Cole Porter was arguably the finest writer of popular music the 20th Century ever produced.
While he composed standards which on the surface celebrated straight romance like Let's Do It, Let's Fall In Love
and Night & Day, he was in reality a gay man who secretly enjoyed a host of affairs and
one-night stands, hidden by a showbiz marriage of convenience.
De-Lovely, one of his biggest hits, is the title of the biopic starring Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd that was released
in July 2004. The film featured performances from contemporary artists like Robbie Williams & Elvis Costello. Both Kevin
and Ashley spoke to OutUK correspondent Ron Dicker in this exclusive interview whilst they were
launching the film in Cannes.
Kevin Kline is not surprised that
De-Lovely highlights Porter's
homosexuality and tortured brilliance. Just as it was inevitable
that Michael Curtiz's 1946 Porter movie, Night And
Day avoided them.
"In that period, people were more willing to accept
the mythology, a good story," says Kline, who plays Porter
in the updated version.
"Whether we've become too
clinical now, we're more interested in the pathology than
the romance of a story." De-Lovely, which closed the 2004 Cannes festival, presented
Porter as a tragic dandy whose voracious consumption of
men helped fuel his creativity in writing dozens of sly
pop standards. It nearly ruined him, too.
Linda Porter, his wife of convenience and deep
friendship, did not have blinkers on. She chose to look
the other way, standing by her man
until he no longer stood by her sense of decorum. When
the Porters moved to Hollywood so he could write
musicals for bigger bucks, he indiscreetly indulged in a
bevy of bronzed and buffed lovers.
"She didn't leave because he was being unfaithful,"
said Ashley Judd, who plays Linda. "She didn't leave
because she felt betrayed. She left because he was
increasingly self-destructive in his hedonistic sex life.
That was criminal activity back then. It's impossible
to imagine what would have been done to him beyond
Kline had said earlier that the movie would not pull
punches about his sexual preference. "But Linda was
Cole's muse, his inspiration, and his task mistress," he
said. "The bottom line is that they had a deep and
abiding love for one another."
A MARRIAGE WITHOUT SEX
Linda Porter came back after her husband had a
crippling horse-riding accident in 1937, and they remained
together until her death by emphysema in 1954. He
never wrote another song afterward. The movie also
features a later male love of Porter's whom his wife had
hand-picked for him so he would not be alone.
"Everyone is deeply desirous of being authentically
known and appreciated and accepted by someone, whether
it's a parent or a partner," Judd said. "They had that
kind of connection. We're talking about a marriage
without sex that in Cole Porter's own words was
Kline arrived at a hotel restaurant off the
Croisette in suit and tie. Far more handsome and taller than
Porter, Kline did not aim for impersonation. But he did
re-learn the piano for nine months to get in touch
with Porter's essence. Kline has a song dance background,
winning a Tony for the musical The Pirates of
Penzance. He also has a 1988 Oscar for A Fish Called
SHERYL CROW, ROBBIE WILLIAMS & ALANIS MORISSETTE
De-Lovely director Irwin Winkler (My Life As a
House) preached art above total accuracy in his
pastiche, which is woven together by pop stars such as Sheryl
Crow, Alanis Morissette and Robbie Williams singing
from Porter's catalogue. Elvis Costello and Diana Krall
The movie begins with a dying Porter in his New York
City apartment in 1964. Enter a man named Gabe (Blow,
Gabriel, Blow, is one of Porter's songs and Gabriel
is an angel, get it?), played by Jonathan Pryce, who
has the ability to re-conjure scenes from Porter's life
as if they were watching a rehearsal from the back
row. The moments, like the songs, play out like a
greatest hits compilation.
How the film was to connect with modern audiences --
straight and gay -- was a major concern at all its premieres.
Kline balked at the idea of modern singers
essaying songs from the '20s and '30s and '40s, then
figured that if any entertainment figure's appeal could
transcend generations, it would be Porter's.
"At the risk of oversimplifying and
self-aggrandizing, it's the same reason we're interested in Mozart and
Beethoven," Kline said. "He wrote great music and it's
A handful of biographies cover Porter's rise from
Indiana to Yale to Broadway with his first musical,
See America First, in 1916. But the scattershot
narrative of De-Lovely picks up when Porter meets Linda
Lee, the richest and prettiest divorcee in Paris, in
That was when Porter's career took off. His first
hit was Let's Do It, Let's Fall in Love from the
musical Paris. He continued to crank out popular works
such as Be a Clown, Don't Fence Me In, In the Still
of the Night, Too Darn Hot and, of course,
Many were laced with double-meanings that reflected
on his own lifestyle and that of his rich and powerful
friends. Kline called him a unique combination of
self-indulgence and hedonism.
This time, Cole Porter, the movie, comes a lot
closer to Cole Porter, the man.
"A lot of songs they wouldn't play on radio because
they were too risque," Kline said. "He pushed the
envelope. He was hot."
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