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Music / Cole Porter

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"My sole inspiration is a telephone call from a director."

Cole Albert Porter (June 9, 1891 – October 15, 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 from 1948, 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.

List of notable film/theatre scores

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 Roaring '20s) were changed because it contained racial slurs which were later deemed inappropriate.
    • "I Get a Kick Out of You" was often performed with the line "Some get a kick from cocaine" bowdlerized to "perfume from Spain" or "a bop-type refrain." Frank Sinatra recorded the uncensored version in the 1950s, but switched to the censored version for the rest of his career.
  • Break-Up Song: "Just One Of Those Things".
  • 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."
  • Getting Eaten Is Harmless: "The Tale of the Oyster" tells of an oyster who gets to experience high society after being harvested and served at a posh restaurant. The oyster gets eaten, but that's not the end of the tale: as the woman who ate him travels home in her yacht, she gets seasick and empties her stomach over the side, and the oyster ends up back on the sea floor where he started, none the worse for the experience.
  • 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.
  • Queer Flowers: His 1929 song "I'm a Gigolo" in which he says he has a dash of lavender and that he can be found next to a passionless dowager.
  • Primitive Clubs: "Find Me a Primitive Man" compares men who belong to clubs (as in associations) with the kind sought for in the song, an actual primitive with a physical club.
    I don't mean the kind that belongs to a club,
    But the kind that has a club that belongs to him.
  • 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.
    • The same for "It's De-Lovely", being used by the DeSoto Motor Company in its 1950s advertisement.
      It's de-lovely, it's dynamic, it's DeSoto!
  • 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 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. One such example is to Alfred Kinsey, of all people, in "Too Darn Hot".

Cole Porter's work outside of his songs is an example of these tropes: