What Is This Thing Called Cole? – FORGOTTEN PORTER (IV)

Welcome to a new Musical Theatre Monday and the continuation of our six-week series on Cole Porter musicals that we’ve yet to cover here on That’s Entertainment! Given that Porter is my first musical theatre obsession and my favorite Broadway composer, we’ve covered quite a lot of his work, but these six shows, spanning from 1928 to 1946, are making their Musical Theatre Monday debuts. So far we’ve covered Paris (1928), La Revue Des Ambassadeurs (1928), and Wake Up And Dream (1929). Today…


IV. Gay Divorce (11/29/32 – 07/01/33)

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Perhaps the most successful Porter show to be featured in our latest series, this vehicle for Fred Astaire, who was minus one sister for his Broadway swan song, boasted a cast that included Claire Luce, Eric Blore, Erik Rhoades, Luella Gear and Betty Starbuck and was blessed with one of Porter’s most exciting numbers. The plot, based on an unproduced play, concerned a romance novelist who falls in love with a married woman who’s arranged for her husband to catch her in an affair by hiring an Italian lothario to act as co-respondant. Unfortunately, the woman assumes the novelist is her gigolo and comedic misunderstandings ensue. Porter’s accompanying score was less full than those for her his other book musicals; instead, the principal attraction was the dancing.

The highlight, of course, was the previously alluded to “Night And Day,’ performed by Fred Astaire, who recorded the number with Leo Reisman’s orchestra during the Broadway production and with Ted Lewis’ before he took the show to London the following year (alongside Luce, Blore, and Rhoades). The rendition above is performed by Fred Astaire, who danced the number with Ginger Rogers, in the well known 1934 film adaptation, The Gay Divorcee, which dumped all of Porter’s other songs.

The relative sparseness of the score is probably what’s kept it from appearing on Musical Theatre Mondays before. But, in addition to “Night And Day,” there are a handful of other superb tunes that could easily stand among his finest, including the absolutely astoundingly astute “After You Who?” and the catchy and contagiously cute “I’ve Got You On My Mind.” The latter, above, was recorded by Astaire with Lewis, and the former, below, was recorded by Astaire with Reisman.

Another one of my favorite tunes that never became a sensation is Erik Rhoades’ Italian gigolo’s “How’s Your Romance,” performed below, with the original orchestration, by Thomas Hampson.

And, we’ll end today’s post with the delicious “Mr. And Mrs Fitch,” about a fictitious couple whom Porter had recently turned into society legends by planting false stories detailing their ritzy doings. Here’s the number from the 2000 BBC Radio Broadcast of the Lost Musicals! production. (For access to the full audio of this or a recording of the 1993 Weill Concert Hall production, subscribe and comment below!)



Come back next Monday for another Cole Porter musical! And tune in tomorrow for the best from the first season of Phyllis!