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THEATRICAL THROWBACK THURSDAY: Judy Garland & Gene Kelly Commemorate Cole Porter

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Today we are honoring the 50th anniversary of Cole Porter's death with a tribute to the stage and screen composer extraordinaire.

Experiment

Born on June 9, 1891 and passing away on October 15, 1964, iconic Golden Age songwriter supreme Cole Porter virtually did it all over the course of his 73 years on Earth. Conquering Broadway, Hollywood and the pop charts with his incomparable wit and way with a mellifluous melody, the remarkable artistic accomplishments achieved by Porter are astounding to consider. First and foremost, though, is the simply spectacular collection of songs he contributed to the zeitgeist, many of which still live on in their popularity today - "Anything Goes" to "I've Got You Under My Skin" to "Just One Of Those Things", "In The Still Of The Night" and far beyond.

Then, there are the musicals. A dizzying array of stage vehicles of wildly varying quality showcased Porter's talent for top-tier tunes, beginning with SEE AMERICA FIRST in 1916, followed by the full-fledged productions of PARIS, WAKE UP AND DREAM, FIFTY MILLION FRENCHMAN, THE NEW YORKERS, THE GAY DIVORCEE, NYMPH ERRANT and JUBILEE. Most importantly, in 1934, Porter premiered what many may consider to be his finest musical comedy, ANYTHING GOES, tailored to the copious gifts of leading lady Ethel Merman, who would go on to star in the Porter-penned follow-up, RED, HOT & BLUE, shortly thereafter. Additionally, years later, KISS ME, KATE reached the frothy highs of ANYTHING GOES, while CAN-CAN, LEAVE IT TO ME! and DUBARRY WAS A LADY boasted boatloads of soon-to-be Porter standards, though admittedly some of his other theatrical efforts of the era went largely unappreciated, at least at the time. Of course, Porter's cinematic contributions certainly cannot be undervalued, either, with the exceptional musical moments crafted for a wide variety of film properties ranging from songs for ROSALIE, BORN TO DANCE, YOU'LL NEVER GET RICH and BROADWAY MELODY OF 1940 to full-out original scores for the films THE PIRATE, HIGH SOCIETY and LES GIRLS, not to mention the multitude of movie musicals based on his pre-existing stage hits (ANYTHING GOES, SILK STOCKINGS and KISS ME, KATE included).

Indeed, Porter seems to be on the minds of many around the world these days, as well, even 50 years after his death - Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett recently shot to #1 with a Great American Songbook-themed album boasting "Anything Goes" as its chart-topping lead single, with a Porter tribute recently announced by the pair as a follow-up next year, not to mention the buzz-worthy revised production of CAN-CAN currently playing at the Papermill Playhouse with its eyes aimed at Broadway.

"Urbane, witty, literate and original - both the man and his work had the distinction of an elusive quality called style," Gene Kelly relays in today's clip during his elegant introduction at the Academy Awards prior to Judy Garland taking the stage to wow the crowd - and all of America itself - with a rousing medley of Porter hits, including "Night & Day", "You're The Top", "Let's Do It", "Don't Fence Me In" and many more.

View the vintage clip of Gene Kelly and Judy Garland paying tribute to Cole Porter on the 1965 Academy Awards below.

So, what is your absolute favorite Cole Porter song of them all? Furthermore, what Cole Porter stage or screen property do you adore the most? Clearly, in his life and career, Cole Porter proved that risky experimentation could often yield fine artistic fruit - and, occasionally, a timeless tune or two, too.


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From This Author Pat Cerasaro

Pat Cerasaro contributes exclusive scholarly columns including InDepth InterViews, Sound Off, Theatrical Throwback Thursdays, Flash Friday and Flash Special as well as additional special features, (read more...)