Kathryn Grayson was a coloratura soprano who made her mark in lavish movie musicals such as Kiss Me Kate and Show Boat. She made recordings and sang in concert, in nightclubs, and on radio and television. She also took to the opera stage, appearing in productions of La Boheme, La Traviata, and Madame Butterfly.
Born on February 9, 1922, in Winston-Salem, NC, Grayson grew up in St. Louis, the third child born in a family headed by a father who worked in real estate. During her childhood she studied opera and later trained at the Chicago Civic Opera under the tutelage of Francis Marshall. By the time she was 15 years old, she had a contract with RCA Red Seal Records. Opera, however, received short shrift after MGM head Louis B. Mayer got a glimpse of Grayson and heard her sing. He offered the soprano a movie contract with no screen test requirement. By 1943, Grayson's magnificent voice, angelic face, and heavenly figure brought her stardom. In addition to MGM, she also appeared in movies made by Paramount and Warner Bros.
Grayson's personal life turned out to be more problematic than her career. In 1940, she married for the first time, eloping at the age of 18. Her union with actor John Shelton underwent seven separations and reunions before the couple called it quits in 1946. Grayson married again the following year. Her union with singer Johnny Johnston produced a daughter, but the couple separated not long after the child's arrival. They reconciled once, but divorced in 1952. Their daughter spent almost a year recovering from a dislocated hip that occurred when she was an infant.
The singer received a Sarah Siddons Award nomination for her performance in The Merry Widow. For more than a decade, beginning in 1988, she toured in An Evening with Kathryn Grayson. She took to the stage from 1994 to 1997 with Van Johnson in a production of Love Letters, and the pair followed up with Red Sox and Roses. On February 17, 2010, Kathryn Grayson died at the age of 88 in her Los Angeles area home. ~ Linda Seida