Kiss Me Kate (film)

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Kiss Me, Kate
Theatrical release poster
Directed by George Sidney
Produced by Jack Cummings
Written by Dorothy Kingsley
Starring Kathryn Grayson
Howard Keel
Ann Miller
Music by Cole Porter (songs)
Saul Chaplin (score)
André Previn
Conrad Salinger
Cinematography Charles Rosher
Edited by Ralph E. Winters
Release date
November 26, 1953 (1953-11-26)
Running time
109 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $1,981,000[1]
Box office $3,117,000[1][2]

Kiss Me Kate is a 1953 MGM film adaptation of the Broadway musical of the same name.

Inspired by The Taming of the Shrew, it tells the tale of musical theater actors, Fred Graham and Lilli Vanessi, who were once married and are now performing opposite each other in the roles of Petruchio and Katherine in a Broadway-bound musical version of William Shakespeare's play.

Already on poor terms, the pair begin 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 from the show's Lucentio, Bill Calhoun. In classic musical comedy fashion, slapstick madness ensues before everything is resolved.

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

The movie was filmed in 3-D using the most advanced methods of that technique 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.[3]


Fred Graham and Lilli Vanessi, a divorced couple, meet at Fred's apartment to hear the score for the Cole Porter (Ron Randell) musical version of "The Taming of the Shrew". Lois Lane, who is to play Bianca, arrives and sings "Too Darn Hot". Lilli almost decides against performing in the show, as she fears it might interfere with her honeymoon. But when she overhears Cole and Fred promising Lois the part, she decides to play Katherine after all.

Lois' boyfriend, Bill Calhoun, is playing Lucentio in the ("Shrew") musical but, in between rehearsals, he leads a gambling lifestyle, which results in him owing a local gangster $2,000, but he has signed the IOU in Fred's name. Lois laments Bill's bad-boy lifestyle ("Why Can't You Behave?"), but Bill's winsome charm soon wins her over, and she forgives him. Meanwhile, after a fiery confrontation during rehearsals, Fred (who is also directing the show) and Lilli get together in Lilli's dressing room, and reminisce about happier times, singing "Wunderbar" from a show they did together. Fred later sends flowers to Lois but his butler gets confused and gives them to Lilli instead. Lilli is overcome by this romantic gesture and falls back in love with Fred, ("So In Love (Reprise)").

The show gets underway, with Fred, Lilli, Lois and Bill dressed as a group of traveling entertainers, ("We Open In Venice"). The main body of the play is their enactment of Shakespeare's "The Taming of The Shrew" - the script is largely the same as Shakespeare's, but interspersed with Cole Porter's songs. In the play, Bianca, the younger daughter of Baptista, a Paduan merchant, wishes to marry, but her father will not allow it until his elder daughter, Katherine, is married. Bianca has three suitors – Gremio, Hortensio and Lucentio – and each of them try to persuade her to choose him as her husband. She is prepared to marry anyone, ("...any Tom, Dick or Harry...").

Lucentio's friend Petruchio arrives in Padua, seeking a wife, ("I've Come To Wive It Wealthily In Padua"), and when he hears of Katherine, he resolves to woo her. Katherine, however, hates the idea of getting married, ("I Hate Men"). Petruchio serenades Katherine ("Were Thine That Special Face"). Lilli is so moved by Fred's heartfelt delivery of the song, that she can't resist reading the card that came with the flowers, having placed it next to her heart. She sees that it is addressed to Lois, and attacks Fred mercilessly on stage, ad-libbing verbal abuse. As the curtain comes down, Fred has had enough, and spanks Lilli.

Lilli resolves to leave the theatre with her fiancé, Tex Calloway (Willard Parker); she phones him and tells him to pick her up. Meanwhile, Lippy and Slug, a pair of gang enforcers, arrive to collect Bill's IOU from Fred. Fred decides to accept the IOU and convinces Lippy and Slug that he needs them to help keep Lilli from leaving so the show will be successful enough for Fred to afford the debt. Lois, in the meantime, learns that Fred has taken responsibility for the IOU and she comes to thank him, but each time she begins to thank him for not being angry about Bill forging his name, Fred kisses her to prevent Lippy and Slug from learning about his deception. Lilli and Bill both walk in on the scene and become furious.

In order to keep Lilli from leaving, Slug and Lippy appear on stage, disguised as Petruchio's servants. They have no acting ability, but still manage to amuse the audience. In the play, Petruchio sets about "taming the shrew", by refusing to let Katherine eat, or sleep in a comfortable bed. Petruchio, however, is unhappy with his new married life, and reminisces about his days of philandering, and his many previous girlfriends, ("Where Is The Life That Late I Led?").

At Lilli's request via the phone earlier in the evening, Tex arrives with an ambulance, and Lilli finally escapes her tormentors and the pair prepare to leave. But Fred befriends Tex in the hopes of delaying their departure. Tex is recognized by Lois, with whom he once went on a date. Although Tex claims she has mistaken him for someone else, Bill is angered by Lois' behavior. Lois admits that though she loves Bill, she cannot resist the advances of other men ("Always True To You In My Fashion"). It turns out her morals are even looser than Bill's.

Fred's (Bill's) gambling debt is resolved by the untimely death of Mr. Hogan, Slug and Lippy's boss. Lilli succeeds in leaving the theatre, saying farewell to Fred. Fred thinks that she belongs in the theatre, and tries in vain to stop her from leaving. After her departure, Fred is dejected, but Slug and Lippy manage to cheer him up, ("Brush Up Your Shakespeare").

The last part of the play begins with Bianca finally getting married to Lucentio. Gremio and Hortensio are put out, but two other girls appear and each couple has their own dance sequence in the next song, ("From This Moment On"). At the finale, the show is halted when Lilli's understudy, Jeanie, goes missing. Suddenly, Lilli appears on stage and recites Katherine's speech about how women should surrender to their husbands, ("I'm Ashamed That Women Are So Simple"). Fred is bowled over, and the show reaches its triumphant finale ("Kiss Me Kate") giving the impression that Fred and Lilli will once again get together permanently.


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

Comparison with stage version[edit]

The film does not differ greatly from the stage version, but there are some significant changes.

The opening scene in Fred's apartment, and the brief appearance of an actor playing Cole Porter, is added; it provides more of the background to Lilli and Fred's troubled relationship.

Nearly all of Porter's rather risqué lyrics had to be "cleaned up" to avoid the wrath of the censors, thus dulling much of the comedy and making the results rather bland. "Brush Up Your Shakespeare", the most suggestive song in the score, was cut in half, and its position changed. In the stage version, the gangsters, Slug and Lippy, inadvertently find themselves on stage, and entertain the audience with their tribute to Shakespeare. In the movie, they sing the song while backstage to cheer up a depressed Fred following the departure of Lilli.

The Opening Chorus ("Another Opening Another Show") sung full out which gave the superb feeling of excitement felt backstage on an opening night was reduced to an orchestral musical bridge. Perhaps this did not match the changed storyline incorporating the appearance of "Cole Porter".

"Too Darn Hot" was also sanitized, and its position changed. It was originally sung by Paul, Fred's African-American dresser and a group of chorus actors relaxing backstage between the two acts of the musical, and had no bearing on the plot. In the movie, it is sung by the show's Bianca, Ann Miller, in the opening scene, where it is claimed that it was originally intended for the stage musical, but was cut. The lyrics are shortened and the reference to the Kinsey Report is removed.

"So in Love" is sung as a duet by Fred and Lilli in the opening scene, in the stage version they sing it individually at later stages. In the film, Lilli's new fiance is a naive Texas cattle baron, in the stage version he is a domineering east coast government official. The song "From This Moment On" was from Porter's musical Out of This World. it was added to the film version of Kiss Me, Kate, sung by the newly wed Bianca and Lucentio, and her rejected suitors.

Some of these changes may seem surprising to present sensibilities e.g. in "Too Darn Hot" the line "according to the Kinsey Report" becomes "according to the latest report". In the stage version the word "bastard" is used a handful of times, but this is deleted in the film, replaced with e.g. "you louse". However they did retain the scene where Fred spanks Lilli, which some might now consider controversial.

Another change was made to placate studio management, rather than censors. In "We Open In Venice," the line "not stars like L.B. Mayer's are we" was changed to "Shakespearean portrayers are we." Louis B. Mayer had been forced out as head of MGM a year and a half before this film's release.


The movie had a mostly positive reception. 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.[4][5][6][7]

Box office[edit]

According to MGM records the film earned $2,011,000 in the US and Canada and $1,106,000 elsewhere, meaning a worldwide gross of $3,117,000.[8] Due to a high production cost however it incurred a loss of $544,000.[1]


The name of the play has a comma missing after "Me".


  1. ^ a b c The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study .
  2. ^ 'The Top Box-Office Hits of 1954', Variety Weekly, January 5, 1955, correcting 'The Top Box Office Hits of 1953', Variety, January 13, 1954
  3. ^ "Young Fosse, Vintage `Kate'". 2000-07-07. Retrieved 2012-07-05. 
  4. ^ Crowther, Bosley (1953-11-06). "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 2012-07-05. 
  5. ^ George Perry Updated 17 January 2001 (2001-01-17). "Films - review - Kiss Me Kate". BBC. Retrieved 2012-07-05. 
  6. ^ "Variety Reviews - Kiss Me Kate - Film Reviews - - Review by Variety Staff". 1952-12-31. Retrieved 2012-07-05. 
  7. ^ "Kiss Me Kate : DVD Talk Review of the DVD Video". Retrieved 2012-07-05. 
  8. ^ 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]