“You’d make a perfect shrew!”
A divorced actor (Howard Keel) tries to convince his ex-wife (Kathryn Grayson), who is about to marry a cattle baron (Willard Parker), that she should co-star with him and his girlfriend (Ann Miller) in an upcoming musical production of Taming of the Shrew, with songs by Cole Porter (Ron Randell). Meanwhile, Miller’s lover (Tommy Rall) signs Keel’s name on an IOU to a mobster, leading two thugs (James Whitmore and Keenan Wynn) to come after Keel.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Actors and Actresses
- Ann Miller Films
- George Sidney Films
- Howard Keel Films
- James Whitmore Films
- Kathryn Grayson Films
- Keenan Wynn
- Let’s Put On a Show!
- Play Adaptation
- Strong Females
George Sidney’s vibrant adaptation of Cole Porter’s 1948 Broadway musical remains a delightfully zingy back-stage drama, filled with colorful characters, stunning choreography by Hermes Pan (as well as a song by and with Bob Fosse), fun tunes, and a remarkable ability to make us forget the misogynistic valences of its source material. Most noteworthy of all is Ann Miller, whose dance numbers are uniformly dazzling — starting with “Too Darn Hot” and continuing through “Why Can’t You Behave?” with Rall (if not the keenest of actors, he’s a highly effective dance partner), “Tom, Dick or Harry”, “Always True to You In My Fashion”, and “From This Moment On”. Keel has great fun playing both Fred and ‘Petruchio’, while Grayson is appropriately fiery — though, to her credit, not unlikable — as Lilli and ‘Kate’, and Wynn and Whitmore balance a fine line between brutish and comedic. Meanwhile, the vibrant Technicolor cinematography, sets, and costumes nicely bring both the primary storyline and the “play within a movie” to life.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Howard Keel as Fred/Petruchio
- Kathryn Grayson as Lilli/Kate
- Ann Miller’s marvelous dancing
- Vibrant cinematography, sets, and costumes
- Fine choreography
- Cole Porter’s score
Yes, as a most enjoyable musical.
One thought on “Kiss Me Kate (1953)”
A once-must, for Porter’s score and for several musical performances by various cast members.
Outside of Porter’s considerable contribution to the only show of his to run over 1,000 performances on Broadway, I’m not all that enamored of ‘KMK’. For me, a major problem is the unfunny Dorothy Kingsley script (which is equally as tepid as the stage book by Bella and Samuel Spewack). It’s as if the writers of both versions were either unaware of the material’s potential for comic savagery or they simply couldn’t deliver. In both cases, there’s an unfortunate lack of wit.
Still, the score – and the way many of the songs are delivered – hides a multitude of sins. With the notable exception of ‘Another Opening, Another Show’ (except as an instrumental), the Broadway score is more or less intact.
Highlights: ‘So In Love’ (which I’ve seen done more effectively by k.d. lang); Miller’s eye-popping ‘Too Darn Hot’ (wow!); ‘Tom, Dick or Harry’; ‘I’ve Come to Wive it Wealthily in Padua’; ‘I Hate Men’ (“… He may have hair upon his chest but, sister, so has Lassie!”); ‘Where is the Life That Late I Led’; ‘Always True to You in My Fashion’; ‘Brush Up Your Shakespeare’ (Whitmore and Wynn are delightful); ‘From This Moment On’ (the only choreography contribution by Bob Fosse).