Last year we decided to highlight performers who have hit the 100 mark and beyond. Included in that elite circle are Olivia DeHavilland, Kirk Douglas and Norman Lloyd (not to mention up and comer Doris Day, who turns 93 on April 3).
So we mustn’t forget Patricia Morison, who will be celebrating her 102nd birthday in just two months on March 19.
Although she is best remembered as a Broadway star and the creator of the role of Lilli Vanessi in Cole Porter‘s smash musical Kiss Me Kate, Morison was a full fledged movie star first.
She had been signed by Paramount in 1938, and being promoted as Lamour plus Lamarr equals LaMorison, she appeared in dozens of movies. But after playing second woman to Paramount’s top stars, like the aformentioned Dorothy Lamour and Madeline Carroll, she left the studio.
When she returned from a USO tour she landed small but key roles in some top hits, such as the Empress Eugenie in Song of Bernadette, and roles in The Fallen Sparrow, opposite John Garfield, and Lady on a Train, a big Deanna Durbin hit.
She continued to play villains, notably in Song of the Thin Man, and the Sherlock Holmes thriller, Dressed to Kill. She bounced from major studios like MGM to Universal and even Monogram. And one of the interesting films she made during the war was Hitler’s Madman.
Film noir fans may know that Morison was originally cast in Kiss of Death, the 1947 thriller starring Victor Mature that presented Richard Widmark to the world as psycho Tommy Udo. She played Mature’s ill-fated wife who commits suicide (sticking her head in a gas oven) onscreen. The studio front office thought twice about showing this grim scene, and Morison’s bit was eventually dropped.
But never quite making it big in Hollywood always drove her back to the stage, and when Cole Porter heard her unleash her full mezzo-soprano at a party he tagged her for a part in his planned musical version of The Taming of the Shrew.
Kiss Me Kate was a tremendous hit and although she didn’t get to play Lilli Vanessi on screen (that was Katherine Grayson) the part is most identified with her. She performed it countless times on stage and television.
Morison for some reason was dubbed Hollywood’s “fire and ice girl.” She is still renowned there for her long tresses, described as the longest hair in Hollywood (measuring some 39 inches in length.)