25 Little Known Facts About "Kiss Me Kate"

Updated on May 26, 2017
The film's poster, which shows the controversial spanking scene.
The film's poster, which shows the controversial spanking scene.

Background: Facts 1-4

  • Although most of the plot is fictional, the concept of backstage bickering between a husband and wife was based on real-life theatrical duo Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne. In 1935, they starred together in a production of Taming of the Shrew.
  • In writing the score, Cole Porter made an effort to respond musically to Rodger and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!, which had popularized the strong cohesion between songs and action. Ironically, Rodgers and Hammerstein pulled out of Kiss Me, Kate to create the musical Me & Juliet. While KMK was a runaway success, Me & Juliet is considered one of the worst R&H shows ever written.
  • Cole Porter’s mother, who encouraged his musicianship from a young age, was named Katherine but almost always went by Kate. He enjoyed using the name in his projects, including in a cut song from Anything Goes called Kate the Great.
  • At the time the musical was adapted into a film (1953), the 3-D craze was sweeping the nation. MGM was eager to produce films to satisfy the demand. As such, Kiss Me Kate became the first, and possibly only, musical film ever to be filmed entirely in 3-D.

"Dick, dick, dick, dick-a-dick-dick..." Actual lyrics from the score.
"Dick, dick, dick, dick-a-dick-dick..." Actual lyrics from the score.

About the Songs: Facts 5-8

  • Miraculously, the censors left the song Tom Dick or Harry completely in tact. The is brimming with suggestive wordplay and repeats the word dick no fewer than 10 times in 20 seconds. The term dick was not yet commonly recognized slang in the 1950s. However, given the way Porter organized the song, specifically, the “Harry Dick or Tom” line, it would seem the songwriter knew exactly what he was doing.
  • Although most of the original score remained intact for the film, the song Bianca was cut, but strangely not completely. One backstage shot shows Ann Miller and several performers dancing to the song, but not singing any of the lyrics.
  • Although many of Cole Porter’s more brazen lyrics were cut completely, the 1953 New York Times review lauded the adaptation. It claimed the film was actually an improvement on the stage show.
  • From This Moment On, one of the major hits from the score, was actually never supposed to be in the movie at all. Porter wrote it for a show called Out of This World, an overtly sexual romp about philandering Roman gods. The show was overly long and the director cut the number, much to the dismay of Porter, who insisted it be used in the film.

Ann Miller and her trio of suitors.
Ann Miller and her trio of suitors.

About the Actors: Facts 9-14

  • Anne Miller’s character in both the film and the musical is Lois Lane, the alliterative moniker of Superman’s love interest. Whether or not this was intentional was never explained by the authors of the book.
  • When it came time to film the spanking scene at the end of the first act, Kathryn Grayson, with help from the costume designer, hid a plank of wood in her dress to surprise Howard Keel.
  • The sailor who sporadically appears in the alleyway during the number for Always True to You in My Fashion is actually choreographer Hermes Pan making a cameo.
  • Howard Keel was reportedly informed that he was not the first choice to play Fred The studio would have preferred to cast Laurence Olivier or comedian Danny Kaye.
  • Although he was not the first choice of MGM to play Fred, Howard Keel was considered a Broadway dynamo. He remains the only actor to ever sing two main roles in two different Broadway shows on the same day. The two shows were Oklahoma! and Carousel, both Rodgers and Hammerstein shows which were running simultaneously.
  • Neither Keenan Wynn nor James Whitmore, who play the two gangsters, had ever acted in a musical before. The two had great difficulty with the choreography but felt silly practicing. When it finally came time to demonstrate their Brush Up Your Shakespeare dance, the two actors had barely practiced and failed miserably. The director, however, thought this was an intentional choice and insisted they were brilliant for having thought so deeply about their characters.

Ann Miller singing a fast-tempo version of Too Darn Hot.
Ann Miller singing a fast-tempo version of Too Darn Hot.

Film vs. Stage Changes: Facts 16-20

  • The first scene of the movie, in which Fred and Lilli meet with Cole Porter to discuss the show, is not present in the stage show. This new scene was added to contextualize the feuding couple’s relationship. It also gave Ann Miller a chance to perform a rapidly sung and largely bowdlerized version of Too Darn Hot, which was deemed too darn long to be performed as originally intended.
  • The character of Lilli’s new lover is completely different in the film and stage versions. Originally written to be a straight-laced and somewhat domineering military man, the studio likely worried that portraying the armed forces negatively would be problematic. As such, the character in the film is renamed Tex and was now a cattle baron.
  • The question of whether a comma should be included in the title has been a matter of some controversy. Although the film’s poster does not use a comma, the marquee shown in the film does.
  • For unknown reasons, the amount of money which Bill owes to the gangsters was changed from $2,000 to $10,000. This likely had something to do with censorship, but why 2 grand was considerably more acceptable than 10 grand remains something of a mystery.
  • At the time Porter wrote the stage show, LB Mayer was the head of MGM. The songwriter included a passing reference to him with the line “not stars like LB Mayer’s are we.” However, by the time the film was adapted, Mayer had just been forced out of MGM in a nasty dispute. Thus the new line says "Shakespearean portrayers” instead of the ousted exec.

The innovative dance section of From This Moment On.
The innovative dance section of From This Moment On.

After the Show: Facts 21-25

  • The stage version revitalized Cole Porter’s career. After a horseback riding accident left him partially disabled, his later shows, though quite successful, were critically panned. Kiss Me, Kate, however, was the longest running show he ever wrote, running for over 1000 performances.
  • Although the film was well received and is widely regarded as a classic, the initial box office receipts were a disappointment. This was partially due to the massive expense of filming a full-fledged Technicolor musical in 3-D.
  • Kiss Me, Kate won the first ever Tony Award for best Musical in 1949. The film was also nominated for an Oscar, but lost to Call Me, Madam, starring Ethel Merman.
  • Bob Fosse, who later became a noted choreographer, got his big break from this film. Specifically from the From This Moment On number, which was inspired by modernist dance. It is still noted today for its acrobatic virtuosity.
  • Tommy Rall, who played Bill the gambler, was a highly successful dancer in the 1950s. However, he rarely got the chance to sing. This film, which required him to sing in several numbers, helped establish him as a singer. In the 1960s, he revitalized his career by transitioning to opera, where he was a noted tenor.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, reelrundown.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://reelrundown.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)