COLE PORTER, American composer and lyricist born (d. 1964); It was typical of the urbane song-smith to have hand-picked Cary Grant to play him in the Hollywood biopic of his life. Grant, then 42, and at the height of his attractive charms, is what Porter would have liked to look like. The film, Night and Day, is an atrocity, but fascinating to watch, not only for its lies and deliberate distortions, but for the wild pleasure of watching Grant, in early middle age, attempt to play a Yale freshman. When, with his faintly absurd Cockney accent, he composes “Night and Day” to the accompaniment of amplified raindrops and a symphony orchestra, it is a moment to treasure, excelled perhaps only by Cornell Wilde as Chopin, addressing Merle Oberon (as George Sand) as if she were the father of her country.
Cole Porter thought of himself as an aristocrat. He was a snob, a bigot, a superficial charmer who was a thoroughly unpleasant person. He also wrote some of the best popular music of the century. Genius and character are not, after all necessarily correlated. “Birds do it, Bees do it, even educated fleas do it…” The epitome of the Closet Case, Porter was often photographed in the arms of beautiful women and was married for thirty-four years to Linda Lee Thomas, who conceived and miscarried. Notwithstanding, he was more homosexual than bisexual, though never what any self-respecting Gay man would ever have considered Gay.
The couple separated briefly in the early 1930s when, it is believed, Porter’s sexuality became more and more open during their time living in Hollywood. After Porter was badly injured in a horse-riding accident, Linda was reunited with her husband. He had an affair in 1925 with Boris Kochno, a poet and Ballets Russes librettist. He also reportedly had a long relationship with his constant companion, Howard Sturges, a Boston socialite, as well as with architect Ed Tauch (for whom Porter wrote “Easy to Love”), choreographer Nelson Barclift (who inspired “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To”), director John Wilson (who later married international society beauty Princess Nathalie Paley), and longtime friend Ray Kelly, whose children still receive half of the childless Porter’s copyright royalties.