KISS ME KATE is almost, but not quite, a classic cinematic version of the hit Broadway musical. Filmed in 3-D, it was largely released "flat" when the 3-D craze began to wane. Boasting an intelligent and highly amusing book, this tunefest features parallel tales of a musical production of
The Taming of the Shrew and simultaneously occurring events in the lives of its cast.
Actor-director Fred Graham (Keel) and Cole Porter (Randell) are working together to musicalize the Bard's comedy, and both feel that the only woman to play the shrew Katherine is Fred's ex-wife, Lilli Vanessi (Grayson). Trouble brews when Fred's current flame, Lois Lane (Miller), is set to play
Bianca, Katherine's younger sister. Fred, playing Petruchio, enjoys needling his ex, while Lois' dancing partner (Rall) turns out to be a compulsive gambler who has signed Fred's name on an IOU for several thousand dollars. On opening night, two gangsters (Wynn and Whitmore) arrive to collect the
debt; how this overlaps with Fred and Lilli's love-hate affair insures plenty of comic bickering until the finale.
KISS ME KATE makes for delightful entertainment, though it does have its drawbacks. Among them is director Sidney, as smooth and professional as ever, but still lacking real flair and imagination. The same might be said for Grayson, who is at or near her best here. Admittedly, Hollywood didn't
really have any operetta stars then who could both hit high C and eat the camera whole. Keel, ever a braggadocio, is fun; his best song is "Where Is the Life That Late I Led?". Miller is in great form, too, her loud charm quite amusing. She sparkles in one of her patented pneumatic tap numbers,
absolutely blazing away with "Too Darn Hot". Much of the later dancing, though, is of the Gene Kelly/Bob Fosse type and it does tax her range, limiting her to high kicks and lots of spins. Rall and Randell are appealing, too, though the latter is a very whitewashed version of what we know the real
Cole Porter was like.
Actually, since we brought up Bob Fosse, we should note that he is one of the onstage dancers. He enters (literally) with a screech and later does a backflip, effortlessly upstaging the struggling Bobby Van. (Look for a pre-Pajame Game Carol Haney, too.) The score, of course, is witty and tuneful,
and one just waits for each classic to come bouncing along in this extremely enjoyable if less than brilliant musical.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: KISS ME KATE is almost, but not quite, a classic cinematic version of the hit Broadway musical. Filmed in 3-D, it was largely released "flat" when the 3-D craze began to wane. Boasting an intelligent and highly amusing book, this tunefest features parallel… (more)