In early 1954 the old Empire, Leicester Square in London, then the West End's biggest and finest cinema, was where "Kiss Me Kate" was shown in 3-D. Subsequent generations have only known it in its flat version, and sadly that big Empire screen vanished many years ago. The BFI provides a welcome opportunity to see George Sidney's film the way it was meant to be seen. Now the reason why Ann Miller in her "Too Darn Hot" dance number flails the camera lens with her pink chiffon scarf becomes clear, and when Kathryn Grayson hurls a pewter goblet at the audience in "I Hate Men" the instinct is to duck.
It's a stagey piece, but so what? It's about the theatre anyway, with Grayson and Howard Keel leading a company staging a musical version of "The Taming of the Shrew". The trouble is that she is jaded and plans to run off with a Texan millionaire while he wants her back as a wife and a leading lady, and has to tame her.
The sparkling score by Cole Porter is one of his best with almost every number a standard, including "So in Love", "Why Can't You Behave", "Always True to You in my Fashion", and "I've Come to Wife it Wealthily in Padua".
The effervescent Ann Miller not only dances superbly but performs splendidly in the Bianca role, while Keenan Wynn and James Whitmore are a delight as they soft-shoe through the cod vaudeville number "Brush Up Your Shakespeare". The most magical moment is when for 45 seconds a very young Bob Fosse dances in "From This Moment On" to his own choreography, bringing to the screen the first glimpse of the slides, hand wiggles, and angular limbs that were to change forever the look of dancing on Broadway. A treat, on no account to be missed.