Movie Musical Star Kathryn Grayson Dead

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Kathryn Grayson, who starred in such popular MGM musicals as Anchors Aweigh, Showboat and Kiss Me Kate has died. She was 88. Host Scott Simon offers an appreciation.


Kathryn Grayson, one of the last great stars of the old MGM musicals, has died. She was 88. Kathryn Grayson grew up wanting to be an opera singer but her family moved to Los Angeles when she was a teenager, and Louis B. Mayer heard her sing at a concert in Hollywood.

She was ambivalent about being in movies. Not long after signing her MGM contract she was invited to make her operatic debut at the Metropolitan Opera House, but Louis B. Mayer talked her out of it. She recalled him saying, If she's known as an opera star shell have a short career. Just the opera goers will know who she is. If she's a motion picture star, she'll be a star forever.

Her first big hit was "Anchors Aweigh," with Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra. She sang Tchaikovsky's "Waltz Serenade."

(Soundbite of movie, "Anchors Away")

Ms. KATHRYN GRAYSON (Actor): (as character) (singing) (unintelligible)

SIMON: Her most memorable roles were in the early 1950s in the Technicolor remake of "Showboat." She played Magnolia opposite Howard Keel.

(Soundbite of movie, "Showboat")

Ms. GRAYSON: (as character) (singing) We could make believe I love you, only make believe that you love me.

SIMON: In 1953, she starred with Howard Keel again in the MGM movie version of "Kiss Me Kate," playing Lilli Vanessi who portrayed Kathryn in the movie show within a show version of "The Taming of the Shrew."

(Soundbite of movie, "Kiss Me Kate")

Ms. GRAYSON: (as character) (singing) Even without you, my arms fold about you. You know, darling, why so in love with you am I.

SIMON: That same year, in what's considered one of her best performances, she played Grace Moore in Warner Brothers' musical biography "So This Is Love."

(Soundbite of movie, "So This Is Love")

Ms. GRAYSON: (as character) (singing) They said someday you'll find all who love are blind.

SIMON: She stopped making movies by the late '50s but later achieved her dream to sing on the opera stage, making her debut in "Madame Butterfly." In 1962, she replaced Julie Andrews in the Broadway version of "Camelot." She also starred in stage productions of "The Merry Widow," "Rosalinda" and "Naughty Marietta," and toured extensively with Howard Keel again in "Man of LaMancha."

And Kathryn Grayson was one of scores of women who were involved with Howard Hughes. Mr. Hughes reportedly was engaged to Kathryn Grayson, which is further than a lot of the others ever got.

The actress died Wednesday at her home in Los Angeles.

(Soundbite of song, "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes")

Ms. GRAYSON: (Singing) You must realize smoke gets in your eyes.

SIMON: This is NPR News.

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