Cole Porter (1891-1964)

Episodes

EpisodeTitleFirst
Broadcast
RepeatedComments
01Be a Clown20140728

01Be a Clown20140728

Donald Macleod focuses on how Cole Porter was inspired by the circus.

01Be a Clown20140728

01Be a Clown20140728

He was one of the most famous Broadway composers of his time, and many of his songs remain popular today, this week Donald Macleod explores the life and music of Cole Porter. On his deathbed, Porter said to a close friend, "I don't know how I did it". His remarkable achievements include a huge catalogue of witty, sophisticated, and sometimes risqué songs, plus a raft of successful shows like Anything Goes, Can-Can and, his most popular musical, Kiss Me Kate. The opulence of these lavish productions was matched by Porter's glamorous lifestyle; the parties were legendary, and his apartment at the Waldorf Hotel was photographed for Vogue magazine. Yet there were parts of his life that Cole Porter needed to shield from public view; he lived at a time when being gay was not considered acceptable.

Cole Porter was born in Peru, Indiana, where his father ran a drugstore. His maternal grandfather was something of a tyrant, but also one of the richest men in the state. It was Porter's mother, Katie, who encouraged her son in music, and she who published his first song, from 1901.

Porter scraped through his college years, graduating in 1913. His mind was on other things than his education, including the composition of four musicals and over one hundred songs. Porter was refining his ability to write witty patter songs, including I've a Shooting Box in Scotland from 1916, and When I Had a Uniform On, also known as the Demobilisation Song.

Cole Porter's activities during the First World War are somewhat sketchy. He journeyed to France where he acquired a number of uniforms, including a colonel's which he wore with total disregard for the regulations. In Paris, Porter held a number of lavish parties, and it was there that he met the American divorcee who would become his wife.

02Playboy20140729

02Playboy20140729

He was one of the most famous Broadway composers of his time, and many of his songs still live on in our consciousness today, this week Donald Macleod explores the life and music of Cole Porter.

Cole Porter and his wife Linda were spending much of their time in Venice, where they rented a majestic palace on the Grand Canal for $4,000 a week. They organised legendary parties, including shipping over a Jazz band from America to play on a barge in the lagoon. Porter was determined to pursue his career as a composer, but producers were wary of him. His rich and lavish lifestyle gave the impression that Porter was a dabbler, not to be trusted. He did contribute a number of songs for the American show, Greenwich Village Follies, including Two Little Babes in the Wood, and I'm In Love Again. By the time the show went on tour, all his songs had been dropped.

By the late 1920s, Porter was achieving international success. Irving Berlin commissioned Porter to compose music for a revue in Berlin's Music Box Theatre in New York. The show was set in Paris, with a cast of bohemian characters, and Berlin realised that Porter knew this territory better than he did. The outcome was Fifty Million Frenchmen, which included the song You Do Something To Me.

032005071320050720

Donald Macleod continues his exploration of Cole Porter's music with a selection of well-known songs from some of his lesser known musicals.

Miss Otis Regrets

Douglas Byng

Medley from Jubilee

Ramona Davies, The King's Men and Bob Lawrence

Paul Whiteman and his Concert Orchestra

Don't Fence Me In

Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters

Easy to Love; Rap Tap on Wood; Swinging the Jinx Away (from Born to Dance)

Frances Langford

It's De-lovely; Red, Hot and Blue!; Ridin' High (from Red, Hot and Blue!)

Ethel Merman

Rosalie

Bing Crosby

In the Still of the Night

Nelson Eddy

My Heart Belongs to Daddy (From Leave It to Me)

Mary Martin

Eddie Duchin and his orchestra

Ace in the Hole (from Let's Face It)

Ella Fitzgerald

I Concentrate on You

(from Broadway Melody of 1940)

Frank Sinatra

03Anything Goes20140730

03Anything Goes20140730

Donald Macleod focuses on a succession of Porter triumphs, including the hit Gay Divorce.

03Anything Goes20140730

03Anything Goes20140730

He was one of the most famous Broadway composers of his time, and many of his songs still live on in our consciousness today, this week Donald Macleod explores the life and music of Cole Porter.

Cole Porter and his wife Linda were spending much of their time in Venice, where they rented a majestic palace on the Grand Canal for $4,000 a week. They organised legendary parties, including shipping over a Jazz band from America to play on a barge in the lagoon. Porter was determined to pursue his career as a composer, but producers were wary of him. His rich and lavish lifestyle gave the impression that Porter was a dabbler, not to be trusted. He did contribute a number of songs for the American show, Greenwich Village Follies, including Two Little Babes in the Wood, and I'm In Love Again. By the time the show went on tour, all his songs had been dropped.

By the late 1920s, Porter was acheiving international success. Irving Berlin commissioned Porter to compose music for a revue in Berlin's Music Box Theatre in New York. The show was set in Paris, with a cast of bohemian characters, and Berlin realised that Porter knew this territory better than he did. The outcome was Fifty Million Frenchmen, which included the song You Do Something To Me.

We Open in Venice (Kiss Me Kate)

Josephine Barstow, voice (Katherine)

Kim Criswell, voice (Bianca)

Thomas Hampson, voice (Petruchio)

George Dvorsky, voice (Lucentio)

Ambrosian Chorus

London Sinfonietta

John McGlinn, conductor

Two Little Babes in the Wood (Greenwich Village Follies)

Thomas Hampson, baritone

Ambrosian Chorus

London Symphony Orchestra

John McGinn, conductor

I'm In Love Again (Greenwich Village Follies)

Ben Bernie, voice

Scrappy Lambert, voice

Billy Hillpot, voice

Ben Bernie and His Hotel Roosevelt Orchestra

Hot-House Rose

Lee Wiley

Bunny Berigan's Music

Weren't We Fools

Julie Wilson, voice

Studio Ensemble

Let's Misbehave

Phil Saxe, voice

Irving Aaronson And His Commanders

Let's Do It (Paris)

Leslie Hutchinson, voice

Studio pianist

Overture (Fifty Million Frenchmen)

Orchestra New England

Evans Haile, conductor

You Do Something To Me (Fifty Million Frenchmen)

Susan Powell, voice (Looloo Carroll)

Howard McGillin, voice (Peter Forbes)

Orchestra New England

Evans Haile, conductor

You Don't Know Paree (Fifty Million Frenchmen)

Howard McGillin, voice (Peter Forbes)

Orchestra New England

Evans Haile, conductor

Paree, What Did You Do To Me? (Fifty Million Frenchmen)

Susan Powell, voice (Looloo Carroll)

Howard McGillin, voice (Peter Forbes)

Full Cast

Orchestra New England

Evans Haile, conductor

Overture (Gay Divorce)

London Sinfonietta

John McGlinn, conductor

Night and Day (Gay Divorce)

London Sinfonietta

John McGlinn, conductor

Producer Luke Whitlock.

04Something for the Boys20140731

04Something for the Boys20140731

Donald Macleod discusses Cole Porter's war years and his biggest success, Kiss Me, Kate.

04Something for the Boys20140731

04Something for the Boys20140731

He was one of the most famous Broadway composers of his time, and many of his songs still live on in our consciousness today, this week Donald Macleod explores the life and music of Cole Porter.

Cole Porter suffered a serious riding accident which left him with two crushed legs. His wife, Linda, demanded that his doctors save both Porter's legs, as she feared that an amputation would finish him. As Porter recuperated, he worked on the show Leave It To Me, followed by Du Barry Was A Lady. Reviewers in the UK reckoned that this second show wasn't the best of Cole Porter, but they did concede that even his second best was very good.

The Second World War was now underway, but Porter continued to hold lavish entertainments, including pool parties where a number of attractive servicemen would always be invited along. His new musical, Something For The Boys, starred Ethel Merman and included one of Porter's popular patter songs, By the Mississinewah.

Porter also became romantically involved with the dancer and choreographer, Nelson Barclift. Linda Porter was aware of her husband's homosexuality but, as long as it was kept private, she didn't mind. As Porter's affairs became more of an open secret around hollywood, their relationship became a little cool. However, the 1940s were to bring Porter his greatest success ever, with a show the critics had originally forecast would be a total flop, Kiss Me Kate.

05 LASTFinal Years20140801

Donald Macleod on how some of Cole Porter's triumphs were clouded by personal tragedies.

He was one of the most famous Broadway composers of his time, and many of his songs still live on in our consciousness today, this week Donald Macleod explores the life and music of Cole Porter.

With the huge success of Kiss Me Kate, Cole Porter's backers would happily support any new venture that took his fancy. He embarked on a new whow, Out of This World, which included the serene song, Use Your Imagination. The reviewers hated it but the audience on the second night whistled their enthusiasm for over fifteen minutes.

Further triumphs came with Can-Can, second only in popularity to Kiss me Kate. It included songs which are still popular today: It's All Right With Me, and I Love Paris. By this time however, Porter's wife, Linda, was very ill and she soon died. The loss of his mother, and now his wife, was a tremendous blow.

Cole Porter's final work was something of a departure for him, a TV production of Aladdin. It was a total flop. The personal losses he had suffered were followed by the the amputation of his leg; he stopped composing altogether and started to decline. He died in 1964, aged 73.