'40s, '50s MGM singing star Kathryn Grayson, 88, dies

Kathryn Grayson, an MGM singing star in the 1940s and early '50s in musicals, has died. She was 88.

Grayson died Wednesday of natural causes at her home in Los Angeles, publicist Dale Olson told the Los Angeles Times.

A dark-haired beauty with a brilliant coloratura voice, Grayson signed with MGM as a teenager and made her screen debut in "Andy Hardy's Private Secretary," starring Mickey Rooney, in 1941.

She went on to appear opposite Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly in "Anchors Aweigh;" Kelly in "Thousands Cheer;" Sinatra in "The Kissing Bandit;" Mario Lanza in "The Toast of New Orleans," Howard Keel in "Show Boat," "Lovely to Look At" and "Kiss Me Kate;" and Gordon MacRae in "The Desert Song," among other musicals.

"Kathryn Grayson was an attempt to continue the Jeanette MacDonald tradition at MGM," Drew Casper, a professor at USC's School of Cinematic Arts, told The Times, referring to half of the studio's popular operetta team of Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy who came to fame in the 1930s.

Grayson had no fond memories of "The Vagabond King," her final big-screen musical, for Paramount, in 1956.

"I didn't like it," she told the Toronto Star. "So I called it a day: no more movies."

At the conclusion of her film career, Grayson began performing in nightclubs and concerts and did some acting on television. And in 1960, she made her opera debut, in "Madama Butterfly."

Married and divorced twice – to actor John Shelton and to singer Johnny Johnston – Grayson is survived by her daughter, two grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. A funeral service will be private, and a memorial is pending, The Times reported.

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