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'Kiss Me, Kate' actress Patricia Morison dies at 103

'Kiss Me, Kate' actress Patricia Morison dies at 103
Patricia Morison and Ray Milland in the movie "Are Husbands Necessary" (1942). (Paramount Pictures)

Actress Patricia Morison, the originator of the ultimate diva trope through her role in the 1948 Broadway musical "Kiss Me, Kate," has died, according to the Hollywood Reporter. She was 103.

Morison, an 80-year stage and screen veteran, died Sunday at her home in Los Angeles of natural causes.

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"I have been so fortunate in my life, honey," Morison told The Times in 2015 on the eve of her 100th birthday. "I am grateful to be here."

Morison was born in New York in 1915 to a playwright/actor father and a British intelligence operations mother. She got her start in show business at 18 when she was cast in the short-lived 1933 Broadway comedy "Growing Pains," which ran for 29 performances.

"I was so bad in it, they fired me in rehearsals," Morison told the Times in 2015. "I cried so hard they gave me a walk-on."

In 1938, she appeared in the operetta "The Two Bouquets" with Leo G. Carroll and Alfred Drake, who later became her co-star in "Kiss Me, Kate" on Broadway as well as in the 1958 TV version.

The musical-within-a-musical, which revolved around a production of Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew," ran for 2½ years and more than a thousand performances. It garnered six Tony Awards including the very first for best musical.

Her performance drew the attention of Paramount, and Morison subsequently transitioned to film in 1939. The studio signed her to a contract and brought her to Hollywood, nicknaming her "The Fire and Ice Girl."

She made her film debut with "Persons in Hiding" before continuing onto a string of mostly forgettable roles at the studio. After leaving Paramount she freelanced, appearing in films like "The Song of Bernadette" (1943) where she played Empress Eugenie, "The Fallen Sparrow" (1943) opposite John Garfield and "Without Love" (1945) with Spencer Tracy and Audrey Hepburn.

Patricia Morison and John Garfield in the movie "The Fallen Sparrow" (1943).
Patricia Morison and John Garfield in the movie "The Fallen Sparrow" (1943). (RKO Radio Pictures)

She also starred in films like "Night in New Orleans" (1942), "Lady on a Train" (1945), "Song of the Thin Man" (1947), "Queen of the Amazons" (1947), "Tarzan and the Huntress" (1947) and "Song Without End" (1960).

The actress' dark beauty and waist-length dark hair led her to be cast most often as a femme fatale or villainess, most notably in 1946's "Dressed to Kill," the final installment of the "Sherlock Holmes" franchise where she played criminal mastermind Mrs. Hilda Courtney opposite Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce.

Morison stepped in to play Anna Leonowens in the original Broadway production of Rodgers & Hammerstein's "The King and I" after actress Gertrude Lawrence died of liver cancer months into production.

After retiring from acting, Morison devoted herself to painting. She never married or had children. A longtime Los Angeles reisdent, she lived in Miracle Mile's Park La Brea apartments for more than 50 years.

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