Cole Porter and P.G. Wodehouse

Clive’s mentioning of Patricia Barber’s rendering of “You’re The Top!” reminded me to post this passage from Robert McCrum’s Wodehouse biography. “Anything Goes” is the greatest musical of the twentieth or any century, but its creation was anything but smooth:

Towards the end of his life, Wodehouse published an account of the day when (Cole) Porter, who had been gadding about Europe, arrived with his music. The three men (Wodehouse and Guy Bolton being the other two), lacking a piano, repaired to the casino, where Porter ran through the numbers he had completed, including You’re The Top and Blow, Gabriel, Blow, at a keyboard in the corridor leading to the gaming tables. Their meeting was interrupted by a pleasantly intoxicated young American socialite who, mistaking Porter for the casino’s entertainer, asked him to play I Wonder Where My Baby Is Tonight. When Porter laid aside the score and obliged without protest, the young man began to cry. ‘That song hits me right here… Just been divorced, so can you blame me for wondering?’

“We made sympathetic noises (Wodehouse continued), and Cole played You’re The Top. The intruder came weaving back through the door. ‘Forget that stuff,’ he said. ‘Do you know a number called The Horse with the Lavender Eyes? It drove us down from the Plaza to the church. Dawn said the horse had lavender eyes,’ he continued brokenly, ‘so we sang the song all the way down the avenue. Dawn O’Day, that was her stage name. Pretty, isn’t it?’ He rose and laid a small column of 100-franc chips on top of the piano. ‘What’s that for?’ we asked. ‘For him,’ he said, indicating Cole. ‘He plays okay, but he picks out rotten numbers.'”

Quite apart from all the obvious points around the tragedy of Saki’s death in the Great War is the fact that he and Cole Porter never met, yet in many ways Porter is H.H. Munro’s musical twin.



2 Replies to “Cole Porter and P.G. Wodehouse”

  1. In New Labour’s Britain, we need something along the lines of…

    You’re the botts,
    You’re the children’s murders,
    You’re the botts,
    You’re the park enturders

  2. Darn, darn, darn clever, Mr Porter. Endlessly so. He could have gone on composing an almost infinite number of verses. But then Mr Coward wasn’t bad at that either.

    And Mr Porter could do a bit of bawdy with the best.

    If she says your behaviour is heinous,
    Kick her right in the Coriolanus…

    Mind you…

    If you can’t be a ham and do Hamlet
    They will not give a damn or a damlet…

    …is pretty good too.

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