The ranks of Hollywood royalty have thinned just a little this week, with the passing to Fabulon of MGM's prestige soprano of the early '50s, Miss Kathryn Grayson. Her brand of wholesome, high-brow appeal - a slightly too sweet amalgam of coloratura and cleavage - may not have aged particularly well, but during her moment in the sun, she was Queen of the Lot.
In memory, it will always be 1953, the year that saw her headline three of MGM's favorite things: a much-loved classic (The Desert Song), a hagiographic biopic (So This is Love, the story of Grace Moore, herself a onetime MGM asset), and a great big Broadway hit, Cole Porter no less (Kiss Me Kate). In the last, it must be admitted, she's really very good, happily sending up her image and gleefully sparring with dreamy costar Howard Keel.
If all her parts had been as challenging, as off-kilter, as Kate's Lilli Vanessi, she might have had a longer career, but audiences were tiring of operetta and what Lena Horne later called "pretty mouth" singing. After only one more picture (the creaky Vagabond King, from a 1925 Friml original, at Paramount and opposite the not exactly Keelische Oreste Kirkop), Grayson moved on to theatre, television, and graceful retirement.
She was a lovely lady with a lovely voice who appears to have lived a dignified and happy life, and if that's not the stuff of tabloids and Hollywood legends, it's still no mean feat. What leading lady of today will have as good a name in fifty years?