Apart from the music which, by all accounts, blazed the trail on the stage and other mediums of performance, the movie is remarkable for the frank way it deals with the curious relationship between Porter and his wife.
You see, Cole Porter was a homosexual, a more or less openly gay man at a time when it was taboo to be gay because most of his friends and work colleagues knew he was homosexual. Linda, his wife, also knew he was gay when she married him.
Legend has it that Linda married Porter, 21 years her junior, to keep her place in society as well as move on from what had been an abusive first marriage.
In order to continue being respected in the 1920s, when respectability was such a prized commodity, would I, had I been a middle-aged woman, have opted to knowingly marry a flamboyantly promiscuous gay man?
I would have asked myself questions that clearly can’t have featured much in Linda’s mind. The foremost one would have been about how I would reconcile trading in a bad relationship with a straight man with an emotionally abusive relationship with a gay man.
For, yes, Cole Porter didn’t stop for breath when he married Linda. Indeed he carried on with his flamboyant lifestyle in Europe, often leaving Linda to return to their home alone in the evenings while he remained behind to frolic with beautiful boys. She put up with all that up to and including notifying Porter that she would already be asleep by the time he returned from his gay exertions.
Finally, she lost a bit of her patience when the gay parties at their home in America became too brazen. But, as Porter, reminds her when she reprimands him about it, he had never been anything else and had never passed himself off as anything else.
“Discretion is dishonesty wrapped up in a little breeding,”(De Lovely)
Before she dies of cancer, Linda arranges for a man, a life partner of sorts, to enter into Porter’s life; the final act of a devoted woman who always knew that she stood no chance in winning Porter’s physical attention. Okay, she was devoted to him and he to her but I still don’t get it that she could put up with that arrangement. I don’t.
The lesson I draw from the movie, and what I now know about Cole Porter’s life is that one is best advised to live and let live. Cole Porter likely entered into the relationship and stayed in it because it allowed him to have his cake after he had eaten it. In Linda Lee Thomas‘ case, was it really de-lovely?
But I have lived in a slightly different age so perhaps I should just enjoy K.D Lang’s version of Cole Porter’s So in Love and forget about trying to make sense of his wife’s motivations.
Strange dear, but true dear/When I’m close to you, dear/The stars fill the sky/So in love with you am I/Even without you, My arms fold about you/You know, darling why/So in love with you am I./In love with the night mysterious/ The night when you first were there/In love with my joy delirious/The thought that you might care/So taunt me, and hurt me/Deceive me, desert me/I’m yours till I die/So in love with you am I