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KISS ME KATE is quite easily one of the two most famous musical
'adaptations' of Shakespeare for the stage and screen (the other being
SIDE STORY). Focusing on a theatre company putting up a musical version of
'The Taming of The Shrew', the film traces the main relationship between
director/leading man Fred Graham (Howard Keel) and his ex-wife/leading
Lilli Vanessi (Kathryn Grayson) as they respectively portray the
Shakespearean roles of Petruchio and Katherine (the Shrew to be tamed, of
course!). Throw in a deliciously naughty second lead actress Lois Lane
Miller) and her gambling-addict beau Bill Calhoun (Tommy Rall), as well as
couple of gangsters (played brilliantly by Keenan Wynn and James Whitmore)
mistakenly chasing after Fred 'sweetie' for Bill's latest debt, and
night proves to be quite a big event, both onstage and off. Can the
Fred and Lilli, still in love with each other despite Fred's ego and
fiance, get their act together before the curtain goes down on the play?
I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this film... yes, even having already seen the London stage version of the musical earlier this year. There are, of course, personal reasons that bias me towards the film and to perhaps set out watching it with every intention of liking it (which surely helps!). First of all, I have no qualms in admitting I'm probably the biggest Ann Miller fan there is, and there's no doubting also that KISS ME KATE is possibly the best showcase of her talents and beauty there is. Secondly, I've been listening to the film soundtrack on constant repeat for months now, influenced by an interest kindled by the musical and discovering Miller. It helps that I can sing along to most of the songs and know the lyrics--no struggling to figure out what Grayson is singing in her operatic voice, and no attempting to acclimatise to new tunes. I already know the Cole Porter music, from lyrics to tune to score, and love it. So yes, perhaps I *was* predisposed to loving this film--how could I *not*, particularly with Miller dancing and singing my favourite songs in the film?
Still, I firmly believe that there's a lot more to recommend KISS ME KATE than the ravings of a fangirl. Cole Porter really outdoes himself here with a toe-tappingly catchy score: even songs like 'I've Come To Wive It Wealthily In Padua' and 'We Open In Venice' have the same sparkling lyrics, the same ability to catch the ear as the better-known 'Wunderbar' and 'From This Moment On'. Then there's the jazz-influenced 'Too Darn Hot' and the sweet ballad 'Why Can't You Behave?'. I honestly believe that Porter's score for KISS ME KATE is better than the one he wrote for HIGH SOCIETY, because he makes fine use of reprisals and bridges. Take for example Rall singing a short reprisal of Miller's 'Why Can't You Behave?' back to her before she replies with a wonderful segue into 'Always True To You In My Fashion'--the reprisal marks the couple and the relationship and works wonderfully well.
Of course, it helps also that the cast for KISS ME KATE is really most impressive. Keel, with his big big voice and untrained natural talent, fills the screen (and his tights!) with his masculine presence. He struts, swaggers, and yet shows his vulnerable side believably enough to make us *like* his character, ego or no ego. Grayson, so much weaker against Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra in ANCHORS AWEIGH a decade earlier, really comes into her own here--she's excellent as Lilli, swooning at the right moments, strident during the rest, and actually bites out 'I Hate Men' with conviction... you certainly wouldn't imagine it possible of the actress who gave us the rather simpering Aunt Susie in the aforementioned Kelly/Sinatra film! I'm also partial to Tommy Rall, whose soaring athletic ability just crackles off the screen. It's such a thrill to see Miller get matched with someone who can dance circles around most everyone else alongside her. They make the cutest couple in their two numbers together, with the energetic, exuberant dance to 'Why Can't You Behave?' definitely making one of my favourite film dance routines of all time.
This film is, of course, Miller's shining moment--a shame, considering she's still only second lead and yet really steals the film with her dancing and singing. I can understand why other reviewers don't like that the song 'Too Darn Hot' became a solo for her, but what works on the stage, quite frankly, won't have made it in the film. (Even in the musical I thought the song a rather inauspicious and irrelevant start to the second act.) Miller's 'Too Darn Hot' fandance tap is precisely what the title suggests, and the charm she always radiates in all her small roles sizzles through her sexy fringed costume and black lace fan as she dances all over the furniture. One of my favourite songs is also the *unbelievably* catchy 'Tom, Dick & Harry', and the version in the film is great fun.
The directing by George Sidney is solid, making the best of the choreography. Any apparently odd choices would have to be explained by the fact that the film was originally filmed in 3-D--imagine Miller's gloves and necklace flying into your lap, or the objects on the tavern table crashing off the screen when Grayson sweeps them off (while despising men, of course!). I really wish I could have the chance to see this film the way it was meant to be seen, in 3-D. Unfortunately, there's no way to get that effect on VHS and probably not DVD either.
Even so, KISS ME KATE is bright, splashy, flashy and colourful. It's breathtakingly happy eye-candy and drags only at a few moments when non-Shakespearean dialogue gets in the way. Considering the cleverness of its concept (it's a film about the staging of a musical version of the Shakespearean play), the film has little to no artistic pretension--in this way, it's a quintessential MGM musical... set, geared, intended to *entertain*. And entertain it does. With the vocal talents of Keel and Grayson, the incredible tapping of Miller and the soaring of Rall, all accompanied by an irresistible Porter score, let's hope this one makes it to DVD; it's definitely a keeper!
Kiss Me, Kate was first released at the time that the movie screens were
exploading into large formats to get people away from their T.V. sets and
back into the theaters, and 3-D films came out of hiding and the only
musical film to be shot in the 3-D format was Kiss Me, Kate, and
stereophonic sound, to me, was better in those days than it is today, but
the film gave everyone in it the chance to do their finest work, but it's
shame that they will not release a 3-D Version of this film on Home Video.
The distributors would make a fortune!
Everyone knows the plot of Kiss Me, Kate, so there's no sense in going into that. Kathryn Grayson, Hollywood's finest singer of all time replaced Patricia Morrison who played Lilli on Broadway, and Howard Keel replaced Alfred Drake who played Fred Graham on Broadway, and Ann Miller replaced Lisa Kirk who played Lois on Broadway, and it's not too well known but Lisa Kirk dubbed Everything's Coming Up Roses for Rosalind Russell in the movie version of Gypsy!
Tommy Rall who replaced Harold Lang in the Broadway version, to me, was never given a fair chance in Hollywood. An excellent singer and versatile dancer, but still he shines in his work in Kiss Me, Kate and for his work in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers as the brother Frank who got upset when he was called by his real name.
This movie is a good example as to why Broadway stars are not necessarily good for repeating their Broadway roles on the screen. The cast in this movie is excellent in their acting, singing and dancing and I can not picture the Broadway cast repeating their roles in the movie version. To me, it just wouldn't work!
Casting Ann Miller in the role of Lois Lane was a good break for Ann Miller since she was always given roles in past movies that showed her off as a gal who had an overly-obnoxious appetite for the opposite sex. This film gave her a chance to display her full range of talent which had in the past been overlooked, but what can a person say about her number Too Darn Hot that burned up the screen and made Lilli [Kathryn Grayson] furious with her co-star Fred-er-rick Gray-ham [Howard Keel] to the point that she called him a louse of stage in front of the cast in the play! She couldn't call him what Patricia Morrison called Alfred Drake in the Broadway play because in those days the Hayes Office wouldn't allow Kathryn Grayson to call Howard Keel a ba****d!
Keenyn Wynn and James Whitmore played the comical gangsters that were to collect a marker from Howard Keel which was really signed by Tommy Rall and when they do their number Brush Up Your Shakespeare, it's hilarious. Not because Wynn can't sing and dance, he can, but because James Whitmore gave it all he could, but faked the number beautifully, and Whitmore had the good sense never to perform in a musical ever again, but together they were excellent in their comedic performance as the gangsters in the film.
So, you guys who distribute this movie - give us guys and gals a break and release this in the original wide-screen 3-D version with stereophonic sound and let everyone see why:
KISS ME KATE - IS "STILL" GREAT!
This is my favorite musical, not for the dancing alone, but it is the best. The dancers, not just Ann Miller and Rall, but Bob Fosse, Bobby Van, and Carol Haney!! What more could any dance fan want? There is always something new to see, no matter how many times you have watched it. The lyrics are magnificent, tricky and intriguing. When Howard Keel, dressed in those gorgeous tights, sings about all the women he has known, he's a knockout. Grayson is not my favorite actress, but she can sing, and she and Keel make a wonderful pair. I will admit that the music is great, but folks, catch the dancing!! The final dance number with the six dancers is superb, but how can you watch all six at once? You have to watch it several times, particularly the pair of Carol Haney and Bob Fosse.
Though some would now argue for A Chorus Line, I believe that Kiss Me
Kate is the greatest of backstage musical stories. That's because when
Cole Porter took a collaborator, he took the best, the Poet that keeps
'em ravin', the Bard of Stratford-on-Avon.
When Porter was approached to collaborate with Samuel and Bella Spewack about doing a show based on Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew, he had hit a dry spell creatively. He had not had a decent Broadway hit in several years and according to the George Eells biography of him, was pretty tense throughout the gestation period. He also did not have the best of relations with the Spewacks. It was all forgotten when Kiss Me Kate had the biggest Broadway run of any of his show, 1077 performances and probably yielded more hit songs for him than any other production. It missed getting the Tony Award for Best Musical by another show that opened that season, South Pacific.
Most of that score remained intact for the MGM musical. One additional one from Porter's succeeding Broadway musical, Out of this World was added as a number for Tommy Rall, Bob Fosse, and Bobby Van, From This Moment On. Howard Keel and Kathryn Grayson as the leads sing the classic Porter hits, So In Love and Wunderbar with gusto and feeling.
Kiss Me Kate is one of the most difficult of musicals to act because you have to be good enough to act two roles simultaneously. The players have to be able to keep their backstage personas as they are speaking the lines from The Taming of the Shrew and have to do that convincingly also. Which is why I consider Kiss Me Kate one of the greatest of the Arthur Freed musicals.
The backstage story is nothing new. Howard Keel and Kathryn Grayson were once married to each other and are still So In Love, but she doesn't realize it. Keel has cast her in this musical adaption he's also directing of The Taming of the Shrew. Their story is worked rather nicely into the opening night of the production. Also the story of flirtatious Ann Miller and Tommy Rall who's incurred a gambling debt to some gangsters also gets worked into opening night. Rall signs Keel's name to an IOU and Keel who thinks fast on his feet uses that bit of deception to his own advantage.
Which brings me to those two lovable torpedoes, Keenan Wynn and James Whitmore, who get into the play and later get to sing one of Cole Porter's best satirical numbers and a personal favorite of mine, Brush Up Your Shakespeare. It's their own ode to their theatrical experience and also advice to the lovelorn that if you want to win the mate of your choice, learn the classics so you can wow them with rhetoric. Wynn and Whitmore are priceless. I also remember years ago Orson Welles was the guest star on a Dean Martin show and Welles and Dino did a pretty hilarious version of this song.
Of course it being a Cole Porter show, the more risqué lines of the lyrics are censored somewhat. Check both the original Broadway cast album and the album MGM did from the film and see what I mean.
I do so love this show and this film. It was originally done in 3-D and ought to be seen that way in a theater if possible.
Total delight from start to finish, this witty, musical version of The
Taming of the Shrew. This show within a show is bright and splashy and
boasts terrific performances, songs, dancing, and costumes. Howard Keel
plays the egotistic Fred Graham who us mounting this new musical with
ex-wife Lilli Vanessi (Kathryn Grayson) as his leading lady. The
battling couple mirrors the battling couple in the play. All very
As good as Grayson and Keel as however, Ann Miller totally steals the show as Lois Lane, the brassy chorus girl Fred has given a part (the younger sister) in the play. Mills is fantastic as she sings and dances her way through some great numbers: It's Too Darn Hot, From This Moment On, Always True to You, and Tom, Dick or Harry. Her opening number of Too Darn Hot is astounding as she swirls and taps around Cole POrter's living room and across his table tops. The skin tight tassled red outfit is probably the sexiest outfit Miller ever wore and she looks great. She was always denied the starring roles in MGM musicals which is a shame. MGM preferred the more demure types like Grayson or Judy Garland, Jane Powell, Debbie Reynolds for starring roles and Miller always got stuck playing the flashy friend or other woman.
Also good in this great musical are Keenan Wynn and James Whitmore as the thugs who get to sing Brush Up Your Shakespeare. Bob Fosse, Bobby Van, and Tommy Rall are the three dancers. Carol Haney and Jeanne Coyne show up for the From This Moment On number with Miller and the Boys. Ann Codee is the maid, Claude Allister is the butler, Willard Parker is Tex, Dave O'Brien is the stage manager, Kurt Kaznar is the stage father, and Ron Randell plays Cole Porter.
Originally done in 3-D, Kiss Me Kate is shock full of great songs and some of the best lyrics ever heard. For those of us growing up in the 50s, most of the songs from this musical are familiar hits, including Wunderbar, From This Moment On, Always True to You, and So In Love.
Kiss Me Kate is a textbook musical that works on all levels. Keel and Grayson were never better, Miller is outstanding, Whitmore and Wynn are fun, and Tommy Rall gets a couple of dance numbers (My Can't You Behave) that prove him to be one of the best dancers of his generation. The short dance solo with Fosse and Haney also presages much of Fosse's later groundbreaking choreography.
Not a false step in this film, which ranks as one of the great musicals.
Great adaptation of the Broadway musical with a wonderful Cole Porter score. Yes the plot is just an excuse (though not a flimsy one) to put the numbers together, but so what? Kathryn Grayson and Howard Keel are very good as battling exes who are destined to be together, in the best tradition of Scarlett and Rhett, with a dash of His Girl Friday thrown in. Plus, it's all acted out amidst Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew, which provides for some great comic moments. Keenan Wynn and James Whitmore as the two gangsters are hilarious in the classic "Brush Up Your Shakespeare." Bob Fosse, who plays Bianca's blond suitor in the "Shrew" play-within-a-play, electrifies the screen with Carol Haney in their short but spectacular dance during the "From This Moment On" number. But it is Ann Miller who steals the show with her tradmark perkiness, charm and dynamite dancing skills, demonstrated memorably in another classic, "Too Darn Hot," and her numbers with Tommy Rall. Definitly recommended if you want a laugh, a tune to hum and a great show to see.
The movie is not the same as the stage production but it stands on its own as one of the best MGM musicals of the era. Howard Keel and Katherine Grayson were never better in any other of their films; Ann Miller is her usual energetic and delightful self, plus you get to see some superb dancers who made very few films at all, and they are all at the top of their form: Tommy Rall, Jeannie Coyne, Bob Fosse, Carol Haney and Bobby Van. The big closing number, From This Moment On, is a showcase for those five dancers plus Miller...look out for Fosse and Haney's amazing hipster/be-bop flavored segment! That song was added to the movie from another Porter show and it is the highlight of this great movie!
What great stars! Keel and Grayson are excellent in this, with the lovely song So In Love, among many others. Tommy Rall is underused. He was in the same amount of numbers as the marvelous Ann Miller, but got minimum screen time, with the exception of Why Can't You Behave. Ann Miller was nothing short of awesome, with four numbers and ample attention in all of them. Too Darn Hot, Tom Dick or Harry, Why Can't You Behave, Always True To You In My Fashion, and From This Moment On (to a lesser degree) belong to her. A perfect movie for her fans. I urge you, run, don't walk to the nearest video store and pray that they have KISS ME KATE!
This movie is quite the best musical of the 50's, with more plot and excellent sideplay and bits. Of these bits, my favorites are Howard Keel's rendition of "Where Is the Life that Late I Led", and Keenan Wynn and James Whitmore's clever presentation of "Brush Up Your Shakespeare". Either one could stand alone, but when added to the dancing of Ann Miller, Bob Fosse, Bobby Van and Carol Chaney, you have a real winner. Very clever and upbeat. Kathryn Grayson was never a favorite of mine, but she is acceptable as Lily, and her number "I Hate Men" is a real winner. You know, this movie has so many excellent songs that it is very hard to pick just a few. "Always True to You, Darling, in my Fashion", "Tom, Dick and Harry"--Cole Porter was at the top of his form for this movie.
Seriously, Kiss Me Kate is a truly splendid movie. My only complaint is
that there are one or two slow scenes in the middle half. People might
say it just lacks the energy and pizazz of a musical like Singin' In
the Rain, maybe so. Singin' In the Rain is one of those wonderful,
energetic and irresistible films. But Kiss Me Kate sparkles in a truly
delightful and somewhat unique way, not only in the production values
but in its performances, music and choreography.
The film looks absolutely fabulous. The cinematography is fluid, the sets colourful and the costumes lavish. Director George Sidney is right at home here, and makes splendid use of his stars by using cleverly disguised long takes. The music and songs by Cole Porter is outstanding, from a musical AND choreographic point of view Too Darn Hot and Brush Up Your Shakespeare have always stood out for me. The plot reads of a musical version of Taming of the Shrew, and is very effective.
The choreography is energetic and never pedestrian. And the performances are wonderful. I can never get enough of Howard Keel, he just has a charming screen persona and a beautiful singing voice. Here, as Fred he has rarely been better. As Lisa, Kathryn Grayson looks stunning and acts "difficult" perfectly. Comic gangsters James Whitmore and Keenan Wynn are also great in the saucy waltz Brush Up Your Shakespeare, but with Too Darn Hot it is Ann Miller who steals the show. All in all, splendid. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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