Actress/dancer Ann Miller died three years ago yesterday after an amazingly long Hollywood career. She was barely 14 years old (having lied about her age) when she appeared as Ginger Rogers' dance partner in the 1937 film Stage Door, one of my favorite movies, and her last feature film was Mulholland Drive in 2001. In between, her roles included a would-be dancer in You Can't Take it With You, the elegant ex in Easter Parade, and a dancing anthropologist in On the Town. She was a rapid-fire tap dancer, but filmmakers also liked to find an opportunity to show off her long legs, as evidenced in the above photo. In the mid-1950s, she switched from movies to Broadway roles nightclub acts, and eventually TV roles. The above photo is from Kiss Me Kate and I wish it were in color, so you could see that Miller's outfit is an eye-popping pink.
p>I don't much like the 1953 musical, because it is full of that kind of contemptuous and patronizing attitude toward women that permeates a number of Fifties films. Of course it's an adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew, but the "Kate" character seems to get especial humiliation in the film and we are supposed to find that funny. One poster for the film promoted the spanking scene, which is downright mean. Also, you can tell that some of the Cole Porter songs were sanitized for Hollywood, often in ridiculous ways, although the "Tom, Dick and Harry" song still sounds naughty. The bright spots for me are the big Bob Fosse-Carol Haney "From this Moment On" number near the end of the film, and any scene with Ann Miller in it. She's delightful and lively as Lois, the "Bianca" character, and in the above photo she's performing Porter's classic song "Too Darn Hot."
If you want to see some color screenshots from the "Too Darn Hot" scene, DVD Beaver has a couple of images included in its analysis of the Kiss Me Kate DVD. I'd also recommend Bright Lights Film Journal's essay on Kiss Me Kate for another, more positive opinion of the overall movie. Personally, I've always felt that the Muppets should do their own chaotic version of Kiss Me Kate -- now that I would enjoy. Too bad Ann Miller isn't around any more to help them out.