Page last updated at 10:25 GMT, Friday, 19 February 2010

Kiss Me Kate actress Kathryn Grayson dies, aged 88

Kathryn Grayson, 1951
Grayson trained as a soprano before starting her film career

Kathryn Grayson, the singer and movie star best known for her roles in such MGM musicals as Kiss Me Kate and Show Boat, has died in Los Angeles aged 88.

Born in 1922, the classically trained soprano had planned a career in opera but was persuaded when she was 15 to sign a contract with MGM instead.

Her male co-stars during her time at the studio included Howard Keel, Gene Kelly, Mario Lanza and Frank Sinatra.

When her screen career began to wane, she switched from film to the stage.

In 1962 she replaced Julie Andrews in the Broadway production of Camelot, going on to tour the show for over a year.

She also toured with Keel in Man of La Mancha and appeared with him in Las Vegas.

Born Zelma Kathryn Elisabeth Hedrick in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Grayson made her film debut in 1941 opposite Mickey Rooney in Andy Hardy's Private Secretary.

Kathryn Grayson, 1987
In later life she concentrated on stage work and live performing

However, she remains best known for playing the temperamental Lilli Vanessi in 1953's Kiss Me Kate, a musical adaptation of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew.

Other films in which she appeared included Anchors Aweigh with Kelly and Sinatra, and The Desert Song opposite Gordon McRae.

Her last film was 1956's The Vagabond King, though she went on to appear in some TV shows including Baretta and Murder, She Wrote.

Grayson died on Wednesday at her Los Angeles home, her long-time secretary and companion Sally Sherman announced.

"She was a lady of class and quality, with the greatest sense of humour conceivable," Sherman said.

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