"KISS ME KATE" (George Sidney; 1953)
A mostly agreeable combination of screwball plotting and song-and-dance, George Sidney's Kiss Me Kate ('53), based on the Cole Porter Broadway play of the same name, is one of those musicals-within-a-musical that offers a backstage pass to reveal highly contemptuous romances and shoestring production.
Howard Keel and Kathryn Grayson, playing former husband and wife, are the two leads in a musical version of The Taming of the Shrew, but a mix-up involving money being owed to the mafia and a botched delivery of a bouquet of flowers, the show is in danger of losing its leading actress.
The contested relationship between Keel and Grayson soon begins to blend into Shakespeare's source material, providing both dramatic irony and genuine hilarity. Eventually, the film comes up short of greatness for the simple reason that the drama backstage proves to be far more enduring than the show being performed on it. [B]
"CALAMITY JANE" (David Butler; 1953)
A whip-crackin' western musical that's both suffocatingly perky and endearingly amusing, Calamity Jane is ultimately well-meaning mythological hokum.
Doris Day, with her masculine demeanor and her darn-tootin' Black Hills accent, is mostly a drag - dippy and irritating. Rather, it's the sweet and coy presence of Allyn McLerie as the aspiring saloon singer Katie Brown that makes the lasting impression in a performance that's both timidly sexy and surely comedic. [C+]