Cole Porter
Cole Porter
As I mentioned the other day, both biopics about Cole Porter -- Night and Day (1946) and De-Lovely (2004) -- only offer the composer-lyricist's best-known hits. And while I have nothing against such songs as "Let's Do It" or "Anything Goes," I do feel that there's something artificial about hearing one standard after another. That's why "Greatest Hits" albums sometimes come across a bit like processed cheese.

I mourn the fact that today's moviegoers won't get a chance to hear some of Porter's wittier, ribald, or more soulful work. Of course, in recent years, we've seen Kiss Me, Kate on Broadway and Can-Can at Encores!. Before them, Out of This World and DuBarry Was a Lady were also done at Encores! but so many years ago now that a new generation of musical theater fans has come along without knowing these shows. For them -- and for some others, too -- here's an alternative Top 40 of lesser-known Cole Porter songs (in alphabetical order), none of which appear in either of the two biopics. All are available on some Cole Porter compendium and they should please you discriminating musical theater enthusiasts. Indeed, once you hear them, you may very well listen to these de-lovely treats night and day.

  1. "Abracadabra" (Mexican Hayride): A delightful ditty that not only notes how quickly one falls in love but also how quickly one falls out -- before one falls back in.
  2. "After All I'm Only a Schoolgirl" (Wake up and Dream): On Alice Playten's recording, there's a funny moment when you think she's going for a high note that she won't be able to reach -- and then she suddenly drops an octave. That's de-lectable.
  3. "After You, Who?" (The Gay Divorce): But try to avoid renditions where the words "you" and "who" are said too quickly together. When that happens, the song sounds like an ad for a soft drink.
  4. "Announcement of Inheritance" (Something for the Boys): A real book song that advances the plot, it's done in a sprightly manner on the 1997 42nd Street Moon cast album.
  5. "But in the Morning, No" (DuBarry Was a Lady): "Do you ante up, my dear" is just one of several subtle double-entendres in this funny work.
  6. "Come to the Supermarket in Old Peking" (Aladdin): Streisand unearthed this one for her debut album and gave it sensational new life. Hear the diva when she had a sense of humor.
  7. "Down in the Depths (on the 90th Floor)" (Red, Hot and Blue): Called "the gay national anthem" in The Boys in the Band.
  8. "Farming" (Let's Face It): Here's reason #1 to get the 1965 cast album of The Decline and Fall of the World as Seen through the Eyes of Cole Porter. The cast -- Carmen Alvarez, Kaye Ballard, William Hickey, Harold Lang, and Elmarie Wendel -- is superb.
  9. "Find Me a Primitive Man" (Fifty Million Frenchmen): "I don't mean the kind that belongs to a club / But the kind that has a club that belongs to him."
  10. "Give Him the Oo-La-La" (DuBarry Was a Lady): "If your bridegroom at the church / Starts to leave you in the lurch / Don't proceed to fall in a faint / Don't run wild and crack up a saint."
  11. "I Am Loved" (Out of This World): Another beguine but one that says, "What a wonderful thing to be able to say / I am loved." Indeed!
  12. "I'm Throwing a Ball Tonight" (Panama Hattie): Any song that has Ethel Merman starting the main chorus with "I feel like a million dollars / I feel simply out o' sight" has got to be a winner. This one does not disappoint.
  13. "I Love You Samantha" (High Society): I've commented a great deal about lyrics, so how about praising Porter's felicitous way with a melody? Here's a good example.
  14. "I Sleep Easier Now" (Out of This World): By 1950, when this show was produced, Porter and his audience had reached middle age. Here's a song that shows how comfortable he and they could be with it.
  15. "It Ain't Etiquette" (Du Barry Was a Lady): "If a very proud mother asks what you think / Of her babe in the bassinette / Don't tell her it looks like the missing link / It ain't etiquette."
  16. "I've Got Some Unfinished Business with You" (Let's Face It): Though that line sounds as if the singer is taking the high road, he soon goes low with "I've got a certain job that must be done...wait till baby gets a gun."
  17. "I've Still Got My Health" (Panama Hattie): In this number, Merman sang: "No rich Vanderbilt gives me gilt underwear."
  18. "A Lady Needs a Rest" (Let's Face It): Another double-entendre dandy, in which some women sing "...what with keeping her children in at nights and keeping her husband out."
  19. "The Laziest Gal in Town" (Stage Fright): Who'd expect a Hitchcock picture to include a song that begins, "It's not 'cause I wouldn't / It's not 'cause I shouldn't / And, Lord knows, it's not 'cause I couldn't / It's simply because I'm the laziest gal in town."
  20. "The Leader of a Big Time Band" (Something for the Boys): Hear this one on the live recording of the British show Cole, where it's sensationally done. Then see if you don't agree with me that, considering how terrific both the song and the rendition are, the applause is terribly underwhelming.
  21. "Let's Make It a Night" (dropped from Silk Stockings): Wonderfully sung by Jonathan Freeman and terrifically orchestrated by Larry Moore on Lost in Boston.
  22. "Let's Not Talk about Love" (Let's Face It): Get Danny Kaye's tongue-twisting recording and hear him go lickety-split through "Let's question the synonomy of freedom and autonomy / Let's delve into astronomy, political economy / Or, if you're feeling Biblical, the book of Deuteronomy / But let's not talk about love!"
  23. "Make It Another Old-Fashioned, Please" (Panama Hattie): A most touching torch song for a woman who's recently been dumped. "Leave out the cherries / Leave out the orange / Leave out the bitters / Just make it a straight rye." Reason #2 to get The Decline and Fall album, for Carmen Alvarez's sparkling yet poignant rendition.
  24. "Mind If I Make Love to You?" (High Society): I don't like admitting that Frank Sinatra was one of Porter's best interpreters, given that he never appeared in one of his (or anyone else's) Broadway musicals. But at least he did two of Porter's movies and he was oh-so-right for this smoothly seductive song.
  25. "Most Gentlemen Don't Like Love" (Leave It to Me): "A romp and a quickie / Is all little Dickie / Means / When he mentions romance."
  26. "My Mother Would Love You" (Panama Hattie): "And so would my sister Sue / My brother would think the world of you / And you'd make gran'pappy / Slap-happy / too."
  27. "No Lover" (Out of This World): Another song about the joys of middle age. "No lover / No lover for me / My husband / Suits me to a T."
  28. "Nobody's Chasing Me" (Out of This World): On the other hand, middle age does have its drawbacks, such as the loss of would-be admirers. "Nobody wants to own me / And I object / Nobody wants to phone me / Even collect."
  29. "Paris Loves Lovers" (Silk Stockings): "The urge to merge with the splurge of the spring," sings the American. "Bourgeois propaganda!" sneers the Communist.
  30. "Pets"(dropped from Let's Face It): "I collect everything from mice to marmosets / I've an acrobatic monkey / And a highly endowed young donkey / Who's played sev'ral shows / And knows Cliff Odets."
  31. "A Picture of Me Without You"(Jubilee): "Picture Ogden Nash without a rhyme / Picture Mr. Bulova without the time / Picture Staten Island without a ferry / Picture little George Washington without a cherry."
  32. "Please Don't Monkey with Broadway" (Broadway Melody of 1940): Do you know that Joe Papp once recorded this one?
  33. "Take Me Back to Manhattan" (The New Yorkers): The song I inevitably sing after I've spent a few days on a Caribbean island.
  34. "The Tale of the Oyster" (Fifty Million Frenchmen): Considering that it climaxes with a woman vomiting, this song is in pretty good taste.
  35. "They Ain't Done Right by Our Nell" (Panama Hattie): "I can still recall my first affair / He was rich, he was smart, he went everywhere / Well he did, until he went to the chair."
  36. "They Couldn't Compare to You" (Out of This World): This one contains what is perhaps my favorite Porter rhyme, "Though I liked the Queen of Sheba / She was, mentally, an amoeba."
  37. "When My Baby Goes to Town" (Something for the Boys): I like the song even though the accent on the word "my" is all wrong.
  38. "Where Would You Get Your Coat?" (Fifty Million Frenchmen): Not a good song to sing on Fur-Free Friday, but if you can take yourself back to another time, you can have fun with it.
  39. "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" (High Society): You'd think the TV game show would have used this as its theme song.
  40. "You're Sensational" (High Society): What fitting words to end a column about Cole Porter!

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[To contact Peter Filichia directly, e-mail him at pfilichia@theatermania.com]