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PUTTING ON A SHOW, WATCHING
A SHOW: Linda (Ashley Judd, left) and Cole Porter (Kevin Kline,
right) applaud one of Porter's musicals. end
Cole Porter's Conflicted Private Life Romanticized by Bittersweet
Review by Kam Williams
Porter (1891-1964) was one of America's most gifted and prolific songwriters
of all time. He enjoyed an enduring career during which he produced
such beloved classics as Let's Do It, Night and Day,
I Get a Kick Out of You, I Love Paris, Anything
Goes, In the Still of the Night, You're the Top,
I've Got You Under My Skin, Just One of Those Things
and From This Moment On, to name a few.
with America First in 1916, Porter authored more than a
dozen Broadway productions (not counting his numerous posthumous
revivals), including The New Yorkers (1930), The
Gay Divorce (1932), and Anything Goes (1934). He
met with just as much success in Hollywood, where the four-time Oscar-nominee
adapted many of his plays to the big screen, charting original scores
for memorable musicals like Paris (1929), Rosalie
(1937), Silk Stockings (1957), and Kiss Me Kate
Furthermore, the Cole Porter songbook has figured
prominently in over 100 additional films such as The Singing
Marine (1937), High Sierra (1941), Don't Fence
Me In (1945), Night and Day (1946), Adam's Rib (1949),
Sunny Side of the Street (1951), and Can-Can (1960).
Given his substantial contribution to this country's cultural
legacy, it is understandable that there might be interest in
the details of his private life, especially since he was homosexual
in days when gay men married mostly for respectability.
De-Lovely, however, as directed by Irwin Winkler (Life
As a House), is less a revealing bio-pic than a highly-romanticized
version of actual events. Thus, this sanitized tale tends to
pander to the mores of the less tolerant times in which it
is set. The story seems superficial as a result, for it fails
to do much more than scratch the surface, at least in terms of its
protagonist's admittedly self-indulgent affairs with a never-ending string
of male lovers.
Disclaimers aside, De-Lovely is
still an engaging mix of fond remembrances and nostalgic musical
numbers. Academy Award-winner Kevin Kline (for A Fish Called
Wanda) delivers a sterling performance as the conflicted Cole
opposite Ashley Judd as Linda, his long-suffering socialite wife. Courtesy
of revisionist history, their sexless understanding is plasticized beyond
recognition in order to make Porter's song lyrics appear as though they
had been consciously designed as a thinly-veiled running commentary
on a meaningful marriage.
Taking substantial liberties
with the truth, Winkler's Linda is presented as irresistibly
attractive and much younger than her husband, when in fact
the fifty-something divorcée was considerably older. Plus,
while the film suggests that Cole might have married for money,
he was already the filthy rich only son of the most wealthy
man in the entire State of Indiana.
If you ignore the plot
and just approach the flick as nothing more than a 21st century
update of a Busby Berkeley-style musical, you will not be disappointed.
The film arrives replete with elaborate dance numbers and about
25 on-screen renditions of Cole Porter's greatest hits by a motley array
of capable crooners that include Diana Krall, Natalie Cole, Elvis Costello,
Sheryl Crow, Alanis Morisette, and Simply Red's Mick Hucknall.
Although the doors to Mr. Porter¹s closet are merely cracked
open a tad in De-Lovely, nobody really wants to see
an unexpurgated tell-all soil the name of a genius who ought
to remain best remembered for his enviable ability to combine
clever lyrics with unforgettable melodies. De-Lovely is De-Lightful.
(3 stars) Rated PG-13 for sexual content.
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