It's Delightful. It's Delicious. It's De-Lovely!
Jet-setting, high-living and never, ever dull, Cole and Linda Porter reigned jubilantly among the glitterati of their day. Now the debonair pair is back on the scene in a lush new film filled with Cole's innumerable, indelible love songs.
Cole Porter was truly an entertainer--in more than one sense of the word. As a songwriter he was arguably unparalleled in crafting exquisitely witty, breezily incisive love songs: "Let's Do It (Let's Fall in Love)," "I Get a Kick Out of You," "Just One of Those Things," "I've Got You Under My Skin." They're lyrically and musically intricate ditties that were both enormously popular and critically lauded, advancing the nascent art form of the Broadway musical in triumphant shows like Anything Goes, Silk Stockings, Can-Can and his crowning success, Kiss Me, Kate.
But Cole Porter and his socialite wife Linda also knew how to entertain. Stylish, sophisticated and vivacious, the Porters were the epitome of high society in the first half of the 20th century, throwing the grandest parties and livening up other people's dull ones. They kept company with the crème de la crème--the likes of Irving Berlin, Noel Coward, gossip maven and party hostess Elsa Maxwell, Ballets Russes founder Serge Diaghilev, Fred and Adele Astaire and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor (among many other European royalty). They made their plush homes, over the years, in Paris and Venice, New York and Hollywood. And, oh yes, they were always impeccably dressed. Cole employed the best tailors, wore the finest fabrics, defined the word "dapper"; Linda's flawless taste made her a style icon known the world over.
NOW THE PORTERS ARE KICKING up their heels once more as embodied by Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd in It's De-Lovely, director Irwin Winkler's $30-million, music-filled biopic spanning the decades of Cole and Linda's lifelong, somewhat unorthodox love affair. (He trysted with numerous men on the side, and she allowed it--so long as he was discreet and didn't cause a scandal.) It's hardly a surprise that there's interest again in the Porters in this age of celebrity idolatry and fixation. "Cole was so magnificent and so rich," says Eve Stewart, It's De-Lovely's production designer. "He was the kind of person that you'd have on the front page of Hello! magazine [or Us Weekly, for us non-Brits] every week."
There's something wild about you, child
That's so contagious
Let's be outrageous
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They lived the most extravagant and the most glamorous lifestyle," says the film's costume designer, Janty Yates. "They were the ones that were immortalized in F. Scott Fitzgerald's novels. There had been nobody more elegant than Cole and Linda Porter--they really were the forerunners." Designer Bill Blass ranks them among the top five most stylish figures of the 20th century. Not even Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis could compare to Linda in her day.
"Whereas Jackie O. went to acknowledged designers," says Yates, "Linda Porter discovered them"--particularly Mainbocher, whose clothes Linda was closely associated with all her life. The Porters helped the Sicilian nobleman-turned-jeweler Duke Fulco di Verdura to establish himself apart from Chanel, and when they traveled by train, they did so with an entire coach reserved only for their garments. In fact, the phrase "very Linda Porter-ish" entered the lexicon of chic at the time.
Although Yates, who won an Oscar for her work on Gladiator, talked to one or two other fashion houses for the film, her gut instinct was that no designer was more suited to the Cole Porter story than Giorgio Armani, whose creations have long been heavily influenced by '20s and '30s fashions. Yates had previously worked with the house of Armani for Anthony Hopkins' wardrobe in Hannibal, and, coincidentally, Armani is a close friend of Judd's and even designed her wedding dress for her marriage to Dario Franchitti in 2001.
Armani, whose name was made in the States when Richard Gere modeled Armani wardrobe throughout 1980's American Gigolo, personally fitted Kline's dozens of suits for the film. "It was amazing to see him work," marvels Winkler. "He's on his knees with chalk, pins in his mouth. You would think that the man runs this big empire and he's sitting in an office somewhere--no. He's out there doing the actual clothes and that was great to see."
For It's De-Lovely, Yates was given free run of Armani's archives, warehouses and even his shop floors in Italy and England. For Judd, Yates adapted "vintage" Armani gowns to crisp, elegant '20s, '30s and '40s styles. "Every evening dress that Ashley put on just made my heart leap," she says. Yates also had other dresses made, drawing upon designers of the times to create a single look for Judd, with Mainbocher as a guiding light. "We kept everything silk or silk chiffon or silk satin," says Yates. "We were very faithful to the fabric and the cut of the day."
The sumptuous apparel was complemented by similarly luxe accessories granted to the production: jewelry by Verdura, vintage evening bags by Van Cleef & Arpels, pearls by Mikimoto, diamonds by Chanel Joaillerie and, for Kline, hats by Borsalino and shoes by Church's. Production designer Stewart even borrowed some of Cole's personal effects from the Cole Porter Trusts to help Kline get into character. Stewart also draped the film's wedding scene in giant roses, inspired by the fact that Cole once had a rose created for Linda, which was named--what else?--the Linda Porter rose.