Jewels in Her Crown: Treasures of Columbia University Libraries Special Collections

Exhibition Themes > Theater History & Dramatic Arts > 247. Samuel and Bella Cohen Spewack

247a.  Samuel (1899-1971) and Bella Cohen Spewack (1899-1990).  Kiss Me, Kate, "Script A". Typescript, with autograph corrections, 1948. RBML, Sam and Bella Spewack Papers

247b.  First Tony award for Best Book (Musical), 1949. RBML, Sam and Bella Spewack Papers

The idea for Kiss Me, Kate came from producer Arnold Saint-Subber. In 1935, while working as a stagehand for the Theatre Guild's production of The Taming of the Shrew, he noticed that Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne were involved in a relationship that was almost as tempestuous offstage as it was onstage in their roles as Petruccio and Katherine. With the book written by Sam (Columbia College, Class of 1919) and Bella Spewack, and the music and lyrics written by Cole Porter, with liberal use of Shakespeare's dialogue for the "onstage" musical numbers, Kiss Me, Kate opened on December 30, 1948 at the New Century Theatre and ran for 1070 performances. It won five "Tony" Awards in 1949, the second year of the awards and the first time that musicals were honored separately, including this one given to the Spewacks, and awards for "Best Musical," and "Best Score." The award for "Best Play" was given to Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman.

The Spewack Papers contain a large amount of material relating to the creation, production, and performance of their works for stage, screen, radio and television; Bella Spewack's work for various charitable organizations including UNRRA; and the manuscripts of novels, short stories and articles written by the Spewacks.

Bequest of Bella C. Spewack, 1990

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