De-Lovely is a 2004 American/British musical biographical film directed by Irwin Winkler. The screenplay by Jay Cocks is based on the life and career of Cole Porter, from his first meeting with Linda Lee Thomas in 1918 until moments before his death in 1964. It is the second biopic about the composer, following the sanitized Night and Day released in 1946.
In the final moments of Porter's life, it flashes before him in the form of a musical production
staged by the archangel Gabriel
in the Indiana
theater where the composer first performed on stage. From the start, Linda is aware of Cole's homosexual
tendencies, but her love for and devotion to him are strong enough for her to overlook his romantic flings outside their marriage. But when he fails to show up at one of his own opening night parties and doesn't come home until the following morning, she finds it impossible to ignore his indiscretion and the continuous innuendos in his songs and goes to Paris
, leaving him bereft. Not until he is injured in a horseback riding accident that seriously cripples him does she return to his side, willing to forgive but still finding it difficult to cope with his extramarital affairs. Cole is photographed in an amorous embrace with another man in the rest room of a gay nightclub
, and both he and Linda are blackmailed into paying a heavy settlement to suppress publication of the pictures. Eventually she is diagnosed with lung cancer
, and as she prepares herself and her husband for her impending death, she attempts to forge a relationship between him and her interior decorator
so he'll have a companion following her death, which deeply affects him. That and the amputation of his right leg force him into a deep depression that affects his creative output and makes him a virtual hermit, nursing himself with medication and alcohol, until his own passing.
Although Porter was a passable singer at best, director Irwin Winkler cast Kevin Kline
, winner of two Tony Awards
and two Drama Desk Awards
for his musical performances on Broadway
, as the composer. He stayed in character by limiting his vocal range. Most of his singing was recorded live on the set, and the actor played the piano himself in the scenes where Porter plays.
According to Winkler's commentary on the DVD release of the film, he had considered numerous actresses for the role of Linda when Ashley Judd's agent advised him she was interested in the part. Winkler was certain her salary demand would exceed that allowed by the budget, but the actress was so anxious to portray Linda she was willing to lower her usual asking price. Judd is twenty years younger than Kline, although the composer's wife was eight years older than he.
The Old Vic in London was used to represent the theater in which Porter was reliving his past. Additional filming locations included Chiswick House and Luton Hoo.
The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. It was shown at the CineVegas International Film Festival, the Sydney Film Festival, and the San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival before going into limited release in the US.
The film grossed $13,337,299 in the US and $5,059,083 in foreign markets for a total worldwide box office of $18,396,382 .
In his review in the New York Times
, Stephen Holden called the film "lethally inert" and "lifeless and drained of genuine joie de vivre
" and added, "It didn't have to be like this. In their highly stylized ways, All That Jazz
's morbidly manic screen autobiography
), Ken Russell
's surreal portraits of composers or any of Federico Fellini
's libidinous self-explorations have delved deeply into the muck of artistic creativity. Sadly, the daring and imagination required to go below the surface are nowhere to be found in De-Lovely
Ruthe Stein of the San Francisco Chronicle said, "The movie never gels - despite Kline's nuanced performance, the stars' exquisite period clothes designed by Armani, and, of course, Porter's great songs. Director Irwin Winkler's highly stylized technique is difficult to connect with emotionally. His film also suffers from shockingly sloppy editing for a studio production. If nothing else, the composer . . . deserves a movie that has rhythm. But De- Lovely lurches along like a car with a missing spark plug."
In Rolling Stone, Peter Travers rated the film three out of a possible four stars and commented, "In voice, manner, patrician charm and private torment, Kevin Kline is perfection as legendary composer Cole Porter . . . At its best, De-Lovely evokes a time, a place and a sound with stylish wit and sophistication."
Steve Persall of the St. Petersburg Times graded the film C- and observed, "The movie is actually an ugly compilation of clashing cinematic styles occasionally salvaged by musical numbers that essentially are part of the problem. You can't make a good movie about a 1930s composer using a 1970s film conceit while hiring 21st century recording artists to perform Porter's classic songs. A tribute CD, maybe, but not a movie . . . [it] plays like a cabaret review rather than a motion picture, a sublime collection of songs linked by scripted banter barely scratching the surface of its subject. Not delightful, not delicious, just disappointing."
Awards and nominations