AMERICAN MASTERS: YOU'RE THE TOP: THE COLE PORTER STORY (TV)

Summary

One in this documentary series that explores the lives and achievements of America's most celebrated native-born and adopted artists and performers. Hosted by Bobby Short, this profile of the legendary composer and lyricist Cole Porter includes interviews with his colleagues and friends, and features brief snippets of many of Porter's most memorable songs. The program opens by examining the qualities that make a Porter song so special, noting that Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers fell in love for the first time on-screen to the song "Night and Day," and mentioning that the public had no inkling that Porter was born into wealth. Next, Porter's cousins James Omar Cole and Ted Fetter recall how Porter was pampered by his mother who believed that success would find him. Musical theater historian Robert Kimball notes that Porter's musical work was first published when he was ten, and that Porter seemed to be a lonely child who used music to feel wanted by his peers. Porter's goddaughter Honoria Murphy Donnelly explains why Porter was snubbed while attending Yale University. Author Brendan Gill describes how Porter's charm and talent helped him gain social status under the watchful eye of Harold Sturges.

Composer Maury Yeston remarks on the many clubs and organizations Porter belonged to while at Yale. Struges's nephew, Ben Sturges, relates how World War I pulled Porter and his friends together in a very exciting way. "Can Can" star Lilo describes Porter's activities in Paris during World War I, and the confidence Porter gained from being in Paris with a number of composers and authors who would eventually define a generation. Porter's friend Jean Howard and writer/director Garson Kanin discuss Porter's marriage to the even wealthier Linda Lee Thomas and how the marriage was used to camouflage his homosexuality. Actress Kitty Carlisle Hart depicts Porter and his wife as the toast of Paris. The program next examines Porter's decision to branch out and look for different avenues to showcase his music. Choreographer Hermes Pan praises Porter's use of catchy rhythms and phrases to make listeners remember the music. Music director Saul Chaplin analyzes how people interpret the true meaning of a Porter song such as "Let's Do It, Let's Fall in Love" and "Please Don't Monkey with Broadway." Singer Michael Feinstein contrasts Porter's writing with that of Irving Berlin and George Gershwin. Composer Richard Adler describes Porter finally coming alive with such Broadway songs as "You're the Top" and "Blow, Gabriel, Blo

w," and the timeless luster of his Broadway show "Anything Goes." Singer Linda Ronstadt and radio personality Jonathan Schwartz observe that Porter's lyrics ring true about today's world and ideals. Producer Saint Subber mentions Porter's equal love for nightlife and the theater. Singer Dionne Warwick describes how, in songs like "I've Got You Under My Skin" and "Begin the Beguine," Porter mixed different rhythms within a song and made them work. Singers Tony Martin and Cyd Charisse relate how it feels to cover a Porter composition. Comedian/actor Bob Hope reminsices about working with Porter on the musical, "Red, Hot and Blue." Next, the program examines the dramatic changes in Porter's life after he was thrown from a horse in 1946 and became crippled. Actor Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., explains how devastating it was for someone like Porter, who led such an active life, to sudden become crippled. Actor Gene Kelly reflects on Porter's presence on a set or during rehearsals despite the enormous pain he was in. Producer Ernest H. Martin explains why Cary Grant was cast as Porter in the biographical film "Night and Day." Grant's co-star Alexis Smith discusses Porter's visits to the movie set. The program then examines how Porter's melodies seemed to change as his physical condition worsened and why he was not fully welcomed on Broadway following World War II. Original cast members Patricia Morison and Lisa Kirk point out how long it took Porter to raise the money to fund "Kiss Me Kate" and confirm the show's great success. "Kiss Me Kate" star Alfred Drake discloses Porter's specific demands concerning the show's the lyrics, and remarks on the irony that at the same time Porter was suffering many personal tragedies, "Kiss Me Kate" was playing to sold-out audiences every night. Producer Cy Feuer talks about Porter's creation of the songs "I Love Paris," "Can-Can," and "All of You." Agent Irving "Swifty" Lazar recalls his first meeting with Porter. Attorney Robert H. Montgomery details how Porter dealt with the adversity of the numerous tragedies and took care of himself at the same time. In conclusion, the documentary examines how the amutation of Porter's leg affected his creative abilities and why no one was around when Porter died in a hospital room.

Cataloging of this program was made possible by Rosalind P. Walter, 1999.

Details

  • NETWORK: PBS
  • DATE: 1990 9:00 PM
  • RUNNING TIME: 0:57:50
  • COLOR/B&W: Color
  • CATALOG ID: T:58310
  • GENRE: Arts documentaries
  • SUBJECT HEADING: Biography
  • SERIES RUN: PBS - TV series, 1986-
  • COMMERCIALS:

CREDITS

    • Susan Lacy … Executive Producer
    • Harlene Freezer … Coordinating Producer, Senior Producer
    • Kirk DÕAmico … Producer
    • Diane DuFault … Producer, Associate Producer
    • Elizabeth Cotnoir … Co-Producer
    • Margaret Reid … Associate Producer
    • Vera Aronow … Line Producer
    • Jonathan Tunick … Composer, Theme Music by
    • Allan Albert … Director, Writer
    • Bobby Short … Host
    • Richard Adler
    • Fred Astaire
    • Irving Berlin
    • Saul Chaplin
    • Cyd Charisse
    • James Omar Cole
    • Honoria Murphy Donnelly
    • Alfred Drake
    • Douglas Fairbanks
    • Michael Feinstein
    • Ted Fetter
    • Cy Feurer
    • George Gershwin
    • Brendan Gill
    • Cary Grant
    • Kitty Carlisle Hart
    • Bob Hope
    • Jean Howard
    • Garson Kanin
    • Gene Kelly
    • Robert Kimball
    • Lisa Kirk
    • Irving "Swifty" Lazar
    • Lilo
    • Ernest H. Martin
    • Tony Martin
    • Robert H. Montgomery
    • Patricia Morison
    • Hermes Pan
    • Cole Porter
    • Ginger Rogers
    • Linda Ronstadt
    • Jonathan Schwartz
    • Alexis Smith
    • Ben Sturges
    • Harold Sturges
    • Saint Subber
    • Dionne Warwick
    • Maury Yeston