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Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall In Love: Cole Porter, an American in Paris

January 16, 2013

Cole Porter wrote many 20th-century pop standards and Broadway hits, such as “Night and Day”, “Begin the Beguine,” “Too Darn Hot,” and “My Heart Belongs to Daddy, ” but if the American composer started his career in the early twenties, he did not make it big on Broadway until the sparkling musical comedy Paris, in 1928.  It is undeniable that the French capital, where Porter lived nearly twenty years, has greatly influenced the artist’s catalogue from Fifty Million Frenchmen (1929) and Dubarry Was A Lady (1939), to Can-Can (1953), and Les Girls (1955).

Porter’s love story with Paris started when he enlisted in the French Foreign Legion, with whom he served in North Africa. Rumor has it that he used to carry a portable piano on his back with which he entertained the troops with improvised songs. It is a real fact however that Porter received the “Croix de guerre” decoration from the French Government for keeping high the morale of his comrades.  

Unlike most expat writers, artists and musicians of the between the World War years in Paris, Cole Porter came from money. Born in Indiana in a very wealthy family, he studied in Yale and Harvard, married a rich American divorcee, the socialite Linda Lee Thomas, and lived in a luxurious apartment on Rue Monsieur in the chic 7th arrondissement neighborhood where they hosted wild parties. On one occasion, the Porters hired the entire Monte Carlo Ballet to entertain their guests; on another one, they took their guests by motor cavalcade from Paris to the Riviera for an entire weekend.

Ernest Hemingway described Paris in the twenties as a moveable feast. After watching the 2004 musical biopic De-Lovely which recounts Cole Porter’s life and career, there is little doubt that Porter years in the French capital were nothing short of flamboyant and glitzy.

Credit: photo from the www.music.vt.edu website

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