night Daryl Roth, Marvin Hamlisch, Douglas Cramer, Hugh Bush
Douglas Leeds hosted a private screening of De-Lovely at
the MGM screening room. The new Irwin Winkler directed
movie musical, written by Jay Cocks and based
(very broadly) on the life of composer/lyricist
Cole Porter and his wife Linda,
Kline as Porter,
Ashley Judd as Linda Porter, and Jonathan
Pryce as Porter’s
heavenly producer. There were performances by Natalie Cole,
Sheryl Crow, Diana Krall, Alanis Morissette and Robbie
all very contemporary, all of which demonstrated that Cole Porter,
who died forty years ago, wrote songs that have no age (one of
them, which was sung by Kevin Kline – “Experiment” – was
written in 1919 and introduced by Gertrude Lawrence).
After the screening, the New York and Hollywood stellar crowd hopped
into their limousines and over to the Hotel Plaza Athenee
on 37 East 64th Street for a big dinner. Just before the screening,
Peggy Siegal announced that the stars of the film
could not be there
because they were in Cannes for the Film Festival and screening
of the picture over there. In the crowd, besides the hosts and
I saw Arlene Dahl and Marc Rosen, Wendy and Leonard Goldberg,
Tommy Tune, Larry Kramer, Paige Peterson, Chris Cerf, Sondra Gilman-Falla,
William Ivey Long who was with Fernanda Niven;
Parker Ladd and Arnold Scaasi, William Lauder, Rex Reed, Lynn Wyatt,
Nancy and John Novogrod, Fred Zollo, Jackie Rogers, Chappy Morris
and Melissa Stanley, Annette Tapert and Joe Allen, Elaine Stritch,
Freddie and Carole Guest, Dixon Boardman, Terry Allen Kramer and
Jed Bernstein, Judy Agisim.
and Cole Porter
This is the
second film biography of Cole Porter. The first, starring
Cary Grant and Alexis Smith was
made in the mid-1940s and in retrospect is admired for its production
values and otherwise ignored for
its hokey story of the Porter marriage which was in reality what
the French would
call a mariage blanc. Cole Porter was homosexual and
whatever Linda Porter’s sexual orientation was, it was
nothing like the kind of sadly-disappointed-but-stoically-loyal-and-loving
Judd (and Alexis Smith) portrayal.
Nor does either film present the age difference between the
two: Linda married her first husband in 1901 when Cole was still
a ten-year-old living with his parents in Peru, Indiana. Born Linda
Lee, a Southern belle who traced her roots (like Jacqueline
to the Lees of Virginia, she divorced her very wealthy newspaper
owning husband in 1912 – after a violent and unhappy marriage.
Linda and Cole met at a party in Paris to which he had come to
entertain (non-professional) with his piano and his songs. That
was 1918. Cole
was 27 and polished, and Linda was 40 and a very sophisticated
woman of the world. She was completely charmed by the devilishly
witty charmer. They married two years later and moved into a hotel
particulier that she bought for $250,000 (about $10 million
currency) on rue Monsieur near the Eiffel Tower. Before he met
Linda, Cole Porter was the grandson of a rich man brought up
in a small
town in Indiana, educated at Yale and was living in Europe with
among others, his Yale roommate, the now immortalized friends
and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gerald Murphy and his wife Sara.
Despite his school associations and his financial stability,
it was the older and wiser Linda Lee who introduced him to the
he became identified with in legend. It was also an approved
union by Cole’s doting mother Kate who
brought up her son with great social aspirations – all of which were realized beyond her
wildest dreams. Linda Porter also advanced his career with her connections.
Although he was clearly a genius songwriter, his first big Broadway
hit came when he was 41, in 1932 – the Gay Divorce starring
Fred Astaire (who introduced “Night and Day”).
In life, Porter was famous amongst his friends for his joie
de vivre and amongst many of his male friends, for his seemingly limitless
sexual enthusiasm. When the Porters moved temporarily to Hollywood
(so he could write for the movies, MGM specifically), he was deluged
by the company of eager and willing beautiful young men.
This social activity did not appeal at all to Linda who liked
the glitterati of society in New York and Paris. The marriage
to almost estrangement for some time because of this, although
by this time, they’d been married for almost twenty years.
By that time, Linda was already in declining health with chronic
problems. Nevertheless, although it was a sexless marriage, it
was enduring and strong.
Linda died after a long illness at their apartment in the Waldorf
Towers, and despite her wish to be buried on a hillside on their
property in Williamstown, she was buried alongside his mother at
the family plot in Peru, Indiana. Her husband, who mourned her
loss deeply, by then a double amputee because of a horrendous horse-riding
accident thirty years before, died only ten years later.
The rich and complex relationship of the couple is cosmeticized
and air-brushed beyond recognition of their reality in this film,
it was in the Grant-Smith opus a half century ago. Howbeit, the
great Cole Porter songs, inspired with wit amplified by his wife’s
devoted professional encouragement, is the real legacy of their
union and fills De-Lovely up there on the screen, in the
performances of the two stars, Kline and Judd and the guest stars
singing. A joy, all joy.