In line with my policy of keeping this blog an up-to-the-minute, cutting edge, relevant document, I’d now like to review a film that came out in 2004. It was my mention of Cole Porter in my last posting that brought this to mind. In 1946 they released a movie of Cole Porter’s life story called Night And Day. (IMDB page click here) This was complete fiction from start to finish. They left out one or two little details like… Cole Porter was gay! Somehow they missed that little nugget. Instead they portrayed the relationship between him and his wife as a conventional, heterosexual love story. From what I have read, Porter himself used to make a point of watching this whenever it appeared on TV so he could laugh at it. The only reason to see this film is to hear the music which is wonderful. Couldn’t be anything else if it’s Porter.
And then, in 2004, along come De-Lovely (IMDB page click here). In our enlightened twenty-first century, we can address such issues, and they showed Cole Porter as a predatory gay man. Ten out of ten for accuracy, folks. But… why did they have to sanitize the Porter marriage they way they did? The marriage between Cole Porter and Linda Thomas was one of companionship, not all consuming love. Cole was rich, successful, handsome and gay. Linda was a society beauty who had just come out of a long, abusive, violent marriage and the two were drawn to each other – he found someone to look after him, praise him, be on his arm at the parties and social events they constantly attended while she found in this genius someone to take care of her, be kind to her, and never ever make any of the demands on her that her previous husband had. She rejoiced in his success and became, along with his mother, his most enthusiastic supporter in all he did. They were very fond of one another, probably loved each other, but this was not a passionate love story. It would have been perfectly possible to enjoy the story of Cole Porter without having this Hollywood fluff sprinkled upon the story. If you don’t know the story of Cole Porter, I recommend the excellent biography by Charles Schwartz. Please form an orderly queue and click here to buy your copy.
This film also fell victim to some extraordinary miscasting. I’m not saying that a miscast actor is a bad actor; far from it -- just a good actor in the wrong place. The cast list contained some very skilful, accomplished actors, but they should not have been top choice for the roles they played. Kevin Kline, for example. Hero, villain, Shakespearian, comic turn and more, yes – but not anyone’s idea of Cole Porter. He just didn’t fit right. Then the delightful Ashley Judd as Linda. Chosen for her beauty and talent, which she obviously possesses in abundance, but again… wrong! Ashley Judd is twenty-one years younger than Kevin Kline, while Linda Thomas was eight years older than Cole Porter. That’s a chronological error of almost three decades. Finally, why did they pick Keith Allen, excellent rough-edged British actor, to play Irving Berlin, Russian-Jewish immigrant and citizen of New York? All praise, though, for the choice of Allan Corduner as Monty Wooley, who came off very well. Come to think, since this was story about an American working and flourishing in America, surrounded by Americans, why did they fill the cast with Brits (Jonathan Pryce, Keith Allen, Allan Corduner, Kevin McNally, Kevin McKidd)?
The other woeful miscasting was the choice of artists to sing Porters wonderful songs. The music may have been the saving grace of Night And Day, but here it is a very mixed bag indeed. By choosing contemporary pop singers, there is very much an air of children being allowed to stay up late and play with the grown-ups’ toys (A major exception being Caroline O’Connor – she was Ethel Merman to the life.). Kevin Kline sang a few himself, and in fact his voice was better than Porter’s was (see my previous posting). However, Porter’s songs were Broadway songs, and they deserved to be sung by Broadway stars, not pop singers. Was this an attempt to make the movie appeal to the post-pubescent crowd? The songs that “Porter” and chums sing are all very jolly, but when I saw that some of his masterpieces were to be interpreted by the likes of Sheryl Crow, Elvis Costello, Mick Hucknall, Alanis Morissette and someone called simply Lemar, my heart sank. In fact, I wondered how many of these creatures had even heard of Cole Porter before they got this job.
If you enjoy Porter and want to revel in his lyrics, there’s still time to buy The Complete Lyrics of Cole Porter here. You might also like to see Evil Under The Sun (IMDB page click here), one of those Ustinov/Poirot movies, the soundtrack to which consists of excellent orchestrated Porter and is a delight from start to finish.