Welcome to a new Musical Theatre Monday and the conclusion of our latest Cole Porter series! My favorite composer, Porter’s scores have been almost covered in full on this blog, but there were still a few pre-1948 shows left to investigate (Kiss Me, Kate notwithstanding — it’s not forgotten). Today we’re highlighting three unproduced stage scores that Porter wrote in the ’30s.
III. Star Dust (Fall 1931)
In the latter half of 1931, Porter was engaged by producer E. Ray Goetz to compose the score for this operetta (with a book by Herbert Fields, who had written The New Yorkers) to star Peggy Wood. The project fell through when the principal backer, a large cigarette company, pulled out at the last minute due to tax hikes on tobacco products. Porter’s work was deemed charming, and many of the songs showed up in later shows, including “I’ve Got You On My Mind,” which wound up in the following year’s Gay Divorce (1932), “But He Never Says He Loves Me,” which was retitled “The Physician” and introduced by Gertrude Lawrence in Nymph Errant (1933), and the most famous of all, “I Get A Kick Out Of You,” which became an American standard when it was introduced by Ethel Merman in Anything Goes (1934) — with a slight lyric change: the omission of an allusion to Charles Lindbergh.
The full score as it was written for Star Dust (1931) was performed only once in a 1987 concert benefit — and I’ve searched high and low for audio/video to no avail. Of the recorded numbers that Porter never recycled elsewhere, the best is the sultry “Pick Me Up And Lay Me Down,” performed below by Dolores Gray on a Bagley album.
IV. Ever Yours (Spring 1934)
This musical adaptation of a Hungarian play entitled The Spell boasted a book by Guy Bolton and a more serious-minded score than Porter had ever before composed. Unlike the above, the show never made it into rehearsals, but a complete script survives under the title Ever Yours, which replaced both Yours and even earlier, Once Upon A Time, which Porter wrote as a title song, performed below by Paulina Stark.
As you may have guessed, several of the tunes written for the score got reprieves, including “When Love Comes Your Way,” which made it into Jubilee (1935), and “Waltz Down The Aisle,” which was also considered for Anything Goes (1934). Both of those songs have a fuller, somewhat European sound than many of the brassier American tunes with which I associate Porter, including Ever Yours‘ “Coffee,” performed by Ann Hampton Callaway.
V. Greek To You (Fall 1937)
The papers announced in late September 1937 that Porter would be providing the score for a new musical comedy to be produced by the Schuberts and written by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse (the duo who had revised Anything Goes), based on an unproduced play about an archaeologist — to be portrayed by Clifton Webb. (Adele Astaire and June Clyde were being discussed as potential female leads.) But tragedy prevented this musical from ever coming to fruition, when a month into composing the score, Porter was severely injured in a riding accident that left him crippled for the rest of his life. The Schuberts cancelled their plans for Greek To You and instead set their sights on a musical version of By Candlelight, which ended up opening as You Never Know (1938), with music by Porter and Webb as the lead.
Only a few numbers had been drafted by the time of Porter’s accident, one of which was the title song, which founds its way into the 1973 Off-Broadway revival of You Never Know. From that recording, the cast’s rendition is above. Below is another tune from the score — a fun one — preserved on a Bagley album, “Wild Wedding Bells,” performed by Dolores Gray. (Curse fate; this score seems like it could have been a winning romp!)
Come back next Monday for the start of our final series of weekly Musical Theatre posts! And tune in tomorrow for more of It’s Garry Shandling’s Show!