Original Kiss Me, Kate Star Patricia Morison Dies at 103

Morison was Broadway’s first Lilli Vanessi, and also played Anna Leonowens in the original production of ”The King and I”.

Broadway actress Patricia Morison has died at the age of 103.
Broadway actress Patricia Morison has died at the age of 103.
(© photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Patricia Morison, Broadway's first Lilli Vanessi/Katharine in the classic Cole Porter musical Kiss Me, Kate, died at her West Hollywood home on Saturday, May 19. She was 103.

Morison (born Eileen Patricia Augusta Fraser Morison) was born in New York City on March 19, 1915, to William Morison, an actor and playwright originally from Belfast, and Selena (Fraser) Morison, who worked for British intelligence during World War I. She studied painting at the Art Students League of New York, also taking acting classes at the Neighborhood Playhouse and studying dance under Martha Graham.

Morison made her Broadway debut in 1933 with the Aurania Rouverol flop Growing Pains. She went on to appear in the operetta The Two Bouquets (1938), Allah Be Praised! (1944), Kiss Me, Kate (1948), and the original production of The King and I, taking on the role of Anna Leonowens for the final stretch of its run in 1954. Following the Broadway closing of The King and I, Morison and her costar Yul Brynner toured with the show for over a year.

She signed a contract with Paramount Pictures in 1938, filming her first picture for the studio, Persons in Hiding, in 1939. She left Paramount in 1942 and continued her screen career in films such as The Fallen Sparrow (1943), with John Garfield and Maureen O'Hara; The Song of Bernadette (1943), with Jennifer Jones; and Without Love (1945), with Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy.

Morison reprised her role as Lilli for a 1958 television adaptation of Kiss Me, Kate as well as a 1965 New York City Center revival. She returned to her early love of painting later in her life and had several showings in and around Los Angeles. Morison never married or had children, and leaves no immediate survivors.