“Kiss Me, Kate was the most successful Broadway musical of Cole Porter’s career, much to his and everyone else’s surprise. Porter was thought to be in decline in the late ‘40s, having suffered such recent failures as Around the World in Eighty Days on-stage and The Pirate in movie theaters” (Ruhlmann c).
“Like Irving Berlin before Annie Get Your Gun, he was apprehensive about the prospect of writing character songs for a book musical in the manner of Rodgers & Hammerstein, having come out of a tradition in which the songs in a musical were more ornamental than substantive. And he was initially resistant to the idea for Kiss Me, Kate, a musical version of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. Nevertheless, the show opened to acclaim on December 30, 1948, and went on to a run of 1,077 performances, winning the first Tony Award given out for best musical” (Ruhlmann c).
“Some credit for that no doubt went to the clever book by Bella and Samuel Spewack, which gave the plot a backstage, show-within-a-show framework in which the actors were playing actors who were appearing in a musical version of The Taming of the Shrew, allowing Porter to write in both contemporary and Elizabethan modes. And the actors themselves – Alfred Drake and Patricia Morison in the leading roles, Lisa Kirk and Harold Lang in the secondary ones – added to the success of the work” (Ruhlmann c).
“But the main drawing card was still Porter, who turned in one of his most tuneful and witty collections of songs. The songwriter had plenty of fun with the situation, working in many references to the show business world he knew so well, not to mention the upper-class, Euro-centric world in which he also moved with ease” (Ruhlmann c).
“Then, too, the lyrics were full of puns and sly sexual references, also Porter hallmarks. This was a score that not only featured an excellent romantic ballad, So in Love…but also a parody of operetta, Wunderbar, that began with the geographic joke ‘Gazing down on the Jungfrau/From our secret chalet for two,’ an impossibility, since the Jungfrau is a mountain in the Swiss Alps that tops 13,000 feet!” (Ruhlmann c).
“There were also patter songs, each boasting a seemingly endless series of riqué verses: I’ve Come to Wive It Wealthily in Padua, I Hate Men, Where Is the Life That Late I Led, Always True to You (In My Fashion), and Brush Up Your Shakespeare” (Ruhlmann c).
“Columbia Records, a recent entry into the original Broadway cast sweepstakes, decided to make a major statement with its recording of Kiss Me, Kate. The album was the first to be recorded primarily for the LP format that Columbia had just introduced, and was issued initially as a 12" LP at that, when most discs in the new configuration were only ten inches in diameter. Thus, there was room for 48 minutes’ worth of music, and producer Mitchell Ayres left in bits of dialogue to introduce several songs. Columbia also opted to risk including most of the racy lyrics; only the completely unacceptable word ‘goddamned’ was replaced by ‘doggone.’ The label was rewarded for its trouble with a commercial success that rivaled the stage production” (Ruhlmann c).
“The Original Soundtrack album for Kiss Me, Kate is, in most ways, inferior to the Original Broadway Cast album…There are three exceptions to this finding, and two of them have to do with casting. Howard Keel, in the role of Fred Graham, who in turn plays Petruchio in the show-within-a-show version of The Taming of the Shrew, is the equal of Alfred Drake, who took the part on Broadway, and Ann Miller, as Lois Lane and Bianca, is at least as effective as Lisa Kirk was on-stage and gets more to do as well, having been given the song Too Darn Hot, which was sung by a different character on Broadway” (Ruhlmann s).
“Finally, the song From This Moment On has been interpolated into the score. It was actually intended for, but cut from, Out of This World, the Cole Porter musical that followed Kiss Me, Kate in 1950. Independently published, it was already on its way to becoming a standard when it was inserted here. It doesn’t have much to do with Kiss Me, Kate, but it would be a welcome addition to any movie musical” (Ruhlmann s).
“That’s the good news. Otherwise, the Hollywood production team has altered the score of the musical in many ways that make it less impressive. Two songs, Another Op’nin’, Another Show, and Bianca, have been cut, along with most of the finale. Robert Russell Bennett’s masterful orchestrations have been jettisoned in favor of overdone charts by Conrad Salinger and Robert Franklyn that tend to be inappropriate to the material, particularly the big-band-and-bongos treatment of ‘Too Darn Hot’” (Ruhlmann s).
“Worst of all (but perhaps inevitably), the censors have made themselves felt heavily in the song lyrics. To be fair, the score for Kiss Me, Kate as written for the stage is very suggestive, full of sexual innuendos, puns, references, and mildly naughty words. And the revisions are sometimes so skillful that it seems possible Porter himself was involved in the bowdlerizing. For example, in I’ve Come to Wive It Wealthily in Padua, where Petruchio on-stage had sung of women, ‘In the dark they are all the same,’ in the film he sings, ‘In a brawl they are all the same,’ introducing an internal rhyme. But skillful censorship is still censorship; throughout the score, objectionable words like ‘virgin,’ ‘puberty,’ ‘hell,’ and even ‘grave’ have disappeared, along with the reference to the Kinsey Report, of course. Curiously, some anatomical puns (‘Kick her right in the Coriolanus,’ for one) have gotten through, along with jokes the censors must have felt were too obscure to offend moviegoers. (Thus, ‘Lisa,’ who "gave a new meaning to the leaning tow’r of Pisa’ remains in Where Is the Life That Late I Led.) Maybe this is what had to be done to get a film into movie theaters in 1953, but music fans can only be disappointed at the airbrushing of a classic score” (Ruhlmann s).