Kathryn Grayson: The Most Beautiful Woman in Movies

January 5, 2019     Updated December 25, 2021

Kathryn Grayson

Kathryn Grayson was called "the most beautiful woman in the history of movies." Here's her story, from opera dreams to Hollywood stardom.

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The talented Kathryn Grayson is TCM’s Star of the Month for January 2019. 

To be completely honest, Kathryn is a star I’ve always been more or less indifferent to.  And I really don’t know why.  She’s undeniably talented and beautiful.  Co-star and friend Howard Keel even called Kathryn “the most beautiful woman in the history of movies.”  And as anyone who’s watched her onscreen would agree, Kathryn Grayson also radiates a lovable sweetness.

So this month, I plan to become a Kathryn Grayson fan.

Kathryn Grayson

From Opera Dreams to Hollywood Stardom

Kathryn Grayson was a coloratura soprano.  From age 12, Kathryn trained to become an opera singer.  But her beautiful singing voice was coupled with a gorgeous face and figure, which led to Kathryn’s discovery by an MGM talent scout at age 18. 

Kathryn signed with MGM, and was immediately thrown into MGM’s rigorous training program.  It’s understandable why fellow MGM contractee Esther Williams referred to the training program as “MGM University”: diets and exercise regimens, lessons in voice, acting, dancing, diction, and anything else MGM deemed necessary were part of Kathryn’s studies to prepare her for the screen.

And after her first film appearance in 1941 opposite Mickey Rooney in Andy Hardy’s Private Secretary, it seemed Kathryn Grayson had what it took to become a star.

kathryn grayson

Kathryn Grayson Serves Her Country

Kathryn Grayson made five films between 1941 and 1943 before taking a two-year break from filmmaking.  It was a risky career move, but it was important to Kathryn to do her part in the war effort: during those two years away from the movies, Kathryn entertained the troops.  Her service is made even more commendable by the fact that she would only perform for integrated audiences. 

Kathryn was ultimately rewarded for putting her film career on hold to serve her country.  In the following decade, Kathryn made some of the best films of her career, including Anchors Aweigh (1945), Showboat (1951), and Kiss Me Kate (1953).

Anchors Aweigh (1945), starring Frank Sinatra, Kathryn Grayson and Gene Kelly.

Kathryn Grayson Fulfills Her Childhood Dream

As the popularity of musicals declined in the late 1950s, so too did Kathryn’s film career.  At this time, Kathryn moved her talents to the stage, and found great success in stage productions of Show Boat, Kiss me Kate, and The Merry Widow, among others.  Kathryn finally realized her dream of becoming an opera star in the 1960s, appearing in several operas, including Madame Butterfly.

In her later years, Kathryn continued working in various stage and television productions.  Her last credited appearance was in an episode of Murder, She Wrote in 1989.  Kathryn then directed her focus to vocal training, offering private singing lessons and lending her expertise to Idaho State University’s Voice and Choral Studies program.

Ms. Grayson passed away in her sleep on February 17, 2010 at age 88.  She is survived by one daughter from her second marriage to actor Johnny Johnston.

Let’s enjoy Kathryn Grayson’s beautiful film legacy on TCM this month.  Don’t miss the following films on Tuesday, January 8th:

Andy Hardy’s Private Secretary (1941)
Rio Rita (1942)
Seven Sweethearts (1942)
The Vanishing Virginian (1942)

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