When two squabbling ex-married are cast as squabbling Renaissance romantics in a musical The Taming Of The Shrew, life imitates art, art imitates life - and it all proves no musical comedy imitates Kiss Me Kate, the backstage/onstage delight from the 1948 Broadway smash and featuring 14 peerless Cole Porter songs. Howard Keel and Kathryn Grayson are the tangled twosome So In Love despite her I Hate Men flashpoints. Ann Miller adds heat, razzle-tap-dazzling in Too Darn Hot and wowing, Tom, Dick and Harry. Fosse and Hermes Pan provide zesty choreography under George Sidney's nimble direction. So Brush Up Your Shakespeare and enjoy. Kate won't just kiss you. She'll floor you.
The third and (to date) last film version of the Edna Ferber/Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein II musical Show Boat falls just short of greatness but is still a whale of a show. Howard Keel and Kathryn Grayson are in fine fettle as irresponsible gambler Gaylord Ravenal and showboat ingenue Magnolia Hawks. The plot adheres closely to the Broadway original making several welcome improvements in the final act (which was always a bit shaky). Magnolia, daughter of showboat impresario Captain Andy (Joe E. Brown) and Parthy Hawkes (Agnes Moorehead), falls head over heels in love with the raffish Ravenal. When the show's leading lady, Julie (Ava Gardner), and leading man, Steve (Robert Sterling), are forced to leave when Julie's mulatto heritage is revealed by disgruntled suitor Pete (Leif Erickson), Magnolia and Gaylord step into the vacant stage roles and score a hit. Eventually, the two are married and for several months are quite happy. After incurring serious gambling losses, however, Gaylord walks out of Magnolia's life never realizing that his wife is expecting a baby. With the help of her former showboat colleagues Ellie and Frank Schultz (Marge and Gower Champion) and a behind-the-scenes assist from the tragic Julie, Magnolia secures work as a Cabaret singer in Chicago. Her new year's eve debut threatens to be a bust until her father Captain Andy quells the rowdy crowd and guides his daughter through a lovely rendition of After the Ball (a Charles K. Harris tune that pops up in every stage version of Show Boat). Magnolia returns to her family, with her daughter Kim in tow. Upon learning from Julie that he has a daughter, Gaylord returns to Magnolia and Kim, setting the stage for a joyous ending.
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