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From the Archives: Songwriter Cole Porter Dies

From the Archives: Songwriter Cole Porter Dies
Cole Porter (AP Photo)

Cole Porter, 71, one of America's great song and musical comedy writers, died Thursday night in St. John's Hospital, Santa Monica.

He was admitted to the hospital Sept. 22 with a high fever and underwent surgery for a kidney ailment Tuesday. Death came at 11:05 p.m. Thursday.

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Porter wrote the music and lyrics for scores of songs that became all-time favorites, such as "Night and Day," "Begin the Beguine," "What Is This Thing Called Love?" "In the Still of the Night," "I've Got You Under My Skin." and "I Get a Kick Out of You."

Additional Hits

Other Porter hits included "Don't Fence Me In," "My Heart Belongs to Daddy," "Let's Do it," "You're the Top," "You Do Something to Me," "All Through the Night," "Blow, Gabriel, Blow," "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To," "Love for Sale," "Wunderbar," "So in Love," "I Love Paris" and "C'est Magnifique."

Over a span of 40 years, the urbane Porter wrote some of Broadway's greatest musicals and the music for a number of motion pictures.

Porter's first musical comedy effort in 1916 was "See America First" and it flopped. But his second attempt three years later, "Hitchy-Koo," was a hit. The show ran for two years and one of its hit songs, "An Old Fashioned Garden," sold more than 2 million copies.

Other Porter successes on Broadway included "Paris," "Wake Up and Dream," "Gay Divorce," "Anything Goes," "Jubilee," "Red, Hot and Blue," "Du Barry Was a Lady," "Panama Hattie," "Let's Face It!" "Something for the Boys," "Mexican Hayride," "Kiss Me, Kate," "Can-Can" and "Silk Stockings."

Movie Scores

He also wrote the musical scores for such movies as "Born to Dance," "Rosalie," "Broadway Melody of 1940," "You'll Never Get Rich," "Something to Shout About," "High Society" and "Les Girls."

Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly and Frank Sinatra in "High Society."
Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly and Frank Sinatra in "High Society." (Warner Bros.)

Warner Bros. told Porter's  life story in a 1946 musical, "Night and Day," in which Cary Grant portrayed the composer.

Born in Peru, Ind., Porter was graduated from Yale University in 1913. He then spent a year studying law and two years studying music at Harvard.

After his first musical flopped, Porter went abroad and joined the French Foreign Legion in 1917. He was switched to the French artillery and served as an officer at the front in World War I.

He married Linda Lee Thomas in Paris in 1919. She died in New York in 1954.

As Porter's reputation grew, so did his mode of living. Not that he ever had to pinch pennies—for he had inherited $1 million from his grandfather. To this was soon added an income of more than $100,000 a year from his songs.

Had Many Homes

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The Porters maintained apartments in New York, Paris, Venice and on the Lido. These became fashionable salons attracting notables from the musical, theatrical and literary worlds.

His residence in Paris had walls of mirrors and furniture upholstered in zebra skin. His home in Venice was where Robert Browning, the poet, had died. He maintained two apartments in New York's Waldorf Astoria, one as a residence, the other to work in.

With the opening of each new show, Porter would present his wife with an appropriate present. When "Red, Hot and Blue" opened he gave her a platinum cigaret case inset with rubies, diamonds and sapphires, explaining that the rubies were red, the diamonds were "hot" and the sapphires were blue.

Porter developed chronic osteomyelitis in his right leg—the result of an injury suffered from a fall from a horse in 1937—and the leg was amputated in 1958.

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