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Cole Porter Paperback – December 5, 2000
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It's not quite as witty as a Porter song (who could equal the incomparable Cole?), but this thorough biography honors the Broadway musical's worldliest, most intelligent composer by taking him seriously. Voluminous research buttresses William McBrien's portrait of a charmed life scarred by tragedy. Born in 1891, Porter left his wealthy family in Indiana to thoroughly enjoy himself at Yale University in Connecticut, where his sassy songs gave the Midwestern outsider social clout. Although exclusively homosexual, Porter was nonetheless devoted to the wealthy widow he married in 1919, and McBrien's narrative of their 1920s travels through Europe captures the glamorous sheen of their life together. Porter had some early success with shows like Fifty Million Frenchmen, but his sustained run of hits began in 1932 with Gay Divorce, continuing through the '50s and Kiss Me Kate. The author liberally quotes from Porter's deliciously naughty lyrics, reminding us how corny most show tunes seem when compared to "Love for Sale" or "Anything Goes." McBrien's painful account of the ghastly aftermath of a 1937 riding accident, which left Porter in pain that ended only with his death in 1964, reveals a quiet, uncomplaining stoic whose substance matched his dazzling style. --Wendy Smith --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
From Publishers Weekly
The wit, sophistication and often-surprising depth of feeling in the music and lyrics of Cole Porter are at last fully realized in this latest of the songwriter's many biographies. Making illuminating use of previously unpublished material at Yale and at the Cole Porter Trust, McBrien (Stevie: A Biography of Stevie Smith) weaves a complex and groundbreaking portrait of Porter, interspersed with lyrics and 72 illustrations, recounting his affluent upbringing in Peru, Ind., and his emergence in the 1930s as the musical theater's reigning sophisticate. A delicious chapter on the making of Kiss Me Kate in 1948 demonstrates what sharp talons were needed to create a hit. But McBrien's most startling scholarship is on the subject of Porter's homosexuality. Although Porter's marriage remained sexless, he and his wife Linda were the most intimate of soulmates, says McBrien. He traces the early years of their marriage in the expatriate Europe of the 1920s?during which time Linda would meet and approve Porter's male lovers?through their older years in postwar Broadway and Hollywood, when Linda's respiratory illnesses and Porter's paralyzed legs racked their bodies but not their spirits. Never-before-seen letters shine light into Porter's ongoing relationships with Ballets Russes star Boris Kochno, architect Ed Tauch, choreographer Nelson Barclift, director John Wilson, and longtime friend Ray Kelly, whose children still receive half of the childless Porter's copyrights. In previous biographies by George Eells and Charles Schwartz, these men are passing references; here, they are three-dimensional figures, as McBrien locates the psychological roots of Porter's love songs in his unrequited love for the men he could have but not forever. In the tradition of Anthony Heilbut's Thomas Mann: Eros and Literature and Patrick McGilligan's A Double Life: George Cukor, this astute biography will help to create a standard-setting portrait of Porter as a homosexual artist in a heterosexual world.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.