For my 16th birthday, Patricia Morrison the star of Kiss Me Kate and the Sherlock Holmes flick with Basil Rathbone ” Terror, by Night” gifted me with a hand painted card. My mother and Patricia were good friends, along with her mother Pixie. I spent many a afternoon in her Park La Brea apartment. Patricia, also a painter, had filled the home with her works. It was sad news that I learned Patricia, 103 died today of natural causes. Best known for her starring roles in Cole Porter’s Kiss Me Kate and The King & I opposite Yul Brynner, she made her feature film debut in 1939 after several years on the stage.
Born to an Irish father, William Morison,was a playwright and occasional actor who billed himself under the name Norman Rainey. Her mother, Selena Morison (née Fraser also known as Pixie) worked for British Intelligence during World War I. Patricia studied painting and art at the Arts Students League while taking acting classes at the Neighborhood Playhouse. She also studied dance under Martha Graham.
While appearing in The Two Bouquets, Morison was noticed by talent scouts from Paramount Pictures, who — at the time — were looking for exotic, dark-haired glamorous types similar to Dorothy Lamour. Signed to a contract with Paramount. She made her feature film debut in the “B” film Persons in Hiding (1939). The following year she appeared opposite Milland in the Technicolor romance Untamed, a remake of the Clara Bow vehicle, Man Trap (1926).
Patricia stared in Rangers of Fortune (1940) and One Night in Lisbon (1941), both with Fred MacMurray. On a loan-out to 20th Century-Fox she played one of her first villainess roles in Romance of the Rio Grande (1941), which starred Cesar Romero.
In 1942, when the US was involved in World War II, she joined the USO and entertained the troops. Morison returned to the cinema as Empress Eugénie in The Song of Bernadette (1943) and more. In 1944, she returned to the Broadway stage in Allah Be Praised!, but the show closed.
Back to film she stared with Spencer Tracy-Katharine Hepburn in Without Love (1945), Universal’s Sherlock Holmes series and MGM’s The Thin Man series and Tarzan and the Huntress (1947), The Prince of Thieves (1947), and more.
In 1948, Cole Porter had heard her sing and offered her the female lead in his new show, Kiss Me, Kate. Morison played the role in London as well. In 1954, Morison took over the role of Anna Leonowens in the The King and I.
During the 1950s and 1960s, Morison made several appearances on television, and in 1971 she and Yul Brynner performed “Shall We Dance” from The King and I on a broadcast of the Tony Awards. Prior to that she sang “Zip” in a production of Pal Joey in San Diego and my family was her guest opening night.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Morison performed on stage numerous times, mostly in stock and touring productions.
In December 2012, at age 97, she appeared on stage in an evening entitled Ladies of an Indeterminate Age at the Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles. Her co-stars included Charlotte Rae and Anne Jeffreys. In March 2014, at age 99, she appeared onstage for Broadway Backwards 9, a benefit for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center at the Al Hirschfeld Theater. She sang “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” from Kiss Me, Kate. Performing in this benefit must have given Patricia some closure.
For her 100th birthday, the Pasadena Playhouse sponsored an evening with Patricia Morison on March 15, 2015, including an audience Q & A session and selections from Kiss Me, Kate performed by the guest of honor.