Monday, May 21, 2018

Godspeed Patricia Morison

Patricia Morison, the dark haired beauty who appeared in such movies as Dressed to Kill (1946) and Song of the Thin Man (1947) as well as on Broadway in Kiss Me Kate and The King and I, died yesterday, May 20 2018, at the age of 103.

Patricia Morison was born Eileen Patricia Augusta Fraser Morison on March 19 1915 in New York City. Her father was William Morison, a Belfast born playwright who acted under the name Norman Rainey. Her mother, Selena Morison (née Fraser), had served in British Intelligence during World War I. She graduated from Washington Irving High School in New York City. She then studied at the Arts Students League and at the same time studied acting at Neighbourhood Playhouse. She studied dancing under Martha Graham.

Miss Morison made her debut on stage at the Provincetown Playhouse in the musical revue Don't Mind the Rain. In 1933 she was cast in the short-running production Growing Pains, but did so badly that she was fired during rehearsals. The young Miss Morison (who was only 18 at the time) cried so hard that they gave her a walk on in the play. In the late Thirties she appeared on Broadway in the  productions Victoria Regina and The Two Bouquets. Her performance in Two Bouquets brought her to the attention of talent scouts from Paramount Pictures, who signed her to a contract. She made her film debut in Persons in Hiding in 1939. In the late Thirties she appeared in such films as I'm from Missouri (1939), The Magnificent Fraud (1939), Untamed (1940), and Rangers of Fortune (1940).

Sadly, Paramount would not utilise Miss Morison to her full potential. She appeared primarily in B movies at the studio. In the early Forties she appeared in such films as Romance of the Rio Grande (1941), The Roundup (1941), One Night in Lisbon (1941), Are Husbands Necessary? (1942), and Night in New Orleans (1942). Following Night in New Orleans Patricia Morison left Paramount and went freelance. For the remainder of the Forties she appeared in such films as Silver Skates (1943), The Fallen Sparrow (1943), Calling Dr. Death (1943), The Song of Bernadette (1943), Dressed to Kill (1946), Queen of the Amazons (1947), Tarzan and the Huntress (1947), Song of the Thin Man (1947), The Prince of Thieves (1948), and Sofia (1948). She appeared on Broadway in Kiss Me Kate, originating the role of Lilli Vanessi. She made her television debut in 1950 in an episode of Robert Montgomery Presents.

In the Fifties Patricia Morison played Dr. Karen Gayle in the TV show The Cases of Eddie Drake. She guest starred on such shows as Pulitzer Prize Playhouse, The Jackie Gleason Show, Four Star Playhouse, Screen Directors Playhouse, Schlitz Playhouse of Stars, Tales of the 77th Bengal Lancers, and Have Gun--Will Travel. She appeared in a television adaptation of Kiss Me Kate, reprising her role as Lilli. On Broadway she appeared in The King and I. She appeared in the movie Song Without End (1960).

In the Sixties she guest starred on the TV shows The United States Steel Hour and Directions,. She appeared in another adaptation of Kiss Me Kate, once more playing Lilli. She appeared in the movie Racing Fever (1964). In the Seventies she appeared in the movie Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976). In the Eighties Miss Morison appeared in the TV movie Mirrors and guest starred on the classic sitcom Cheers. In the Nineties she guest starred on the TV show Gabriel's Fire and appeared in the movie The Long Day Closes (1992).

In later years Miss Morison devoted herself to painting. She had several art shows in the Los Angeles area. In December 2012, at the age of 97, she appeared in Ladies of an Indeterminate Age at the Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles.

I have always thought Patricia Morison was poorly utilised by Hollywood. She was much more than a striking, raven haired beauty. She was also a very talented actress. She gave an impressive performance as the femme fatale Phyllis in Song of the Thin Man. She was also impressive in her brief appearance as the Empress Eugenie in Song of Bernadette. Even in the many B-movies in which she appeared, Patricia Morison gave good performances. That she had considerable talent can be seen in the fact that she was apparently better appreciated on Broadway than in Hollywood. She originated the role of Lilli in Kiss Me Kate and took over the role of Anna in The King and I. She spent much of her career touring with or appearing in stock productions of such plays as Kismet; The Merry Widow; Song of Norway; Bell, Book and Candle; and many others. Patricia Morison was enormously talented. It was a shame that Hollywood did not seem to realise that.

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