Kiss Me Kate (1953)

109 mins | Musical comedy | 26 November 1953

Director:

George Sidney

Producer:

Jack Cummings

Cinematographer:

Charles Rosher

Production Designers:

Cedric Gibbons, Urie McCleary

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
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HISTORY

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 9 Dec 1951 NYT 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 Oct 1952 and Mar 1953 items in HR's "Rambling Reporter" column, Red Skelton was set for a leading comic role. A 6 Mar 1953 HR 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 Jun 1953 news item in HR 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 13 Apr 1953 HR news item added Reginald Owen to the cast, but he was not in the film. HR news items also included 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 ... More Less

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 9 Dec 1951 NYT 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 Oct 1952 and Mar 1953 items in HR's "Rambling Reporter" column, Red Skelton was set for a leading comic role. A 6 Mar 1953 HR 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 Jun 1953 news item in HR 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 13 Apr 1953 HR news item added Reginald Owen to the cast, but he was not in the film. HR news items also included 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 29 Oct 1953 item in HR 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 (see above), 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 8 Nov 1953 LAT interview, director George Sidney stated, "My cameraman, Charlie Rosher, and I had to compose every shot three different ways at the same time...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 Oct 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 4 Nov 1953, HR'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 SatRev 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 23 Nov 1953 DV news item stated that ninety-five percent of the orders from foreign distributors were for 3-D. According to a 21 Oct 1953 news item in Var, 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 Jan 1954 the public's infatuation with the new technology had begun to wane. Under the headline "3-D Casualties on Increase," an 8 Jan 1954 HR 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 Mar 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 Apr 1980. According to a 31 Mar 1980 HR 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 10 Nov 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 25 Mar 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. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
31 Oct 1953
p. 30.
Box Office
27 Nov 1953.
---
Daily Variety
27 Oct 1953
p. 3.
Daily Variety
23 Nov 1953.
---
Film Daily
27 Oct 1953
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Oct 1952
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Mar 1953
p. 17.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Apr 1953
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Apr 1953
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
8 May 1953
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Jun 1953
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Jun 1953
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Jun 1953
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jun 1953
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Jul 1953
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Sep 1953
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Oct 1953
p. 1, 3.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Oct 1953
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Nov 1953
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Nov 1953
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Nov 1953
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Dec 1953
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Dec 1953
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Jan 1954
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Mar 1980.
---
Los Angeles Times
8 Nov 1953.
---
Los Angeles Times
24 Mar 1977.
---
Motion Picture Daily
27 Oct 1953.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
31 Oct 1953
p. 2045.
New York Times
9 Dec 1951.
---
New York Times
6 Nov 1953
p. 23.
Saturday Review
14 Nov 1953.
---
Variety
9 Sep 1953.
---
Variety
21 Oct 1953.
---
Variety
28 Oct 1953
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost des
MUSIC
Mus dir
Mus dir
Vocal supv
SOUND
Rec supv
DANCE
Choreog
MAKEUP
Hair styles
Makeup created by
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit mgr
Dial coach
STAND INS
Singing voice double for Tommy Rall in "Always Tru
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col consultant
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the musical Kiss Me Kate , book by Samuel and Bella Spewack, music and lyrics by Cole Porter, as produced by Lemuel Ayers and Arnold Saint Subber (New York, 30 Dec 1948).
SONGS
"Too Darn Hot," "So in Love," "We Open in Venice," "Why Can't You Behave," "Were Thine That Special Face," "I Hate Men," "Tom, Dick or Harry," "Wunderbar," "I've Come to Wive It Wealthily in Padua," "Always True to You in My Fashion," "From This Moment On," "Brush up Your Shakespeare," "Where Is the Life That Late I Led?" and "Kiss Me Kate," music and lyrics by Cole Porter.
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Release Date:
26 November 1953
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 5 November 1953
Production Date:
early May--4 July 1953
Copyright Claimant:
Loew's Inc.
Copyright Date:
26 October 1953
Copyright Number:
LP3860
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Color
Ansco Color
Widescreen/ratio
3-D
Lenses/Prints
print by Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
109
Length(in feet):
9,846
Length(in reels):
13
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
16600
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

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, ... +


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. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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