NOTE FROM CARY GINELL
In July 2010, I produced a piano/vocal songbook for Alfred Publishing of music from “Kiss Me, Kate.” With the help of the Cole Porter Trust, I was able to contact Patricia Morison, who originated the role of Lilli/Kate, playing opposite Alfred Drake in the original 1948 production of the show. Patricia was 96 years old when I met her in the old Wilshire District, in a high rise apartment lined with photos of her with famous actors from her days as a Hollywood starlet. Patricia was delightful and we spent a lovely hour reminiscing about her time on Broadway. After the interview, we agreed to publish her thoughts as a narrative, rather than as a Q&A interview session. This is the first in a series of articles of her memories.
BY PATRICIA MORISON – JULY 14, 2010
I came to Hollywood in 1938 after I finished doing “The Two Bouquets,” an operetta that Marc Connelly directed. Alfred Drake was my leading man, and while we were doing that show, I was testing for film, and Alfred and I used to go out late at night and talk. We couldn’t afford Sardi’s so we used to sit up all night at a Child’s restaurant and talk theater, and I remember Alfred saying to me, “Don’t go out there. They’ll never know what to do with you.” But when I finished the show, Paramount picked me up and I went to Hollywood.
Ten years later, when I was hired for “Kate,” I had just finished “Song of the Thin Man,” which was the last Thin Man movie that William Powell and Myrna Loy did. I was the bad girl in that movie. I was seriously studying voice and my manager told me that Cole Porter had a house on Rockingham Avenue and he took me out to sing for him. It wasn’t for anything in particular; it was just so I could get used to singing again. So I went to his house and I purposely sang Rodgers and Hammerstein. When I finished, he handed me the script for “Kiss Me, Kate.” At that time, he was having trouble raising money for it. Finally, on a Saturday, I got a call that it was going to be done and the producers wanted me to sing for them. The next Monday, I was supposed to start working on a television series called “The Cases of Eddie Drake,” but my agent told me to fly to New York to audition for “Kate.” The people in New York had an opera star in mind, but Cole wanted me. They thought he was crazy and told him, “She’s not a singer, she’s a movie star.” (laughs)
I had not been known as a singer, but I had studied very hard for quite a few years but nobody knew that I had this voice. So I sang for these skeptical producers and all of a sudden they were all over me! Cole called me when I got back, told me that they all liked me, and I got the part. Television was new at that time and “Edde Drake” was being produced by a little independent company. I played a woman psychiatrist to whom the detective told his stories. All my scenes were in the office so they said, “We’ll shoot all your scenes in one week. but we want you to promise to publicize the show when you get to Broadway.” And that’s how I got to New York.
In Part 2 of my interview, Patricia talks about what it was like to rehearse with Cole Porter.
Cabrillo Music Theatre’s production of “Kiss Me, Kate” opens this Friday evening at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza. For dates and showtimes, see the VC On Stage Calendar of Events.