Cole Porter (1891-1964) was a writer of popular songs from the 1920s to the 1950s. He wrote for several musicals, mostly in the 1930s
, that had very slim, loose plots. Those musicals were an excuse for beautiful women, comic gags, one-liners and, most of all, musical numbers. His most famous play is Kiss Me Kate
, which is about putting on a production of
, believe it or not, The Taming of the Shrew
, but his real claim to fame is his urbane, witty songs, like "I Get A Kick Out of You" and "Night and Day".
Porter is especially well known for list songs, like "Let's Do It (Let's Fall in Love)", "You're the Top" and "Brush Up Your Shakespeare". His songs have been recorded from the 1930s to the 1960s by such big stars of the time Fred Astaire
, Ella Fitzgerald, Ethel Merman
, Frank Sinatra
, and Louis Armstrong
. On a side note, Porter was gay, which shows in some of his songs
that deal with things like forbidden, impossible or unrequited love.
Cole Porter's songs are examples of these tropes:
- Bowdlerise: The lyrics to "Let's Do It (Let's Fall In Love)" (written in The Twenties) were changed because it contained racial slurs which were later deemed inappropriate.
- Double Entendre: "Let's Do It (Let's Fall In Love)" among others. Of course, sometimes, Cole was not so subtle, and skipped straight to "Let's Misbehave."
- Executive Meddling: The lyrics to the song "I Get a Kick Out of You" from the musical Anything Goes originally contained a reference to cocaine. When the musical was turned into a movie, Porter was forced to censor the lyrics.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Cole Porter had this practically down to a science.
- List Song: "Let's Do It (Let's Fall in Love)", "You're the Top", "Brush Up Your Shakespeare", "Anything Goes", etc...
- Patter Song: "Let's Not Talk About Love," among others.
- Repurposed Pop Song: "I've Got You Under My Skin", repurposed as "I've Got You Under My Rim" for a toilet bowl cleanser commercial. If it's any comfort, Porter's executor admitted he'd botched the request.
- Russian Reversal: "Anything Goes" — [if the pilgrims could see what had become of American society], "Instead of landing on Plymouth Rock, Plymouth Rock would land on them!"
- Shout-Out: To Alfred Kinsey, of all people, in "Too Darn Hot".
- To anyone and everyone. From politicians, to actors, to characters from literature, no reference was too obscure or too popular. Basically, if he could rhyme it, he would use it. And he could ALWAYS rhyme it.
Cole Porter himself is an example of these tropes:
- The Beard: Cole's wife, Linda, who knew about his homosexuality when she married him. When they met she had just gotten out of a sexually and physically abusive relationship, and was uninterested in sex. Their marriage was mutually beneficial, as both got a partner to show off, without any of the responsibilites of sex.
- Biopic: Night and Day (1946, starring Cary Grant) and De-Lovely (2004, portrayed by Kevin Kline), both of which were named after songs of his. The former was highly fictionalized, while the latter was closer to Porter's life and addressed his homosexuality. As Kline was a better singer than Porter, he had to tone down his ability a bit.
- Creator Breakdown: Porter's legs were crushed in a polo accident in 1937, leaving him permanently disabled and in constant severe pain for the rest of his life. It took him ten years to get back to his previous level of productivity. Later in life, he had to have a leg amputated (due to the previous injuries), and never wrote again.