Cole Albert Porter was an American composer and songwriter who lived from June 9, 1891, until October 15, 1964. His scores were successful on Broadway and in movies, and several of his songs became standards known for their clever, urbane lyrics.
Porter, who was raised in a rich household in Indiana, chose to pursue music instead of law, in defiance of the advice of his grandfather. He had a classical education but was lured to musical theater.
He had a sluggish start, but by the 1920s he was starting to succeed, and by the 1930s he was one of the most important songwriters for the Broadway musical theater. Porter, in contrast to many popular Broadway songwriters, penned both the text and the music for his songs.
Porter was severely injured and in continual agony following a horseback riding accident in 1937, but he persisted in his employment.
The enduring hits of his best work from the 1920s and 1930s were absent from his shows in the early 1940s, but in 1948, he made a triumphant comeback with his most popular musical, Kiss Me, Kate. The inaugural Best Musical Tony Award went to it.
Fifty Million Frenchmen, DuBarry Was a Lady, Anything Goes, Can-Can, and Silk Stockings are some of Porter’s other musicals.
Night and Day, Begin the Beguine, I Get a Kick Out of You, Well, Did You Evah!, I’ve Got You Under My Skin, My Heart Belongs to Daddy, and You’re the Top are just a few of his numerous hit songs.
He also wrote the music for several movies from the 1930s through the 1950s, such as Born to Dance (1936), Rosalie (1937), High Society (1956), and Les Girls (1950), all of which contained the song “You’d Be So Easy to Love” (1957).
Cole Porter Life And Career
Porter, the sole surviving child of an affluent family, was born in Peru, Indiana. Samuel Fenwick Porter, his father, was a pharmacist by profession.
His mother, Kate, was the favored child of James Omar “J. O.” Cole, a coal and wood entrepreneur who ruled the family and was known as “the richest man in Indiana.” The couple’s home was constructed by J. O. Cole on his Westleigh Farms property in the Peru region.
Porter only made sporadic trips back to his childhood home after graduating from high school. Porter’s tenacious mother instilled in him a love of music at a young age.
He began playing the violin at age six, the piano at age eight, and at age ten, with the aid of his mother, he created his first operetta. She changed his reported birth year from 1891 to 1893 in order to make him seem younger than he actually was.
Porter’s father was a less significant figure in his childhood; yet, as an amateur poet, he might have had an impact on his son’s aptitude for rhyme and meter.
Porter’s father was a skilled pianist and vocalist as well, but the two did not get along well. In 1905, J. O. Cole sent his grandson to Worcester Academy in Massachusetts because he wanted him to become a lawyer.
Porter brought an upright piano to school with him and discovered that his ability to amuse others as well as his love of music made it simple for him to make friends. Porter did well in school and saw his family infrequently.
His grandfather surprised him with a trip to France, Switzerland, and Germany after he graduated as the class valedictorian. Porter majored in English, minored in music, and studied French while attending Yale College in 1909.
He was a contributor to the school humor publication The Yale Record and a member of the fraternities Scroll and Key and Delta Kappa Epsilon.
He joined the Whiffenpoofs early on and took part in other music groups. In his senior year, he was elected president of the Yale Glee Club and served as the group’s lead soloist.
Porter composed 300 songs while a student at Yale, including Yale-repeated student favorites like the football battle songs “Bulldog” and “Bingo Eli Yale” (also known as “Bingo, That’s The Lingo!”).
Porter visited New York City on the train with his classmates for dinner, the theater, and nights out before returning to New Haven, Connecticut, early the next morning. This allowed Porter to get to know the city’s thriving nightlife.
Cora (1911), And the Villain Still Pursued Her (1912), The Pot of Gold (1912), The Kaleidoscope (1913), and Paranoia (1914) were among the musical comedies he wrote for his fraternity, the Yale Dramatic Association, and while he was a student at Harvard.
These works helped him prepare for a career as a Broadway and Hollywood composer and lyricist. Porter went in Harvard Law School in 1913 after earning his degree from Yale, where he shared a dorm with Dean Acheson, who would later become secretary of state.
He quickly realized that becoming a lawyer was not his calling and, on the advice of the law school dean, went to Harvard’s music program to study harmony and counterpoint under Pietro Yon.
Although his mother had no objections, J. O. Cole was not made aware of this decision.
“Esmeralda,” Porter’s debut Broadway song, debuted in the musical Hands Up in 1915. His first Broadway production, See America First, a “patriotic comic opera” based on Gilbert and Sullivan, with a book by T.
Lawrason Riggs, was a flop, closing after two weeks. The quick success was immediately followed by failure. Porter remained in New York City for an additional year before enlisting in the military for World War I.
Cole Porter Marriage
When America enlisted in World War I in 1917, Porter relocated to Paris to work for the Duryea Relief organization.
Porter’s claim to have been in the French Foreign Legion has been disputed by several authors, but the Legion lists Porter as one of its soldiers and has a photograph of him on exhibit at their museum in Aubagne.
Some sources claim that after serving in North Africa, he was assigned to the French Officers School at Fontainebleau, where he instructed American soldiers in gunnery.
According to his obituary in The New York Times, “he had a specially constructed portable piano made for him so that he could carry it on his back and entertain the men in their bivouacs” while serving in the Legion.
However, according to Porter’s biographer Stephen Citron, there is no record of him enlisting in this or any other branch of the military.
Porter also claimed that he joined the recruiting division of the American Aviation Headquarters. In Paris, Porter kept a beautiful apartment where he hosted expensive parties.
In addition to “extensive gay and bisexual activities, Italian nobility, cross-dressing, foreign musicians, and a big surplus of recreational drugs,” his events were expensive and controversial.
He first met Linda Lee Thomas in 1918; she was a wealthy divorcee from Louisville, Kentucky, who was eight years his senior.
They shared common interests, especially a love of travel, and she became Porter’s confidante and companion since she was attractive and socially connected.
The following year, the pair got hitched. Although she was certain of Porter’s homosexuality, she decided to get married because it would be in their best interests.
It provided Linda with a companion who was the antithesis of her controlling first husband as well as maintained social standing.
In an era when homosexuality was not openly accepted, it gave Porter a respectable heterosexual face. In addition, they were sincerely committed to one another; they were wed from December 19, 1919, till she passed away in 1954.
Linda maintained her social position and attempted to use her connections to find her husband a suitable teacher, such as Igor Stravinsky, but was unsuccessful. Linda thought that classical music might be a more prestigious outlet than Broadway for her husband’s talents.
Porter finally enrolled at the Schola Cantorum in Paris, where Vincent d’Indy taught him orchestration and counterpoint.
The song “Old-Fashioned Garden” from the 1919 revue Hitchy-Koo became Porter’s first significant hit. He wrote the music for several songs in the musical A Night Out in 1920.
Porter’s passion for ostentatious luxury did not change after marriage. The Porter residence on the rue Monsieur close to Les Invalides was an opulent property with platinum decor and zebra-skin-covered chairs.
The Porter family started residing in rented palaces in Venice in 1923 after Porter received an inheritance from his grandpa.
He once paid the complete Ballets Russes to perform for his guests, and at a party at Ca’ Rezzonico, which he rented for $4,000 a month (about $64,000 in today’s money), he hired 50 gondoliers to serve as footmen and had a group of tightrope walkers perform in front of a dazzling display of lights.
With the encouragement of his wife, Porter continued to write songs despite leading an expensive lifestyle. In the years immediately following his marriage, Porter didn’t obtain many songwriting commissions. He occasionally had a song added to British and American revues by other authors.
He achieved two successes in 1921 with the comedic numbers “The Blue Boy Blues” and “Olga, Come Back to the Volga” for a C. B. Cochran production. He wrote a brief ballet in 1923 with Gerald Murphy that satirically depicted the exploits of an immigrant to America who becomes a movie star.
The ballet was originally titled Landed and later changed to Within the Quota. It is a 16-minute piece created for the Ballets Suédois. Charles Koechlin was the conductor, and it debuted on the same night as Milhaud’s La création du monde.
Four months before George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, Porter’s composition was one of the first symphonic jazz-based works, and it was highly received by both French and American reviews after its world premiere at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in October 1923.
The Ballets Suédois performed the piece 69 times during a tour of the United States after a successful New York performance the following month.
The score was lost until it was recreated between 1966 and 1990 using Porter and Koechlin’s manuscripts, with assistance from Milhaud and others. The company disbanded a year later.
Porter’s work on The Greenwich Village Follies was less successful (1924). The majority of the original music was written by him, but throughout the course of the Broadway run, his songs were gradually omitted, and by the time of the 1925 post-Broadway tour, all of his numbers had been eliminated.
Despite continuing to write songs for friends and perform at private events, Porter almost gave up songwriting as a vocation after becoming dissatisfied with the reception to most of his work.
What did Cole Porter died of?
Kidney failure. Only his closest friends knew the full degree of the physical and mental suffering Cole Porter had undergone for 27 years when he passed away from kidney failure at the age of 73 on October 15, 1964.
Did Cole Porter have an accident?
Porter’s tale does come to a spectacular conclusion. He suffered a terrible accident in the fall of 1937 when he was 46 years old, in which the horse he was riding fell on him and crushed one of his legs.
Did Cole Porter have any children?
Porter, who had been retired since 1958, kept a house in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Brentwood and a whole floor at the Waldorf Astoria in New York.
He married the former Linda Lee Thomas in Paris in 1919; she passed away in 1954. They didn’t have any kids.
Why does Cole Porter wear a hat all the time?
Porter stated: “It began off hiding some scars from surgery but it’s become my style” in an interview with Metro. It was chilly where I was—Denver. I had five layers of gear on, including a hat.
Did Cole Porter serve in the military?
Porter served in North Africa as a member of the French Foreign Legion. In 1917, he was posted to the French Officers School at Fontainebleau where he was tasked with instructing American soldiers in gunnery.
He established a lavish apartment in Paris and alternated between carrying out his officer responsibilities and living the playboy life.
When did Cole Porter have his accident?
In the summer of 1937, as Porter was horseback riding, his horse slipped, flung him, and fell on top of him, fracturing both of his legs and inflicting neurological damage.
The bone illness chronic osteomyelitis was one of the effects of Mr. Porter’s accident.
How long did Cole Porter live in Paris?
Initially intending to enlist in the military when the US entered World War I, Cole Porter relocated to France in 1917. However, he remained in Paris until the mid-1930s and became one of the musicians who popularized jazz among the French.
Who were Cole Porter’s friends?
Poet Archibald Macleish, member of the Crocker banking dynasty from San Francisco, and actor Monty Woolley were classmates. Porter and Dean Acheson shared a dorm and were close friends before Dean Acheson was appointed secretary of state of the United States.
Who was Cole Porter influenced by?
Abercrombie, as a significant factor. In a song, “Words and music must be so inseparably married to each other that they are like one,” Cole claimed that Abercrombie taught him about language and meter. Cole was the valedictorian of his class in 1909, the year he left the Academy.
How many shows did Cole Porter write?
For more than 30 stage musicals and motion picture musicals, American composer Cole Albert Porter (1891–1964) wrote songs with both lyrics and music.
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