I continue my July 3-D binge with a screening of Kiss Me, Kate from 1953, recently restored to its original 3-D glory courtesy of the modern miracle of Blu-ray disc. I am by nature a bitter curmudgeon who only ventures forth from the hole in which I live to ask people trying to cross my bridge the three riddles (and ask not about my riddles three, lest you the riddled be!) Because of my reclusiveness, I am continually amazed and impressed by a) the fact that the illusion of 3-D is so good on these recent Blu-rays and b) that the whole kit-n-kaboodle even works at all. I’m so naturally pessimistic, babies, that I expect everything related to home video to require extra steps, to break, and/or to be a crushing disappointment.
Yet so far for my 3-D experiment, I switch on the equipment, insert the disc, turn the glasses on, press play and—poof—an explosion that nearly levels my block! Just kidding; I am fine. But perhaps this ease of use has something to do with the fact that my AV system bears the name “Sony” and not “Comcast.”
Well, perhaps not the last one, but that donkey certainly seems like he would have been up for it.
The Plot In Brief: Famous Broadway star Fred Graham (Howard Keel) hopes to produce a musical version of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew and win back his ex-wife, fellow thespian Lilli Vanessi (Kathryn Grayson) in the process. Rehearsals and performances proceed apace. Graham’s show is placed in constant jeopardy by a rogue’s gallery of colorful supporting players: the ingénue, Lois Lane (Ann Miller); her no-account boyfriend/co-star Bill Calhoun (Tommy Rall); two tough guys sent by the mob, Lippy and Slug (Keenan Wynn and James Whitmore); and Lilli’s fiancé, cattleman Tex Callaway (Willard Parker).
Though his dance piece with Carol Haney is a little over a minute long, the story goes that Fosse himself, not film choreographer Hermes Pan, created this dance. Fosse—who would later carve a career as one of the greatest choreographers in Broadway history—treats us to a career précis here, demonstrating all of the signature moves for which he would one day be famous: the athleticism, the finger-snapping, the slinking then straightened limbs. It’s one of the highlights in a film filled with highlights.
“Why! This is the stuff of classic comedy,” I hear no one saying.
Actually, the movie has been toned down from the original Broadway production, and the Broadway show had been toned down from Shakespeare’s original salty dialogue. (In the movie, for instance, Fred Graham complains that Lilli calls him a “louse” in front of the rest of the cast; on Broadway, she called him a “bastard.”) For the movie, more than half of Wynn and Whitmore’s show-stopping “Brush Up Your Shakespeare,” hit the curb, deemed too risqué for 1953 movie audiences. A sample of the original Broadway version’s lines: “When your baby is pleading for pleasure, let her sample your Measure for Measure.” Oh, my stars!