Deaths elsewhere

February 20, 2010|By Tribune Newspapers

KATHRYN GRAYSON, 88

Actress, singer who starred in MGM films

Kathryn Grayson, an MGM singing star in the 1940s and early 1950s in musicals such as "Anchors Aweigh," "Show Boat" and "Kiss Me Kate," died Wednesday of natural causes at her home in Los Angeles, said publicist Dale Olson.

A dark-haired beauty with a heart-shaped face and a brilliant coloratura voice, Ms. Grayson signed with MGM as a teenager and made her screen debut in "Andy Hardy's Private Secretary," starring Mickey Rooney, in 1941.

She went on to appear opposite Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly in "Anchors Aweigh," Mr. Kelly in "Thousands Cheer," Mr. Sinatra in "The Kissing Bandit," Mario Lanza in "The Toast of New Orleans," Howard Keel in "Show Boat," "Lovely to Look At" and "Kiss Me Kate," and Gordon MacRae in "The Desert Song," among other musicals.

"Kathryn Grayson was an attempt to continue the Jeanette MacDonald tradition at MGM," said Drew Casper, a professor at the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts, referring to half of the studio's popular operetta team of Jeannette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy that came to fame in the 1930s.

"In all her films, Grayson was always doing an opera aria as a specialty number," said Casper.

Ms. Grayson had no fond memories of "The Vagabond King," her final big-screen musical, for Paramount in 1956.

"I didn't like it," she told the Toronto Star. "So I called it a day: no more movies."

At the conclusion of her film career, Ms. Grayson began performing in nightclubs and concerts and did some acting on television. In 1960, she made her opera debut, in "Madama Butterfly."

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