Patricia Morison, Original Lilli in ‘Kiss Me Kate,’ Dies @ 103

Patricia Morison, the raven-haired songbird who originated the role of starlet Lilli Vanessi in the 1948 Broadway musical Kiss Me, Kate, died Sunday at 103, THR reports.

The ageless Rapunzel 70 years ago (Image via screen grab)

Her death from natural causes was confirmed by the colorful and connected Hollywood publicist Harlan Boll.

Though Kiss Me, Kate was the highlight of Morison's career (it ran for over two years, became the first recipient of the Tony for Best Musical, and allowed her to introduce the world to the all-time classic songs "So in Love" and "I Hate Men"), she found interesting and varied work.

She studied with Martha Graham (1894-1991), and her Broadway debut was in 1933's Growing Pains — imagine, we just now lost a woman who took her first bows on the Great White Way 85 years ago. [She also witnessed Mae West's (1893-1980) screen test and understudied Helen Hayes (1900-1993).]

Morison later appeared on Broadway in The Two Bouquets (1938), an operetta that made use of her marvelous singing voice. She became noted not only for her acting and singing, but her waist-length mane of lustrous hair.

Her other major achievement on Broadway came when Gertrude Lawrence (1898-1952) died of cancer during the run of The King and I (1952); Morison stepped in as Anna Leonowens opposite Yul Brynner (1920-1985), and toured with the iconic hit.

Her first film was Persons in Hiding (1939), and she went on to appear in I'm from Missouri (1939), Are Husbands Necessary? (1942), Night in New Orleans (1942), The Song of Bernadette (1943), The Fallen Sparrow (1943), Without Love (1945), Lady on a Train (1945), Song of the Thin Man (1947), Queen of the Amazons (1947), Tarzan and the Huntress (1947), Sofia (1948), as George Sand (1804-1876) in Song Without End (1960), and — much later — in the all-star flop Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976).

In the final Basil Rathbone (1892-1967)/Nigel Bruce (1895-1953) Sherlock Holmes flick, Dressed to Kill (1946), she was Holmes's nemesis, and it was said her performance in the classic film noir Kiss of Death (1947) was Oscar-worthy — but it was cut because her character was raped and committed suicide, no-nos on the silver screen then.

Morison did sporadic work on TV, including on Robert Montgomery Presents (1950), The Jackie Gleason Show (1952), The Cases of Eddie Drake (1952), 1958 and 1964 TV productions of Kiss Me, Kate, and, more recently, Cheers (1989) and Gabriel's Fire (1991).

Morison on Broadway in 2014 (Image via screen grab)

In 2014, Morison returned to Broadway for the fundraiser Broadway Backwards, singing "Brush Up Your Shakespeare" from a wheelchair — bringing down the house.


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