Soprano Kathryn Grayson, Star of Movie Musicals, Dies at 88

Obituaries   Soprano Kathryn Grayson, Star of Movie Musicals, Dies at 88
Kathryn Grayson, who won a lasting place in the annals of the Hollywood movie musical through her performances in the M-G-M films "Kiss Me, Kate," "Show Boat" and "Anchors Aweigh," died Feb. 17 at her home in Los Angeles. She was 88.
Kathryn Grayson
Kathryn Grayson

Ms. Grayson's other film roles included "Andy Hardy's Private Secretary," "Till the Clouds Roll By," "It Happened Brooklyn," "The Kissing Bandit," "The Desert Song" and "The Vagabond King," her final film, in 1956. Petite and pretty, she had one of the genre's finest voices, a lovely coloratura soprano, and had no trouble with the vocal demands of what is arguably her most famous role, Kate, the man-eater in Cole Porter's musicalization of the Taming of the Shrew, Kiss Me Kate. After her film career ended, she performed in operas, summer stock and one Broadway show, replacing Julie Andrews as Guenevere in Camelot.

She was born Zelma Kathryn Elisabeth Hedrick on Feb. 9, 1922, in Winston-Salem, NC. When she was 15 she was signed by Red Seal, the classical arm of RCA Victor Records. She was noticed by M-G-M scouts when singing on Eddie Cantor's radio show. Ms. Grayson was initially hesitant to enter films, as she was intent on an opera career.

Soon after signing her M-G-M contract, she was asked to make her operatic debut at the Metropolitan Opera House, but studio chief Louis B. Mayer talked her out of it, fearing it would damage her image.

In 1941, she eloped with John Shelton, an actor and singer. They divorced in 1946. She and the radio singer Johnnie Johnston were married from 1947 to 1951 and had a daughter, Patricia Towers, who survives her. She was engaged to Howard Hughes at one time in the 1950s.

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