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You're the Top: The Cole Porter Story

1 rating: 3.0
An episode from Bravo Profiles

Interviews and film clips detail Cole Porter's legacy.

1 review about You're the Top: The Cole Porter Story

"Who will buy? Who would like to sample my supply?"

  • May 28, 2011
Easy to Love
You'd be so easy to love
So easy to idolize
All others above

So worth the yearning for
So swell to keep every homefire burning for

We'd be so grand at the game
So carefree together
That it does seem a shame
That you can't see
Your future with me
'Cause you'd be oh, so easy to love

Love for Sale
Love for sale,
Appetizing young love for sale.
Love that's fresh and still unspoiled,
Love that's only slightly soiled,
Love for sale.
Who will buy?
Who would like to sample my supply?
Who's prepared to pay the price,
For a trip to paradise?
Love for sale
Let the poets pipe of love
in their childish way,
I know every type of love
Better far than they.
If you want the thrill of love,
I've been through the mill of love;
Old love, new love
Every love but true love
Love for sale.
Appetizing young love for sale.
If you want to buy my wares.
Follow me and climb the stairs
Love for sale

From the sacred to the profane, it’s hard to beat Cole Porter. As much as I like his true love songs, I’ll admit to a special place in my heart for his profane and naughty ones. What an intriguing mix of both Porter brought to his writing. And what a strange combination of information and frustration is this 56-minute television documentary, You’re the Top: The Cole Porter Story, on the life and works of Porter. On the one hand, we have an abbreviated but honest look at one of America's greatest Broadway songwriters. On the other hand, the examples given us of Porter's songs are more often than not drawn from terrible TV kinescopes and excerpts from some of the lead-foot Hollywood musicals made from his Broadway shows. The result is informative but irritating.
Bobby Short introduces us to Porter at the start of the program: "Song writing is a complicated craft and Cole Porter was one of its masters, and one of the few who wrote both the words and the music. What's more, Cole created a world we hadn't seen before in quite this way. It is the world he lived in, a world of penthouses, chiffon and champagne, the world where Ginger fell in love with Fred for the very first time."
Porter inherited millions. When he married his wife, Linda, she brought to the marriage even more money than he had. He was an enthusiastic, active homosexual, a social creature and a terrible snob. He just might have become, without her, an aging musical dilettante writing amusing and condescending songs for his social set. She was a woman uninterested in the physical aspects of married life, who took Porter as he was and who believed in his talent. The two of them had a marriage of understanding and commitment that lasted until her death. During the Twenties they lived in Venetian palaces and the most socially acceptable Parisian apartments. A combination of his talent and desire for success, her pushing him to keep working at his writing, and the contacts of Irving Berlin, who believed in him, led the Porters to return to America. He began his trajectory of huge success on Broadway.
In that period of great American song writing, from the late Twenties to the late Forties, the time of Rodgers, Hart, Hammerstein, Berlin, the Gershwins and Kern, Cole Porter came into his own. In some odd way, he kept the pretensions and snobbery of his social life separate from the creativity and collaborations of his song writing life. Could anything be more socially pretentious than having an exclusive luncheon party and requiring one's quests to speak French? It's a bit sad to listen to Kitty Carlisle Hart gush about the parties she and her husband, Moss Hart, went to at the Porters, and to realize that these were his show business parties, and that she and her husband, both of whom were Jewish, were most likely never invited to his high social events.
On Broadway and in Hollywood, Porter was a generous collaborator who treated the people he worked with as the creative equals they were. Without a doubt the songs he wrote excuse a lot of snobbish behavior. The songs with his lush and often melodramatic melodies combined with lyrics so clever, so naughty at times and, often, so poignant, are what his life and work are really about. It's his songs we remember, not his social or personal life. If only this program had been able to give us those songs in better form.
We may learn about Anything Goes, but we're given to look at a kinescope of an aging Ethel Merman and a grinning Frank Sinatra from a television production made in the Fifties. Even worse, we have to endure clips from some of those lumbering movie musicals from the Sixties...Shirley MacLaine and Frank Sinatra so out of place with Porter's brand of risqué, sophisticated mischief...and Hollywood's version of Kiss Me Kate where Porter's lyrics were dumbed down and sanitized.
For a quick and relatively honest look at Porter's life, this DVD is worth having. To appreciate his songs, however, buy some good CD's. I'd start with Bobby Short Loves Cole Porter, Short's You're the Top: The Love Songs of Cole Porter, and Lee Wiley Sings the Songs of George & Ira Gershwin & Cole Porter. To appreciate his mastery of lyric writing, dip into The Complete Lyrics of Cole Porter, edited by Robert Kimball.

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May 29, 2011
sounds like this doco has been well-thought out. I like doco's when they try to reveal the real truths and goes in the era where the topic took place. Nice work on the review and that poem was pretty thought-inducing...thanks!
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You're the Top: The Cole Porter Story
TV Show: Bravo Profiles
Genre: Educational - Documentary, General - Documentary/Bio

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