KISS ME KATE, zesty MGM musical fun from 1953, took Shakespeare’s comedy “The Merchant Of Venice”, added a show-biz backstory, music from a legendary composer and showcased popular studio talents in the lead roles. The 1948 play had become Cole Porter’s most successful musical, clocking over 1,077 Broadway performances. Revivals are continuous. The $1,981,000 movie, directed by George Sidney, was scripted by Dorothy Kingsley, who keyed off the play’s book done by Sam & Bella Spewack. They mimicked the on & off-stage tiffs between husband & wife stars Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne when they did The Taming Of The Shrew in 1935. Porter contributed 14 numbers, including “From This Moment On” and “Wunderbar”.
Divorced theatrical couple ‘Fred Graham’ (Howard Keel, 33) and ‘Lili Vanessi’ (Kathryn Grayson, 31) are brought together to star as dueling opposites in a revival of “The Taming Of The Shrew”. On tap (literally) are leggy ‘Lois Lane’ (Ann Miller and gams, 30), three elastic hoofers (Tommy Rall, Bobby Van and Bob Fosse) and genial hoods ‘Lippy’ and ‘Slug’ (Keenan Wynn and James Whitmore). The shrew must go on, but can the spatting stars ruptured romance rekindle?
Flashy color (those with 3-D capability will get more literal kicks out of it), clever tunes, ebullient Keel enjoying himself as the hammy hero, Grayson, per the character, saucier and sexier than her norm, Wynn and Whitmore clowning with elan, Miller vivaciously spinning her heart out. Smiles all round.
109 minutes worth, drawing an Oscar nomination for its Scoring of Porter’s music (Andre Previn & Saul Chaplin), with a gross (per Cogerson’s tabulation) of $6,100,000, 44th in ’53. Hermes Pan did the choreography, though Fosse, 27, whipped up the lithe 66 seconds he shared with Carole Haney: the number put him on the map. Featuring Kurt Kasznar, Ron Randell (blah as Porter), Willard Parker and Jeanne Coyne.
* Miller: “I have worked like a dog all my life, honey. Dancing, as Fred Astaire said, is next to ditch-digging. You sweat and you slave and the audience doesn’t think you have a brain in your head.”