Kathryn Grayson Overview:

Legendary actress, Kathryn Grayson, was born Zelma Kathryn Elisabeth Hedrick on Feb 9, 1922 in Winston-Salem, NC. Grayson died at the age of 88 on Feb 17, 2010 in Los Angeles, CA and was cremated and her ashes given to family or friend.

Early Life and Career

Kathryn Grayson was born Zelma Kathryn Elisabeth Hedrick on February 9, 1922 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She lived there with her with her family until 1927, when they move to St. Louis, Missouri. Grayson's vocal talents were apparent at a young age and soon after the move began taking vocal lessons from Frances Marshall of the Chicago Civic Opera. In hopes of furthering young Kathryn's career, the family moved to Los Angeles by the time she was a teenager. She attended the Manual Arts High School to further her musical training.

During a church performance young Grayson caught the attention of an executive from RCA records, who then went on to sign the 15 year to her first contract. Although her ultimate goal was the Opera stage, her career quickly took a different turn when MGM began pursuing the young singer, hoping to find a talent that could rival Universal's newest starlet, Deanna Durbin, whom had recently left MGM. After a talent scout saw Grayson singing at a music festival, she was quickly signed to MGM in 1940. 


Although Grayson had some musical training before being signed, MGM wanted their latest asset at her best before being seen by the public. Grayson's first 18 months at MGM consisted of voice and drama lessons, diction, and diets. Although she did have a screen test during this time, MGM was not satisfied with what they saw and sent her back for another six months of training. She finally made her screen debut in the low-budget comedy Andy Hardy's Private Secretary in 1941. The next year she starred with the comedy team Abbott and Costello in as the titular character in Rio Rita. That year she also appeared in The Vanishing Virginian and Seven Sweethearts. 

With her star on the rise, Grayson was cast alongside MGM veterans like Gene Kelly, Mickey Rooney, and June Allyson in the film Thousands Cheer. The film was used as a morale booster for US troops, who had just joined the fighting in World War II. After Thousands Cheer, Grayson didn't appear in another for over a year. She instead could be found performing for the troops on stage or the radio waves.


Grayson returned to the silver screen in 1945 opposite Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra in the musical comedy Anchors Aweigh. It was the fifth-highest grossing film of the year and helped solidify Grayson's potential as a star. She followed that with an appearance in Ziegfeld Follies. In 1946 she went on to appear in the fictionalized biopic of composer Jerome Kern Till the Clouds Roll By. Her string of hits came to end in 1947 and 1948 when she starred opposite Frank Sinatra in the films It Happened in Brooklyn and The Kissing Bandit. The films were both financial and critical failures. Despite these failures, Grayson was able to rebound in 1949 when she started opposite opera singer Mario Lanza in The Midnight Kiss. The film was a hit, as was Grayson and Lanza's next film The Toast of New Orleans.

The 1950s would prove to be Grayson's most popular decade, a time when her star shined as at its brightest. In 1951 she starred opposite Van Johnson in Grounds for Marriage. Despite her role as an opera singer, the film was actually her first non-singing role and showed her capabilities beyond just singing. She then was cast as Magnolia Hawks in the 1951 version of Show Boat starring opposite Howard Keel and Ava Gardner. She would work with Keel the next year in the Mervyn LeRoy musical Lovely to Look At. Her final film with MGM was the musical adaption of Shakespeare's comedy The Taming of the Shrew, titled Kiss Me Kate. The film was an incredibly lavish production and the only musical at the time to be presented in 3D.

Television and Stage.

In 1953 Grayson left MGM and signed a four-movie contract with Warner Brothers. Despite her success with the studio, MGM's contract with Grayson was exclusive and she wanted to do stage and television work. Her first film with the new studio was a mediocre adaptation of Rodgers and Hammerstein, The Desert Song. After her next film, So This is Love, was met with a cold reception, Warner Brothers decided to end the contract. Grayson then began work on the growing medium of television, making her small screen debut in a 1955 episode of General Electric Studio titled Shadow of the Heart. She would go to on get an Emmy nomination for the role. Grayson made her final big screen appearance in 1956 with the Michael Curtiz musical The Vagabond King.

Grayson would soon leave television and by the 1960s she worked exclusively on the stage. She traveled throughout the United States, appearing in productions of Showboat, Kiss Me Kate, and The More the Merrier. In 1960 she achieved her initial dream of appearing on the Opera stage, soon appearing in productions such as Madame Butterfly and La Boheme.  1962 she replaced Julie Andrews as Guinevere in Camelot. She then took the role on the road for a national tour and later Australia.

Later Career and Life

Grayson would continue to work on the stage into the 1970s and later reunited with her MGM cohort Howard Keel for a nightclub tour. She made her final screen appearance alongside Angela Lansbury in the popular television series Murder She Wrote. Remaining busy into the 1980s and 1990s, Grayson traveled the country with her one-woman show An Evening with Kathryn Grayson.  After she retired from the stage, she remained active into her old age by giving private voice lessons. Kathryn Grayson died on February 17, 2010. She was 88 years old.

(Source: article by Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub).



She was honored with one star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the category of Motion Pictures. Grayson was never nominated for an Academy Award.

BlogHub Articles:

Classics in the Carolinas:

on Jan 8, 2019 From Comet Over Hollywood

Actress, singer With her soprano voice and sweet, heart-shaped face, was one of the many stars in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s constellation. But before the singer and actress was one of the studio’s top stars, Grayson was born Zelma Kathryn Elisabeth Hedrick in ... Read full article

5 Things You May Not Know about

By minooallen on Feb 9, 2017 From Classic Movie Hub Blog

5 Things You May Not Know about ? ?Like that today, February 9th, 2017, would have been her 95th birthday! ?….. 1.) She owes her singing Career to a Janitor I just really want to draw your attention to those snake skin wedges…glorious. When Grayson was a pre-teen, her fa... Read full article

Gratuitous <3

By Kayla on Nov 19, 2015 From The Cinema Dilettante

Gratuitous <3 November 19, 2015 / The Cinema Dilettante Sometimes we all need a little KG. Could she be any more gorgeous? That’s all. Share this:TwitterFacebookGoogleLike this:Like Loading... Related ... Read full article

By Art on Feb 17, 2011 From Classic Cinema Gold

, born Feb. 9, 1922, was and American actress and opera singer. She signed a contract with MGM in the early 1940′s and went to work making musicals. She sang and starred in some of MGM’s most remembered musicals made in that period. Among her best are; Thousands Cheer (194... Read full article

By Dawn on Aug 10, 2010 From Noir and Chick Flicks

, made her first film performance in, Andy Hardy's Private Secretary(1941). White House Girl(1941), Then she went on to perform in, Very Warm for May(1948) The Vanishing Virginian, Rio Rita, Seven Sweethearts and Thousands Cheer(1943). In 1942 Grayson performed in An American Sympho... Read full article

See all articles

Kathryn Grayson Quotes:

Hyllary Jones: Trapeze? Are Eddie's parents acrobats?
Kathryn Jones: Aerialists! And I love him!

Susan Abbott: From the heart of a lonely poet, came a song for the girl he adored. 'Tho she tried very hard not to show it, she was terribly, terribly bored.

Magnolia: [to Gaylord Ravenal] I know there's no other woman... no flesh-and-blood woman. But I can't fight this Lady Luck of yours, this fancy queen in her green felt dress.

read more quotes from Kathryn Grayson...

Share this page:
Visit the Classic Movie Hub Blog CMH
Also an Aquarius

See All Aquariuses >>
Kathryn Grayson on the
Hollywood Walk of Fame

See All Walk of Fame Stars >>
Kathryn Grayson Facts
Howard Keel, her co-star in three movies, once described her in an interview as the most beautiful woman in the history of movies.

In 1954 Kathryn re-signed with RCA Records and recorded four songs with ex-husband Johnny Johnston. In the next year she made her night club debut at the Sahara in Las Vegas.

Was once engaged to Howard Hughes during the 1950s.

See All Related Facts >>