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Kathryn Grayson

from trailer for The Toast of New Orleans (1950)
Born Zelma Kathryn Elisabeth Hedrick
February 9, 1922(1922-02-09)
Winston-Salem, North Carolina, U.S.
Died February 17, 2010 (aged 88)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Occupation Actress/Singer
Years active 1941–2004
Spouse(s) John Shelton (1941–1946) divorced
Johnny Johnston
(1947–1951) divorced
Official website

Kathryn Grayson (February 9, 1922 – February 17, 2010[1]) was an American actress and operatic soprano singer.[2][3][4][5][6] [7]

From the age of twelve, Grayson trained as an opera singer. She was under contract to MGM by the early 1940s, soon establishing a career principally through her work in musicals. After several supporting roles, she was a lead performer in such films as Anchors Aweigh (1945) with Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly, Show Boat (1951) and Kiss Me Kate (1953) with Howard Keel.

When film musical production declined, she worked in theatre, appearing in Camelot (1962-1964). Later in the decade, she performed in several operas, including La bohème, Madama Butterfly, Orpheus in the Underworld and La traviata.


Life and career


She was born Zelma Kathryn Elisabeth Hedrick in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The Hedrick family later moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where she was discovered singing on the empty stage of the St. Louis Municipal Opera House by a janitor, who introduced her to Frances Marshall of the Chicago Civic Opera, who gave the twelve-year-old girl voice lessons.


Discovered by an MGM talent scout in 1940,[6] her first film appearance was in Andy Hardy's Private Secretary (1941) as the character's secretary Kathryn Land.[8][9] Though she began, in films such as Seven Sweethearts (1942) and Anchors Aweigh (1945), as MGM's response to Deanna Durbin's box-office appeal, she became a star via the films Thousands Cheer, Anchors Aweigh and Two Sisters from Boston. Howard Keel was her partner in three feature films, the remake of Show Boat (1951), Lovely to Look At (1952), which was a new version of Roberta, and the title role in Kiss Me Kate (1953), for which she is probably best remembered. Later, Grayson appeared with Keel in a highly successful cabaret act during the 1960s. She also appeared in two films with tenor Mario Lanza, That Midnight Kiss (1949) and The Toast of New Orleans (1950).

Grayson appeared on television occasionally from the 1950s, receiving an Emmy nomination in 1956 for her performance in the General Electric Theater episode Shadow on the Heart with John Ericson. In the 1980s, she guest starred in several episodes of Murder, She Wrote with Angela Lansbury.

Stage career

Grayson's film career ended with the classic MGM musical. She appeared on stage in numerous productions including Show Boat, Rosalinda, Kiss Me, Kate, Naughty Marietta, and The Merry Widow, for which she was nominated for Chicago's Sarah Siddons Award. This led to her being cast as Queen Guinevere in 1962 in Camelot, a well regarded replacement for Julie Andrews in the Broadway production, before continuing in the role for over sixteen months in the national tour of the United States, leaving the show for health reasons. Grayson had a lifelong dream of being an opera star, and she appeared in a number of operas in the 1960s, such as La bohème, Madama Butterfly, Orpheus in the Underworld and La traviata. Her dramatic and comedy stage roles included Night Watch, Noises Off, Love Letters and Something's Afoot as Dottie Otterling.

Grayson supervised the Voice and Choral Studies Program at the Idaho State University.[10][11]

Personal life

In Hollywood she married twice, first to the actor John Shelton and then to the actor/singer Johnnie Johnston. Both marriages ended in divorce. Her second marriage produced her only child, her daughter Patricia Kathryn Towers (née Johnston; born October 7, 1948).

According to her secretary, Grayson died in her sleep at her home in Los Angeles, California on February 17, 2010, aged 88.[1]


Year Film Role Notes
1941 Andy Hardy's Private Secretary Kathryn Land
1942 The Vanishing Virginian Rebecca Yancey
Rio Rita Rita Winslow
Seven Sweethearts Billie Van Maaster
1943 Thousands Cheer Kathryn Jones
1945 Anchors Aweigh Susan Abbott
1946 Ziegfeld Follies Herself in "There's Beauty Everywhere"
Two Sisters from Boston Abigail Chandler
Till the Clouds Roll By Magnolia in 'Show Boat' / Specialty
1947 It Happened in Brooklyn Anne Fielding
1948 The Kissing Bandit Teresa
1949 That Midnight Kiss Prudence Budell
Some of the Best Herself uncredited
1950 The Toast of New Orleans Suzette Micheline
1951 Grounds for Marriage Ina Massine
Show Boat Magnolia Hawks
1952 Lovely to Look At Stephanie
1953 The Desert Song Margot Birabeau
So This Is Love Grace Moore aka The Grace Moore Story
Kiss Me Kate Lilli Vanessi / "Katharina"
1956 The Vagabond King Catherine de Vaucelles
1977 The Amazing World of Psychic Phenomena Herself documentary
1994 A Century of Cinema Herself documentary
2003 Cole Porter in Hollywood: Too Darn Hot Herself, Kate/Lilli in Kiss Me Kate
2004 The Masters Behind the Musicals Herself


  1. ^ a b Thomas, Bob (2010-02-18). "Music legend Kathryn Grayson dies at 88". The Associated Press via USA Today. Retrieved 2010-02-18. 
  2. ^ Obituary New York Times, February 19, 2010.
  3. ^ Obituary Los Angeles Times, February 19, 2010.
  4. ^ Obituary Washington Post, February 19, 2010.
  5. ^ Obituary London Times, February 20, 2010.
  6. ^ a b Ronald Bergan Obituary, London Guardian, 19 February 2010
  7. ^ Obituary London Independent, February 22, 2010.
  8. ^ Kathryn Grayson at the Internet Movie Database
  9. ^ "Andy's Girls." Andy Hardy Films.
  10. ^ Idaho State University: The Kathryn Grayson Choral & Vocal Studies Program Retrieved on 2009-12-17.
  11. ^ Biography at Grayson's official site

External links

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