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Anything Goes: The Life of Cole Porter

Updated on December 22, 2016

Early Life

Cole Albert Porter was born in Peru, Indiana on June 9, 1891. While his father was a fairly mild-mannered drugstore owner and had relatively little influence on Cole’s life, his mother was an heiress. In fact, his grandfather J.O. Cole, was a socialite known widely as “The richest man in Indiana.”

Cole began piano lessons at age 8, and continued to enjoy the instrument for his entire life. As a child, Porter's mother falsified his birth records to make him appear two years younger than he actually was, allowing him to look even more impressive to the public. After attending an exclusive boarding school courtesy of his grandfather, he went on to major in English at Yale. While there, he wrote several full length musicals, and wrote a song which made it to a Broadway revue, albeit with limited success. He also wrote over 300 tunes while at Yale, including several enduring fight songs.

After receiving his undergraduate degree, he enrolled in law school to please his grandfather, who had been financing Cole's education from the beginning. This changed however, when the law school's dean, upon learning of Cole's musical passions, that law may not be his calling. Cole agreed, but knew his grandfather would never approve; he therefore decided to change his major without telling his grandfather.

The Venitian Palace Occupied By Porter in the 1920s.
The Venitian Palace Occupied By Porter in the 1920s.

Lavish Luxury and Early Success

After receiving his graduate degree, he moved to Paris. To avoid looking like a draft dodger, he sent a story back home about joining the French Legion, which though fabricated, allowed him to live on his grandfather’s money in a luxurious Parisian apartment. In 1919, he married Linda Lee Thomas and remained married to her until her death in 1954. Upon his grandfather’s death in 1923, Cole came into an enormous inheritance, and moved into a rented canal-front palace in Venice, where He and Linda entertained guests with lavish bacchanals.
After a period of inactivity, Cole Porter re-introduced himself to Broadway in 1928 with his musical “Paris,” an immediate success, which one of Porter’s best known pieces, “Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall in Love.” Despite the stock market crash, Porter’s musicals continued to fare well, especially his greatest and most well known show “Anything Goes,” which featured favorites such as “I Get A Kick Out Of You,” “You’re the Top,” and the famous title number.

Hollywood and Decline

In 1935, the Porters moved to Hollywood, where Porter found himself entranced by the glaring ostentation of the city. Linda Porter found this difficult to tolerate, and declared that she was moving back to Pairs. Porter was unable to get her to come back, and eventually decided to let the split work itself out.
In 1937, Porter was injured in a horseback riding accident which nearly cost him his leg. Linda Porter immediately returned to Cole’s side to comfort him, as he was in constant pain. Writing took Porter’s mind off his pain, so he continued to pen musicals. After several flops, he was able to reestablish himself as a great writer. He continued to write for both Broadway and Hollywood for nearly two decades. His last hit song “True Love” was introduced by Frank Sinatra in the film “High Society,” in 1956, which came after the 1952 death of his mother, and 1954 death of his wife. In 1958, doctors were forced to amputate Porter’s right leg which drew him into a state of seclusion from which he never recovered. He split his time between living in his suite in the Waldorf Towers in New York City and and Estate in California, solitarily, seeking only the company of very close friends. He died in Santa Monica, California, on October 15, 1964, aged 73.
Cole Porter was a brilliant man who wrote amazing songs which are still popular today. How does his legacy look? It’s delightful. It’s delicious. It’s delovely.

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    • jht1414 profile image
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      JJ Tyson 4 years ago from Chapel Hill, NC

      Thanks Beth! You're the top!

    • Beth100 profile image

      Beth100 4 years ago from Canada

      Love Cole Porter!!! Wonderful summary of his life -- interesting life he had! Thanks for sharing and now I'm listening to Cole Porter!! :D