Tex Callaway, and asks him to come and get her at once. Meanwhile, at Lois' urging, Bill confesses to Fred that he forged his name on the IOU. Lippy and Slug are waiting in Fred's dressing room and, seeing a way to stop Lili from walking out, Fred tells the thugs that he would like to pay them, but will have to close the show if Lili leaves. Eager to protect their employer's investment, Lippy and Slug order Lili at gunpoint to go on with the show. Act II begins, with the costumed Lippy and Slug on stage as Lili's attendants. Tex shows up backstage, and Bill is jealous when he catches the opportunistic Lois flirting with him. Meanwhile, Lippy calls to confer with his boss and learns that Hogan has been shot to death by a rival gangster. With their boss dead and the debt cancelled, Lippy and Slug prepare to leave. Fred expresses his regret to Lili over their failed relationship, but she drives away with Tex. The theater-loving thugs give the despondent Fred a pep talk, and he prepares to perform the finale with the understudy. To Fred's surprise, Lili returns to the stage and delivers Katherine's speech about wifely love and duty with great feeling. Fred joyfully sweeps Lili into his arms as the curtain rings down.
Edwin B. Willis
Ralph E. Winters
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
Kiss Me Kate
TCM Remembers Howard Keel this Monday, Nov. 15th
PLEASE NOTE SCHEDULE CHANGE
Callaway Went Thataway (1951)
Ride, Vaquero! (1953)
War Wagon (1967)
"MGM Parade Show #14"
(Keel talks with George Murphy about his latest MGM picture "Kismet")(1955)
Kiss Me Kate (1953)
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)
HOWARD KEEL (1919-2004):
Howard Keel, the strapping singer and actor whose glorious baritone took him to stardom in the early '50s in some of MGM's best musicals, including Showboat, Kiss Me Kate and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, died on November 7 of colon cancer at his home in Palm Desert, California. He was 85.
He was born Harry Clifford Leek on April 13, 1919, in Gillespie, Illinois. His father, was a coal miner and his mother, a strict Methodist, forbid the children from enjoying popular entertainments. When his dad died, his mother relocated the family to California when Harry was still a young teenager.
After he graduated high school, Keel had a brief stint as a singing busboy, but had not considered a professional career as a vocalist....until one fateful evening in 1939. It was at this time he saw celebrated opera singer, Lawrence Tibbett, at the Hollywood Bowl. Keel was inspired, and he soon began taking voice lessons. Over the next several years, he carefully trained his voice while entering any singing contest he could find. It wasn't long before his talents caught the attention of Rodgers & Hammerstein.
In 1946, they signed him to replace John Raitt in the Broadway production of Carousel, changed his name to Howard Keel (His proper surname Leek spelled backwards), and Keel was on his way to international stardom.
After his run in Carousel ended, he sailed to London the following year to play the role of Curley in Rodgers & Hammerstein's Oklahoma. He received rave reviews from the London press, and by the time he returned to the United States in 1948, he was ready to make his move into films.
Keel made his movie debut in the British thriller, The Small Voice (1948), but it would be his second film, and first for MGM, portraying Frank Butler, Betty Hutton's leading man in Annie Get Your Gun (1950), that sealed his success. Keel's several strengths as a performer: his supple, commanding singing voice; his athletic, 6'4" frame; striking, "matinee-idol" good looks; and his good humored personality made him one of the studios' top leading men over the next few years. Indeed, between 1951-55, Keel could do not wrong with the material he was given: Show Boat (1951), Lovely to Look at (1952), Kiss Me Kate (1953), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), and Kismet (1955). Clearly, he was a shining star in this golden era of the MGM musical.
By the late '50s, movie musicals began to fade out of fashion, but Keel returned to the stage and had success performing with several touring companies. He made a brief return to films when he was cast as a seaman battling carnivorous plants from outer space in the popular British sci-fi hit, The Day of the Triffids (1962). Television also provided some work, where he guest starred in some of the more popular shows in the late '60s including Run For Your Life, and The Lucy Show.
Keel would keep a low profile over the next decade, but he made an amazing comeback in 1981, when he was cast as Clayton Farlow, Ellie Ewing's (Barbara Bel Geddes) second husband in the wildly successful prime time soap, Dallas. Not only did he play the role for ten seasons, but Keel would also be in demand for many other shows throughout the '80s and '90s: The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Murder, She Wrote, Hart to Hart, and Walker, Texas Ranger, to name a but a few. By the late-'90s, Keel retired to his home in Palm Desert, California, where still made public appearances now and again for a tribute or benefit. He is survived by his wife of 34 years, Judy; a son, Gunnar; daughters, Kaija, Kristina and Leslie; 10 grandchildren, and one great-granddaughter.
by Michael T. Toole
Important Milestones on Howard Keel:
Moved to Southern California at age 16 (date approximate)
Worked as a singing busboy in a Los Angeles cafe
Worked for Douglas Aircraft as a manufacturing representative travelling among various company plants; work included singing; won a first prize award at the Mississippi Valley while on the road; also won an award at the Chicago Music Festival
Began singing career with the American Music Theatre in Pasadena, California
Chosen by Oscar Hammerstein II to perform on Broadway in "Carousel"; succeeded John Raitt in the leading role of Billy Bigelow; also took over the leading role of Curly in "Oklahoma"
Recreated the role of Curly when he opened the London stage production of "Oklahoma"
Made feature film debut in a non-singing supporting role in the British crime drama, "The Small Voice"
Signed by MGM; became instant star as the male lead of "Annie Get Your Gun"
Provided the offscreen narration for the Western saga, "Across the Wide Missouri", starring Clark Gable
First film opposite Kathryn Grayson, "Show Boat"
First leading role in a non-musical, "Desperate Search"
Made best-remembered film, "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers"
Last musical starring roles, and last musicals for MGM, "Jupiter's Darling" and "Kismet"
Went to Britain to play the leading role in the action drama, "Floods of Fear"
Last leading role, "Red Tomahawk"
Last feature film appearance for over 20 years, "Arizona Bushwhackers"
Starred on the London stage in the musical "Ambassador"; later brought the role to Broadway (date approximate)
Toured the nightclub circuit, sometimes teaming up with his co-star from three MGM musicals of the 1950s, Kathryn Grayson
Toured in stage productions of musicals and comedies including "Camelot", "Man of La Mancha", "Paint Your Wagon", "I Do! I Do!", "Plaza Suite", "Gigi", "Show Boat", "Kismet", "The Most Happy Fella" and "The Fantasticks"
Teamed with Jane Powell on record-breaking national theater tour of "South Pacific"
Reprised screen role of eldest brother Adam in a touring stage version of "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers", opposite original screen co-star Jane Powell
Joined the cast of the CBS primetime serial drama, "Dallas", which had premiered in 1978; played Clayton Farlow
Recorded first solo album, "And I Love You So"
Was one of the hosts of the feature compilation documentary, "That's Entertainment III", revisiting the MGM musical from the coming of sound through the late 1950s
Keel was President of the Screen Actors Guild from 1958-1959.
TCM Remembers Howard Keel this Monday, Nov. 15th PLEASE NOTE SCHEDULE CHANGE
Originally filmed in 3D which is why the actors often throw things (including themselves) at the audience.
Publicity photos on the piano during the "So In Love" number include a shot from the previous Keel/Grayson pairing, Show Boat (1951), but the photo from Annie Get Your Gun (1950) has Kathryn Grayson's face replacing Betty Hutton's.
Several of the Broadway lyrics were considered too "spicy" for a film. For instance, "according to the Kinsey Report" was changed to "according to the weather report" in the song, "Too Darn Hot", and a verse containing bawdy puns was omitted from "Brush Up Your Shakespeare".
The first (and perhaps the only) movie to be shot in widescreen (1:85-1) and 3-D as well as the then-standard 1:33-1 ratio. All three were tested in one city. The widescreen version was so overwhelmingly preferred by audiences that it alone was released. However, the 3-D version has had rare screenings, and apparently a 1:33-1 print was used for the videotape edition.
William Shakespeare's play The Taming of the Shrew (ca. 1593) centered around the stormy courtship between the fortune-hunting Petruchio and Katherine, a headstrong woman. After a lengthy battle of the wills, the couple come to love each other and Katherine accepts her role as submissive wife. Kiss Me Kate incorporates Shakespeare's text in the "onstage" portions of the film, and parallels the play's romantic themes in the relationships of the two couples.
A December 9, 1951 New York Times news item reported that British producer Sir Alexander Korda was negotiating for the film rights to Kiss Me Kate, and that Alfred Drake, who had created the role of "Fred Graham" on Broadway, might be cast. According to October 1952 and March 1953 items in Hollywood Reporter's "Rambling Reporter" column, Red Skelton was set for a leading comic role. A March 6, 1953 Hollywood Reporter news item stated that director George Sidney was conducting camera tests with Ann Blyth, but this May have been an erroneous reference to Ann Miller. A June 1953 news item in Hollywood Reporter reported that Sidney would appear in the film in a bit part. Modern sources claim that producer Jack Cummings originally intended to cast British actor Laurence Olivier as Fred. A April 13, 1953 Hollywood Reporter news item adds Reginald Owen to the cast, but he was not in the film. Hollywood Reporter news items also include June Lyden, Edith Motridge, Frank Calfont and Herman Belmonte to the cast, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed.
All of the songs in the film were taken from the 1948 Broadway production of Kiss Me Kate, with the exception of "From This Moment On," which was originally written for the 1950 Cole Porter musical Out of This World. According to information in the film's MPAA/PCA file at the AMPAS Library, the PCA required numerous alterations to the Broadway musical's often suggestive lyrics, such as changing a reference to the Kinsey Report on sexual behavior in the song "Too Darn Hot" to "the latest report." A October 29, 1953 item in Hollywood Reporter's "Rambling Reporter" column observed that a reference to former studio head L. B. Mayer had been omitted from the film version of the song "We Open in Venice." Porter had previously been portrayed onscreen by Cary Grant in the 1946 Warner Bros. film Night and Day (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50).
According to modern sources, Bob Fosse, who played the suitor "Hortensio," was given permission to choreograph a segment of the number "From This Moment On." In a modern interview, Fosse recalled, "My big break-and the turning point of my career-came when the studio let me choreograph a little dance for myself and Carol Haney in the film Kiss Me Kate. It only lasted forty-eight seconds, but it changed my life." Fosse ended his contract with M-G-M shortly after making this film and went on to an acclaimed career as a choreographer and director.
Kiss Me Kate was M-G-M's second venture, following Arena, into stereoscopic, or "3-D," filmmaking. In his autobiography, Dore Schary, M-G-M's head of production, recalled that he had concluded after watching Arena that 3-D was "a freak entertainment...marked for extinction." Schary wrote that he bowed to pressure from studio executives, including Loew's sales executive Joseph Vogel, "who had invested $500,000 in the purchase of the plastic eyeglasses," to make the film in 3-D. To protect the studio in the event of poor audience response to the 3-D version, however, Kiss Me Kate would also be released in the standard two-dimensional, or "flat," format, which was the format of the print viewed. In an November 8, 1953 Los Angeles Times interview, director Sidney stated, "My cameraman, Charlie Rosher, and I had to compose every shot three different ways at the same time," Sidney recalled. "What would be good for one width would not be good for another. It was tricky, but we got around it by building more tops on sets, more floor and more sets in forced perspective to enhance the depth."
According to contemporary news items, M-G-M test-marketed the 3-D version of Kiss Me Kate in October 1953 by previewing each version of the film in three cities and comparing the grosses. Three cities received the 3-D version, and three received the standard 2-D version with stereophonic sound. After the first week of this experiment, the 3-D version was doing approximately forty percent better than the flat version. On November 4, 1953, Hollywood Reporter's "Trade Views" column proclaimed, "This almost two-for-one business in favor of goggle-wearing ticket buyers indicates that 3-D is not dead, not dying, nor is it even sick." The following day, however, the "Trade Views" column reported that M-G-M had skewed the results of the marketing test by focusing additional, intensive publicity efforts on those venues showing the film in 3-D. The Saturday Review (of Literature) review commented, "The fact that the test is being made at all is enough indication that Hollywood has already soured on this particular process." Both versions were released, and exhibitors were allowed to choose which format they would present. The 3-D version was initially more popular, and a November 23, 1953 Daily Variety news item stated that ninety-five percent of the orders from foreign distributors were for 3-D. According to a October 21, 1953 news item in Variety, the management of New York's Radio City Music Hall wrestled with their decision, weighing issues of "practicality"-the narrower viewing angle for 3-D films meant that approximately 300 seats on the sides of the theater could not be used-and the "psychology" of public opinion. Radio City ultimately decided to show the 2-D version.
The 3-D version continued to lead in grosses, by a much smaller margin, but by January 1954 the public's infatuation with the new technology had begun to wane. Under the headline "3-D Casualties on Increase," an January 8, 1954 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that Kiss Me Kate had reverted to the standard 2-D version, adding that the Loew's State theater in downtown Los Angeles had pulled the 3-D version after one week and reversed its promotional strategy by running ads exhorting viewers to "see it without special glasses." Kiss Me Kate was M-G-M's last 3-D film.
In March 1977, the original 3-D version of Kiss Me Kate had a special engagement at the Tiffany Theatre in Los Angeles, marking the film's first 3-D showing in almost twenty-five years. The 3-D version of the film finally had its New York premiere in April 1980. According to a March 31, 1980 Hollywood Reporter news item, M-G-M supplied an original 35mm Technicolor 3-D print from its archives for the engagement.
Kiss Me Kate received an Academy Award nomination for Best Scoring of a Musical Picture and marked Kathryn Grayson's last project for M-G-M. A modern source credits Walter Lundin as special effects supervisor. A television version of Kiss Me Kate aired on NBC's Hallmark Hall of Fame on November 10, 1958, with Alfred Drake and Patricia Morrison, the stars of the original Broadway production. The musical was also broadcast as an ABC television special on March 25, 1968, featuring the then husband-and-wife team of Robert Goulet and Carol Lawrence. Other film versions of The Taming of the Shrew include American Mutoscope and Biograph Co.'s 1908 film, directed by D. W. Griffith and starring Florence Lawrence and Henry Solter.
Released in United States Fall October 1953
Re-released in United States July 7, 2000
2000 re-release is a new 35mm print restored in in color, stereo and 3-D imagery.
Re-released in United Kingdom January 19, 2001.
Re-released in United States July 7, 2000 (Film Forum; New York City)
Released in United States Fall October 1953