she should have been an opera star. it was what she wanted to be, trained to be, hoped to be.
instead, she ended up in movies, frequently playing the role of an opera star.
kathryn grayson － beautiful, self-described pollyanna, and vocally gifted star of many of mgm's heyday musicals － died february 17th at the age of 88.
i neglected to mention her passing at the time, but was reminded of it recently as i came across she and howard keel, dewy-eyed and crooning to one another as the star-crossed noli and gay in showboat.
[and ava gardner as a black woman － classic.]
zelma kathryn elizabeth hedrick was a 15yo coloratura soprano studying for a life on the operatic stage when mgm execs discovered and signed her [studio head louis b. mayer apparently feigned a heart attack to guilt her into committing to a contract]. she debuted as mickey rooney's girl friday in 1941's andy rooney's private secretary.
over the next 15 years, grayson made 20 movies for mgm, the most memorable of which were showboat, kiss me kate [also with howard keel], and anchors aweigh with gene kelly and frank sinatra [she played susan, the topic of the titillating tune "if you knew susie"].
grayson left hollywood in 1956. she finally got to do opera, though mostly through summer theatre and never at the met. she starred in broadway's camelot, and toured nationwide with keel in man of la mancha.
she did a little tv, vegas, a one-woman show. she had married young and twice, and had been single since 1951. she left behind a daughter, two grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, as well as a secretary who had been with her for over thirty years.
she went peacefully in her sleep. and the angels sing.
image source: reelclassics.com