In the early 1940s , Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein revolutionized musical theater with their show “Oklahoma!” which was not only a smash hit, but took the idea of integrating song and dance numbers into a story to new heights. But there was one person who was not so thrilled with their success—composer and lyricist Cole Porter. Porter seemed to take the opening of “Oklahoma!” as a challenge to create his own fully enmeshed musical. And so he began writing a little play called “Kiss Me, Kate,” a musical that takes place behind the scenes of a production of William Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew.” The twist? The director and star of the play casts his ex-wife as the infamously reluctant in love Katherine, while he sets out to woo the actress playing Bianca.
The Broadway show was an instant smash with Alfred Drake and Patricia Morison in the lead roles. It won the very first Tony Award for Best Musical in 1949.
Soon after, MGM made the play into a movie starring Howard Keel and Kathryn Grayson in 1953.
In total, “Kiss Me, Kate” ran for more than 1,000 performances on Broadway before being revived in 1999. The play was also a big hit in London, where it opened in 1951 and was followed by revivals in 1970 and 2001.
Yes, the phrase “Kiss Me, Kate” may now be wielded as a torture device against those of us who bear the name. (Though Katie Holmes didn’t seem to mind Tom Cruise painting the words on his plane.) But it’s still an important piece of musical theater history. So, above, see Patricia Morison sing her solo “I Hate Men” from midway through the first act. And below, check out the trailer for the film version, with Kathryn Grayson assuming the role of Lilli Vanessi as Kate.