Kiss Me Kate: Earl Overdoes It

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In the summer of 1958, the 34-year-old singer Jane Morgan was touring the northeastern US, playing Lilli Vanessi in Kiss Me Kate. As the tour progressed, her fellow actors began to notice that she was always reluctant to sit down. This wasn’t because Jane was an energetic lady who never felt the need to have a rest. On the contrary, it had a lot to do with this scene in the play:

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Her costar Earl Wrightson, in the role of Fred, was giving the scene that little bit of extra authenticity. In the onstage dressing room scene afterwards Miss Vanessi was to be seen vigorously rubbing the seat of her black panties. And it wasn’t all acting…

She also stopped acting in the more immediate aftermath of the spanking, when Lilli slaps Fred. One night in Valley Forge, after enduring an extra-hard spanking even by Earl Wrightson’s standards, she hit him so hard that he was knocked to the floor:

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And the outcome was that he spanked her harder still in the ensuing performances!

The worst night was August 5. They’d just opened on Long Island, and Wrightson wasn’t letting up. His reward was an almighty sock in the kisser that resulted in a trip to the hospital to have his jaw x-rayed. Jane later said she was sorry she had hurt him: ‘I just wanted to let him know he was spanking me too hard.’

It later emerged that his jaw wasn’t broken after all, and the press decided that it was all a publicity stunt. To assure them that it wasn’t, Jane invited the Broadway reporter Earl Wilson to visit her dressing room and inspect her bare bottom; being a gentleman, he declined and took her word for it. Other newshounds asked around the rest of the cast, and the authenticity of the over-authentic spanking was confirmed by an unnamed actress, who supplied an especially choice quote:

‘I wouldn’t even want to understudy that part. Earl has a hand like a ham. I’ll never invite him to my birthday party.’

And that incidentally indicates that one customary feature of her birthday parties was the traditional birthday spanking!

The irony is that Jane Morgan had previously participated in a publicity stunt in which she denounced a fashion for wearing ‘false bottoms’ to enhance what nature had insufficiently endowed. She told the press that she for one found them unnecessary, and swore she would never wear one. To reinforce the point, she did what she offered to do for Earl Wilson a year or so later, and stripped off to show the photographers why:

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After the Kiss Me Kate incident, one magazine revived the story and pointed out that Jane now had cause to regret her rash vow. The piece ran under the juicy headline:

Why Jane Morgan Needs Padded Panties

She may have needed them again in July 1962 when she and Wrightson got back together for a three-week run in Hillside, Illinois:

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It was a strictly limited engagement, 24 performances only. But that did mean 24 more sessions over Wrightson’s knee, under his ham-sized hand!

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And with that, Jane Morgan said goodbye to the role of Lilli Vanessi, save for certain extracts that involved her singing voice rather than the shrieks and protests of a well-spanked leading lady. Those fell instead to Wrightson’s regular singing partner, Lois Hunt, who toured with him in Kiss Me Kate until well into the 1970s:

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For her sake, let’s hope Jane Morgan taught him something with those socks on the jaw!

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