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Cole Porter: A Biography

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In 1933 Irving Berlin wrote to composer-lyricist Cole Porter, ”I am mad about Night and Day.” Millions of others throughout the world have been ”mad about” that Porter gem, as well as dozens of others, including, to name just a few, Begin the Beguine, From This Moment On, It's De-Lovely, Just One of Those Things, Love for Sale, and My Heart Belongs to Daddy. Cole Porter (1 In 1933 Irving Berlin wrote to composer-lyricist Cole Porter, ”I am mad about Night and Day.” Millions of others throughout the world have been ”mad about” that Porter gem, as well as dozens of others, including, to name just a few, Begin the Beguine, From This Moment On, It's De-Lovely, Just One of Those Things, Love for Sale, and My Heart Belongs to Daddy. Cole Porter (1891-1964) set new standards for popular song-writing, and his lyrics and melodies are as bright and sophisticated today as when they first dazzled audiences decades ago. Porter's own life matched that of his songs for urbanity, wit, and elegance, and in New York, Hollywood, and on the Continent he was an arbiter of taste and fashion and part of the glamorous international set of the Twenties and Thirties. He numbered among his friends Cary Grant, Noel Coward, Fred Astaire, Ethel Merman, Elsa Maxwell, Fanny Brice, and Monty Woolley, as well as many other stars of stage, screen, or society. Cole Porter: A Biography is a delightfully written and meticulously researched book that takes us from the composer's Indiana childhood to his celebrity days, discussing with exceptional honesty his family and friends, his wife and his many lovers, and above all, his music. Charles Schwartz's account of Cole Porter is the most revealing, comprehensive, and objective biography to date of an extraordinarily talented and fascinating man.


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In 1933 Irving Berlin wrote to composer-lyricist Cole Porter, ”I am mad about Night and Day.” Millions of others throughout the world have been ”mad about” that Porter gem, as well as dozens of others, including, to name just a few, Begin the Beguine, From This Moment On, It's De-Lovely, Just One of Those Things, Love for Sale, and My Heart Belongs to Daddy. Cole Porter (1 In 1933 Irving Berlin wrote to composer-lyricist Cole Porter, ”I am mad about Night and Day.” Millions of others throughout the world have been ”mad about” that Porter gem, as well as dozens of others, including, to name just a few, Begin the Beguine, From This Moment On, It's De-Lovely, Just One of Those Things, Love for Sale, and My Heart Belongs to Daddy. Cole Porter (1891-1964) set new standards for popular song-writing, and his lyrics and melodies are as bright and sophisticated today as when they first dazzled audiences decades ago. Porter's own life matched that of his songs for urbanity, wit, and elegance, and in New York, Hollywood, and on the Continent he was an arbiter of taste and fashion and part of the glamorous international set of the Twenties and Thirties. He numbered among his friends Cary Grant, Noel Coward, Fred Astaire, Ethel Merman, Elsa Maxwell, Fanny Brice, and Monty Woolley, as well as many other stars of stage, screen, or society. Cole Porter: A Biography is a delightfully written and meticulously researched book that takes us from the composer's Indiana childhood to his celebrity days, discussing with exceptional honesty his family and friends, his wife and his many lovers, and above all, his music. Charles Schwartz's account of Cole Porter is the most revealing, comprehensive, and objective biography to date of an extraordinarily talented and fascinating man.

30 review for Cole Porter: A Biography

  1. 4 out of 5

    Joan Colby

    A well written and researched biography of the master songwriter, Cole Porter. Born to wealth, his maternal grandfather, one of the richest men in Indiana, his mother, the indulged and indulgent daughter with a penchant for the arts, his nondescript father, a small-town druggist, Porter left his home state as an adolescent for eastern prep schools and later, Yale where his talent was instantly recognized. A natural sophisticate, Porter married a divorcee of equal urbanity and their union endured A well written and researched biography of the master songwriter, Cole Porter. Born to wealth, his maternal grandfather, one of the richest men in Indiana, his mother, the indulged and indulgent daughter with a penchant for the arts, his nondescript father, a small-town druggist, Porter left his home state as an adolescent for eastern prep schools and later, Yale where his talent was instantly recognized. A natural sophisticate, Porter married a divorcee of equal urbanity and their union endured despite his homosexuality; they were perhaps more intellectual and social mates, than sexual ones. Porter’s success is legendary. He pursued a hedonistic existence and enjoyed life’s luxuries. His witty and cosmopolitan lyrics mirror a life that seemed charmed until a riding accident left him half-crippled and in constant pain. He endured 30 operations with remarkable fortitude, continuing his songwriting, yet gave way to depression in later years after an amputation rendered him unable to do the things he loved.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Russell J. Sanders

    Had Cole Porter not been a musical genius, he likely would only be remembered by a handful of rich, society people who heard tales of him from their grandparents. Porter, the creator of songs like “From this Moment On,” “I Love Paris,” “Begin the Beguine,” “Night and Day” and on and on—and the composer/lyricist of iconic musicals Kiss Me, Kate and Anything Goes, among many other hits—was a partier. He was vain and a prankster and could be quite selfish. All this is detailed to exhaustion in Char Had Cole Porter not been a musical genius, he likely would only be remembered by a handful of rich, society people who heard tales of him from their grandparents. Porter, the creator of songs like “From this Moment On,” “I Love Paris,” “Begin the Beguine,” “Night and Day” and on and on—and the composer/lyricist of iconic musicals Kiss Me, Kate and Anything Goes, among many other hits—was a partier. He was vain and a prankster and could be quite selfish. All this is detailed to exhaustion in Charles Schwartz’s biography Cole Porter. This perhaps is the best of several books written about Porter. It is well-researched, evident by a large bibliography included, plus the appendix of Porter songs and shows is a treasure-trove. Although written in the late 1970s, when the world wasn’t quite as open about gay issues as it is today, the book chronicles Porter’s extreme homosexuality, portraying a man who seemed to be sexually insatiable while being married to a woman, one who apparently loved him and tolerated his exploits, for she was devoted to him. For musical theater enthusiasts, this is a great book. It is readable while giving lots of information in a short 270 pages. The edition I read, however, seems to be a facsimile edition and thus, there were places where small segments were missing on the page, plus the print is in bold type and thus not easy on the eyes.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Joan

    Very comprehensive book about the life of Cole Porter. Some is repetitive, but extremely interesting. My come away is that his life was not a happy one and a he was a bit of a sham.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    Schwartz's biography of one of America's all-time greatest songsmiths offers insight into elements of Cole Porter's life with which one might not be familiar just from knowing his work. Highlights include the way that his Southern rich-kid upbringing contrasted with that of other composers of the same vein, the sometimes disdainful way that Cole comported himself with others, and the extent to which his creative output was shaped by the circumstances he faced (for instance, Schwartz explains how Schwartz's biography of one of America's all-time greatest songsmiths offers insight into elements of Cole Porter's life with which one might not be familiar just from knowing his work. Highlights include the way that his Southern rich-kid upbringing contrasted with that of other composers of the same vein, the sometimes disdainful way that Cole comported himself with others, and the extent to which his creative output was shaped by the circumstances he faced (for instance, Schwartz explains how the tune "Night and Day" was written to accommodate Fred Astaire's lackluster vocal capabilities). Schwartz strikes an agreeable balance between discussion of Porter's personal life and his artistic endeavors, something that I imagine is difficult to achieve when biographizing an artist. Survivorship bias might lead one to believe that all of Porter's output was great, but Schwartz diligently explains all of Porter's duds, too. The book is not without its faults; Schwartz's voluminous vocabulary sometimes impedes understanding rather than enhancing it, though I suppose it's only natural that a book about such an accomplished lyricist would employ such an ample lexicon. The author also presents some quasi-Freudian speculation regarding the motives behind Cole's behavior, particularly with regard to his homosexual dalliances. I found this armchair psychoanalysis a bit off-putting. Cole Porter will teach you about the complex man, and imperfect artist, that the titular figure truly was. The copy I read was from 1977, and I don't know if the book is in print any longer, but for Porter fans, it's worth the read if they can find a library copy.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ann Hunt

    I enjoyed reading this old (1977), wordy book. I listened to a lot of Cole Porter's songs in movies when I was young. those songs included "what is this thing called love," "Begin the Beguine,"Brush up your Shakespeare." Classic songs. I did not know until recently that Porter was from Peru, IN. He is a little different composer than say Hoagie Carmichael,John Mellencamp or Axl Rose. I enjoyed reading this old (1977), wordy book. I listened to a lot of Cole Porter's songs in movies when I was young. those songs included "what is this thing called love," "Begin the Beguine,"Brush up your Shakespeare." Classic songs. I did not know until recently that Porter was from Peru, IN. He is a little different composer than say Hoagie Carmichael,John Mellencamp or Axl Rose.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Izabel

    qual apaixonado nunca dançou com sua paixao ouvindo musicas cole porter?? se nunca fez isto, esta perdendo tempo. chame sua paixao para dançar e leio o livro, tenho certeza q ira adorar saber mais sobre esta talentoso compositor.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lynn Houston

  8. 5 out of 5

    Toothangel

  9. 5 out of 5

    Maya Sundstrom

  10. 4 out of 5

    Bonnie Fazio

  11. 4 out of 5

    Deborah f Tweten

  12. 4 out of 5

    Marley

  13. 5 out of 5

    Bayboodlesauntie

  14. 5 out of 5

    LaDawna

  15. 5 out of 5

    Flaubertian

  16. 4 out of 5

    Socket Klatzker

  17. 5 out of 5

    Keith

  18. 5 out of 5

    Salt344

  19. 4 out of 5

    Robby Johnson

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jackson Upperco

  21. 5 out of 5

    Roseanne

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jack Turner

  23. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  24. 5 out of 5

    Viola

  25. 4 out of 5

    Alan

  26. 4 out of 5

    Pam Foster

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mitch Vandiver

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ruth

  29. 5 out of 5

    Dave Clark

  30. 4 out of 5

    JB

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