Kiss Me Kate (film)

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Kiss Me Kate
Theatrical release poster
Directed byGeorge Sidney
Written byDorothy Kingsley
Based onKiss Me, Kate
1948 musical
by Bella and Samuel Spewack
Produced byJack Cummings
StarringKathryn Grayson
Howard Keel
Ann Miller
CinematographyCharles Rosher
Edited byRalph E. Winters
Music byCole Porter (songs)
Saul Chaplin (score)
André Previn
Conrad Salinger (orchestrations)
Color processAnsco Color
Distributed byLoew's Inc.
Release date
  • October 15, 1953 (1953-10-15) (Previews[1])
  • November 5, 1953 (1953-11-05) (New York[2])
  • November 26, 1953 (1953-11-26) (US)
Running time
109 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$3,117,000[3][4]

Kiss Me Kate is a 1953 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film adaptation of the 1948 Broadway musical of the same name.

Inspired by William Shakespeare's play The Taming of the Shrew, it tells the tale of formerly married musical theater actors Fred Graham and Lilli Vanessi brought together to star opposite one-other in the roles of Petruchio and Katherine in a Broadway musical version of Shakespeare's play.

Already on poor terms, the pair skirmish from the start then break into an all-out emotional war mid-performance that threatens the production's success. The only thing keeping the show together are threats from a pair of gangsters who have come to collect a gambling debt.

Dorothy Kingsley's screenplay, which was nominated for a Writers Guild of America Award, was adapted from the musical's book by Bella and Samuel Spewack. The songs were by Cole Porter, with musical underscoring by Saul Chaplin and André Previn, who were nominated for an Oscar. Hermes Pan choreographed most of the dance routines.

The movie was filmed in 3-D, using the most advanced technology then available. Devotees of the stereoscopic 3-D medium usually cite this film as one of the best examples of a Hollywood release in polarized 3D.[5]


Formerly married Fred Graham and Lilli Vanessi meet at Fred's apartment to hear Cole Porter perform the score for his musical version of The Taming of the Shrew, to be directed by Fred and called "Kiss Me Kate". Cole Porter plays the song "So in Love" for both Fred and Lilli. Young performer and Fred’s current dalliance Lois Lane arrives to brashly audition for the "Bianca" role ("Too Darn Hot"). Aghast, Lilli decides against playing the lead character "Katherine", opposite Fred in the male lead "Petruchio", as she is leaving to marry a rich Texas rancher, Tex Calloway. She changes her mind when Cole and Fred manipulate her by offering Lois the lead role.

Lois's irresponsible but talented boyfriend, Bill Calhoun, is playing "Lucentio" in the play. A feckless gambler, he runs up an unpayable $2,000 debt to a local gangster at the end of rehearsals, but signs Fred's name to the IOU. Lois laments his bad-boy lifestyle ("Why Can't You Behave?").

After a fiery confrontation during rehearsals, Fred and Lilli get together in her dressing room. They initially bicker, but are soon reminiscing about happier times, ending up singing a schmaltzy song ("Wunderbar") from the first show they starred in together. At the end of the song, they kiss passionately, which sets the rest of the show's events in motion. Lilli realizes she still has feelings for Fred. For Fred, however, it is just for old times' sake. He is now smitten with Lois, unaware she is both involved with Bill and manipulating him to advance the young couple’s careers. Fred sends Lois flowers and a card, mistakenly delivered by his butler to Lilli. She is overcome by this romantic gesture, and does not notice the card ("So In Love (Reprise)").

The play opens with Fred, Lilli, Lois, and Bill performing "We Open In Venice" as a group of travelling performers. In the play, Bianca, the younger daughter of Baptista, has three suitors – Gremio, Hortensio and Lucentio – and each of them tries to win her over. She is prepared to marry anyone ("...any Tom, Dick or Harry..."), but her father will not allow it until his elder daughter, Katherine, is wed. Katherine is a man-hater who has no desire to marry.

Petruchio arrives, seeking a wealthy wife ("I've Come To Wive It Wealthily In Padua"), and when he hears of Katherine, he resolves to woo her. She despises the idea of getting married, ("I Hate Men"). When Petruchio serenades her ("Were Thine That Special Face?"), Lilli is so moved by Fred's heartfelt delivery that she finally reads the card from the flowers that she had kept tucked next to her heart. Discovering the same romantic ploys Fred used to woo her written to Lois, she physically attacks Fred/Petruchio mercilessly on stage, ad-libbing verbal abuse on top of the script’s. As the curtain comes down Fred has had enough, and spanks Lilli/Kate heavily, to the audience’s delight and the cast’s astonishment. Backstage, too sore to sit, Lilli phones her fiancé Tex in a fury and demands he immediately retrieve her in an ambulance.

Lippy and Slug, a pair of strongarms, arrive in Fred’s dressing room to collect Bill’s IOU. Fred decides to accept the debt in return for the two keeping Lilli from leaving the show, selling them the ploy that it must run at least a week to be successful enough for him to pay the sum in full. When Lois, clueless to Fred’s stratagems, learns that he has taken responsibility for Bill’s IOU, she comes to thank him for not being angry about Bill forging his name. Each time she goes to do so Fred smothers her in a kiss to prevent Lippy and Slug from catching on. Lilli and Bill walk in on Fred and Lois in full embrace and both become furious.

In order to keep Lilli from leaving, Slug and Lippy disguise themselves as Petruchio's servants and insert themselves into the play. They have no acting ability, but amuse the audience with their theatrical incompetence. Petruchio sets about "taming the shrew", then in a reflective moment drifts into warm reminiscences of his philandering days ("Where Is The Life That Late I Led?").

When Tex arrives to rescue Lilli during the play's intermission he is recognized by Lois, with whom he once had a one-night stand. When Bill is angered by Lois' chasing of Tex she admits that though she loves Bill, she simply cannot resist the advances of other men ("Always True To You In My Fashion").

In a Deus ex machina, the gambling debt is cancelled mid-performance by the untimely death of Slug and Lippy's boss. They stop interfering with Lilli's departure. Fred earnestly tells her that she truly belongs in the theatre, and concedes their breakup was due to his failings, not hers. She departs anyway, with some remorse, leaving a dejected Fred to be cheered up by Slug and Lippy ("Brush Up Your Shakespeare"). The final act of the stage musical begins with Bianca marrying Lucentio. They dance together, along with Gremio, Hortensio, and the bridesmaids ("From This Moment On"). At the finale, the show is temporarily halted when Jeanie, Lilli's understudy remains AWOL. Suddenly, Lilli reappears on stage, delivering Kate's speech about how women should surrender to their husbands ("I'm Ashamed That Women Are So Simple"). Fred is bowled over, and the play reaches its triumphant climax with Katherine tamed by Petruchio ("Kiss Me Kate") and Fred carrying a reconciled Lilly away in his arms, both still in costume.


Lilli's understudy, Jeanie, is mentioned several times, but never appears.

  • In the stage musical, Lilli's fiancé is a domineering up-and-coming politician named General Harrison Howle, and "From This Moment On", is a duet between him and Lilli backstage. This character is removed from the film and replaced by Tex Calloway in the film. The song was originally a throwaway number from the Broadway show, "Out of this world." The song was not originally in the Broadway version of Kiss Me Kate.


Musical numbers[edit]

  1. "So in Love" - Lilli and Fred
  2. "Too Darn Hot" - Lois
  3. "Why Can't You Behave" - Lois
  4. "Kiss Me, Kate" - MGM Studio and Orchestra Chorus
  5. "Wunderbar" - Lilli and Fred
  6. "So in Love (Reprise)" - Lilli
  7. "We Open in Venice" - Lilli, Fred, Lois, Bill
  8. "Tom, Dick or Harry" - Lois, Gremio, Bill, Hortensio
  9. "I've Come to Wive it Wealthily in Padua" - Fred
  10. "I Hate Men" - Lilli
  11. "Were Thine That Special Face" - Fred
  12. "Finale Act One (Kiss Me, Kate)" - Chorus
  13. "Where Is the Life That Late I Led" - Fred
  14. "Always True to You in My Fashion" - Lois and Bill
  15. "Brush Up Your Shakespeare" - Slug and Lippy
  16. "From This Moment On" - Lois, Bill, Hortensio, Gremio
  17. "Finale" - Fred and Chorus

The song "Another Opening, Another Show" survives in the film only as an instrumental. The chorus melody is heard several times. Cole Porter opposed its being cut, so the melody was inserted into "Why Can't You Behave?", as a dance number, and is also used as incidental music in several places.


Kiss Me Kate - the title of the play has a comma after "Me", the film does not - was previewed on October 15, 1953 in four locations, two in 3-D with stereophonic sound (in Columbus, Ohio, and at the Victory Theatre in Evansville, Indiana) and two in 2-D (Loew's theatres in Rochester, New York and Houston). Additional previews took place later in October in Dayton, Ohio (2-D), and at the Majestic Theatre in Dallas (3-D).[1][2] Grosses from the 3-D version were 40% higher.[2]

Although Kiss Me Kate is often referred to as the first 3-D musical, Those Redheads From Seattle, also a 3-D musical, was released by Paramount Pictures on October 16.[6][7][8][9]


The movie had a mostly positive reception. Bosley Crowther of The New York Times called Kiss Me Kate "one of the year's more magnificent musical films ... a beautifully staged, adroitly acted and really superbly sung affair—better, indeed, if one may say so, than the same frolic was on the stage."[10] Variety opened its positive review by stating: "Metro's reputation for turning out top calibre musical pictures is further enhanced with Kiss Me Kate. It's Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew done over in eminently satisfying fashion via a collaboration of superior song, dance and comedy talents."[11] Harrison's Reports called it "a lively and highly entertaining blend of comedy, music, dancing and romance."[12] John McCarten of The New Yorker was more dismissive, writing that it "does have some engaging tunes, but the book of the original has been so thoroughly laundered that little of the comedy, which ran to fairly bawdy stuff, remains, and Kathryn Grayson and Howard Keel, as a bickering theatrical pair compelled to play opposite each other in Shakespeare, are lacking in vital juices."[13] Richard L. Coe of The Washington Post disliked the changes made to the stage version such as the reduction of "Another Op'nin" and "I'm Ashamed That Women Are So Simple," calling the film "a grand musical with lots of pleasures to recommend it. But if you're familiar with what they had to work with, you'll not be enthusiastic, a form of criticism with which not all agree, but in this case I don't see how it's to be avoided."[14] The Monthly Film Bulletin wrote, "The execution generally—sets, costumes, dance numbers, the Cole Porter songs—is pleasing, but the direction lacks flair and the film seems somewhat over-long."[15]


According to MGM records the film earned $2,011,000 in the US and Canada and $1,106,000 elsewhere, for a worldwide gross revenue of $3,117,000. Gross profit was $1,136,000,[16] but high production costs led to a net loss of $544,000.[3]


  1. ^ a b "Comparative Showings". Variety. September 23, 1953. p. 23. Retrieved October 7, 2019 – via
  2. ^ a b c "Kiss Me Kate - Details". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved June 22, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  4. ^ "The Top Box-Office Hits of 1954", Variety Weekly, January 5, 1955, correcting "The Top Box Office Hits of 1953", Variety, January 13, 1954.
  5. ^ "Young Fosse, Vintage 'Kate'". July 7, 2000. Retrieved July 5, 2012.
  6. ^ Crowther, Bosley (November 6, 1953). "Movie Review - Kiss Me Kate - THE SCREEN IN REVIEW; ' Kiss Me Kate,' an Inviting Film Adaptation of Stage Hit, Has Debut at the Music Hall -". Retrieved July 5, 2012.
  7. ^ George Perry Updated 17 January 2001 (2001-01-17). "Films - review - Kiss Me Kate". BBC. Retrieved July 5, 2012.
  8. ^ "Variety Reviews - Kiss Me Kate - Film Reviews - - Review by Variety Staff". Variety. December 31, 1952. Retrieved July 5, 2012.
  9. ^ "Kiss Me Kate : DVD Talk Review of the DVD Video". Retrieved July 5, 2012.
  10. ^ Crowther, Bosley (November 6, 1953). "The Screen In Review". The New York Times: 23.
  11. ^ "Kiss Me Kate". Variety: 6. October 28, 1953.
  12. ^ "'Kiss Me Kate' with Kathryn Grayson, Howard Keel and Ann Miller". Harrison's Reports: 174. October 31, 1953.
  13. ^ McCarten, John (November 14, 1953). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker: 136.
  14. ^ Coe, Richard L. (November 27, 1953). "'Kiss Me, Kate' Is 3-D'ed at Capitol". The Washington Post: 22.
  15. ^ "Kiss Me Kate". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 21 (242): 40–41. March 1954.
  16. ^ Sheldon Hall, Epics, Spectacles, and Blockbusters: A Hollywood History Wayne State University Press, 2010 p 147

Further reading[edit]

  • Monder, Eric (1994). George Sidney:a Bio-Bibliography. Greenwood Press. ISBN 9780313284571.

External links[edit]