Kiss Me Kate (film)

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

Kiss Me, Kate
Theatrical release poster
Directed byGeorge Sidney
Produced byJack Cummings
Written byDorothy Kingsley
StarringKathryn Grayson
Howard Keel
Ann Miller
Music byCole Porter (songs)
Saul Chaplin (score)
André Previn
Conrad Salinger
CinematographyCharles Rosher
Edited byRalph E. Winters
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]

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 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 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.[5]


Fred Graham and Lilli Vanessi, a divorced couple, 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". Lois Lane arrives to audition for the "Bianca" role ("Too Darn Hot"). Lilli decides against performing the lead character "Katherine", opposite Fred in the male lead "Petruchio", as she is leaving to marry a rich Texas rancher. She changes her mind when Cole and Fred manipulate her by offering Lois the lead role.

Lois's boyfriend, Bill Calhoun, is playing "Lucentio" in the play. He leads a gambling lifestyle, which results in owing a local gangster $2,000, but he has signed the IOU in Fred's name. 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. They end up singing a song from the first show they starred in together ("Wunderbar"), and eventually kiss. This is the catalyst for the rest of the musical's action. Lilli realises she still has feelings for Fred- but for Fred, it was just for old time's sake. Fred is in love with Lois, and sends her flowers and a card. His butler mistakenly gives them to Lilli. Lilli is overcome by this romantic gesture, and doesn't notice the card ("So In Love (Reprise)").

The play opens, with Fred, Lilli, Lois and Bill performing an opening number as a group of travelling performers ("We Open In Venice"). In the play, Bianca, the younger daughter of Baptista, 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 tries to win her over. She is prepared to marry anyone ("...any Tom, Dick or Harry...").

Petruchio arrives, seeking a wife ("I've Come To Wive It Wealthily In Padua"), and when he hears of Katherine, he resolves to woo her. Katherine hates the idea of getting married ("I Hate Men"). When Petruchio serenades Katherine ("Were Thine That Special Face"), Lilli is so moved by Fred's heartfelt delivery that she finally reads the card from the flowers, having kept it next to her heart. She sees that it is addressed to Lois, and attacks Fred/Petruchio mercilessly on stage, ad-libbing verbal abuse. As the curtain comes down, Fred has had enough, and spanks Lilli/Kate. Backstage, Lilli phones her fiancé, Tex Calloway, to come and immediately pick her up.

Lippy and Slug, a pair of thugs, arrive to collect the IOU from Fred. Fred decides to accept the IOU and convinces Lippy and Slug that he needs them to keep Lilli from leaving the show so it will be successful enough for Fred to pay the debt. Lois has learned 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 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. Petruchio sets about "taming the shrew", but later reminisces about his days of philandering ("Where Is The Life That Late I Led?").

During the play's intermission, when Tex arrives to rescue Lilli from the theatre, he is recognized by Lois, with whom he once went on a date- though he doesn't recognise her. When Bill is angered by Lois' behavior, she admits that though she loves Bill, she cannot resist the advances of other men ("Always True To You In My Fashion").

The gambling debt is cancelled by the untimely death of Slug and Lippy's boss, so they stop interfering with Lilli's mid-performance departure from the theatre. Fred tells her that she truly belongs in theatre, and also reveals his true feelings for her. 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 Lilli's understudy goes missing. 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 finale ("Kiss Me Kate"), with Fred and Lilli back together as a real couple.


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

  • In the stage musical, Lilli's fiance 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.


Australian actor Ron Randell was cast as Cole Porter.[6]

Musical numbers

  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


Kiss Me Kate 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.[7][8][9][10]

Critical reception

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."[11] 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."[12] Harrison's Reports called it "a lively and highly entertaining blend of comedy, music, dancing and romance."[13] 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."[14] 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."[15] 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."[16]

Box office

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, resulting in a gross profit of $1,136,000.[17] However, due to high production costs, it incurred a loss of $544,000.[3]


The title of the play has a comma after "Me". The film does not.


  1. "Comparative Showings". Variety. September 23, 1953. p. 23. Retrieved October 7, 2019 via
  2. "Kiss Me Kate - Details". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved June 22, 2018.
  3. 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. Vagg, Stephen (August 10, 2019). "Unsung Aussie Actors – Ron Randell: A Top Twenty". Filmink.
  7. 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.
  8. George Perry Updated 17 January 2001 (2001-01-17). "Films - review - Kiss Me Kate". BBC. Retrieved July 5, 2012.
  9. "Variety Reviews - Kiss Me Kate - Film Reviews - - Review by Variety Staff". December 31, 1952. Retrieved July 5, 2012.
  10. "Kiss Me Kate : DVD Talk Review of the DVD Video". Retrieved July 5, 2012.
  11. Crowther, Bosley (November 6, 1953). "The Screen In Review". The New York Times: 23.
  12. "Kiss Me Kate". Variety: 6. October 28, 1953.
  13. "'Kiss Me Kate' with Kathryn Grayson, Howard Keel and Ann Miller". Harrison's Reports: 174. October 31, 1953.
  14. McCarten, John (November 14, 1953). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker: 136.
  15. Coe, Richard L. (November 27, 1953). "'Kiss Me, Kate' Is 3-D'ed at Capitol". The Washington Post: 22.
  16. "Kiss Me Kate". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 21 (242): 40–41. March 1954.
  17. Sheldon Hall, Epics, Spectacles, and Blockbusters: A Hollywood History Wayne State University Press, 2010 p 147

Further reading

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