"If you want to know Cole Porter, this is a better introduction than the recent film effort, "De-Lovely," and far better than the old Cary Grant fiction. Both movies fudge on Cole's character, with "De-Lovely" trying to depict Porter as a guy working out his gay issues through marriage, which is total nonsense.
Cole Porter was arguably the greatest of all the composers of American Standards, for reasons explained in "You're the Top". And to explain this, as well as to outline one of the most colorful celebrity lives of the 20th century, are people who actually knew Porter, knew him socially, worked with him and performed his music - people like Bobby Short, Kitty Carlisle (Mrs. Moss Hart), Brendan Gill, Linda Ronstadt, Harry Connick, Jr., Porter's family from his childhood, etc. Especially insightful are the observations of Porter's childhood and his marriage. They go far in explaining both the people and the era that nurtured his talent and later provided the milieu from which he drew his "delightful, de-lovely" themes.
No punches are pulled, nothing glossed over for the sake of image or box-office receipts. And of course the Porter music, complimenting the narrative, is a chronicle itself, for it captures the zeitgeist brilliantly, performed by the headliners of the times, from early sound to TV's Golden Age, when the audience was more up to Porter's level of elegance, style and wit than today's dressed-down, dumbed-down generation.
I suggest that if you have seen or are going to see either of the bio-flicks, that you treat yourself to this "wonderful, marvelous" look at a life and its era - alas, as intimate a look as we'll ever get. They truly broke the mold..."
This DVD is the Top !
Andrew R. Henderson | Edinburgh, Scotland United Kingdom | 07/16/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"`You're the Top' is a short, but worthwhile trip through the turbulent life of a 20th Century Icon. A great deal of depth and insight is communicated by sharp editing and carefully selected film clips. Originally this was an hour long Television special. Don't let that put you off, the word `special' is very appropriate here. Why should you buy this Documentary? To appreciate and enjoy his musical talent chiefly by a bewildering number of rare excerpts from films and TV shows (notably a Kinescope of the original cast of `Kiss Me Kate') and see the ironies of someone who lived a private life very different from his public persona. Even today, the classy image of Porter as generated by his timeless songs and music hide a veil of a tragic and melancholy man, who was born into success, but died unhappy. His story is not just of music, but of a struggle against life itself. What makes this a special event is that the combination of good interviews with contemporaries, the relaxed and adult approach make for repeated viewing and a thirst for more. Whether you are a Porter fan, or have never heard of him, you will gain something special from this documentary, and perhaps learn a little in the moral sense of the pitfalls and unhappiness that can come, even with great wealth. What lives on is his music, which history will never erase. Watching this Documentary will leave you feeling better for the experience."
I want more!
Jaime | Orlando, FL United States | 01/17/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is really a wonderful treat for fans of Cole Porter or those who know little about him. It has a nice mix of rare and familiar songs mixed with thoughts and recollections about Cole by various friends, musicians, and performers. You get a nice sense of what his life was like along with a decent overview of his music.If you have never heard of Cole (or know very little about him), you will probably be a fan after viewing this. Even if you are very familiar with Cole, you still will find some interesting tidbits in the DVD. My only complaints with this are the length (only an hour) the lack of additional material. It would seem that so much additional material could have been placed easily on this DVD; but the only additional material is a listing of the songs on the DVD (without any information about them) and quick list of his musicals. How about fleshing out some of that information?Definitely recommended."
Informative but limited
lannyr | NYC, NY USA | 12/27/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This dvd was informative as a standard biography, however there is not much in terms of extras on the disk. The DVD format provides an opportunity for a topic such as this to be covered richly. Unfortunately that is not the case with this disk."
Porter was one of the masters of American song writing, and
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 08/02/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"What a strange combination of information and frustration is this 56 minute television documentary on the life and works of Cole Porter. On the one hand, we have an abbreviated but honest look at one of America's greatest Broadway songwriters. On the other hand, the examples given us of Porter's songs are more often than not drawn from terrible TV kinescopes and excerpts from some of the lead-foot Hollywood musicals made from his Broadway shows. The result is informative but irritating.
Bobby Short introduces us to Porter at the start of the program: "Song writing is a complicated craft and Cole Porter was one of its masters, and one of the few who wrote both the words and the music. What's more, Cole created a world we hadn't seen before in quite this way. It is the world he lived in, a world of penthouses, chiffon and champagne, the world where Ginger fell in love with Fred for the very first time."
Porter inherited millions. When he married his wife, Linda, she brought to the marriage even more money than he had. He was an enthusiastic homosexual, a social creature and a terrible snob. He just might have become, without her, an aging musical dilettante writing amusing and condescending songs for his social set. She was a woman uninterested in the physical aspects of married life, who took Porter as he was and who believed in his talent. The two of them had a marriage of understanding and commitment that lasted until her death. After years of living in Venetian palaces and the most socially acceptable Parisian apartments, a combination of his talent and desire for success, her pushing him to keep working at his writing, and the contacts of Irving Berlin, who believed in Porter, Cole Porter returned to America and began his trajectory of huge success on Broadway.
In that period of great American song writing, from the late Twenties to the late Forties, the time of Rodgers, Hart, Hammerstein, Berlin, the Gershwins and Kern, Cole Porter came into his own. And in some odd way, he kept the pretensions and snobbery of his social life separate from the creativity and collaborations of his song writing life. Could anything be more socially pretentious than having an exclusive luncheon party...and requiring one's quests to speak French? It's a bit sad to listen to Kitty Carlisle Hart gush about the parties she and her husband, Moss Hart, went to at the Porters, and to realize that these were his show business parties, and that she and her husband were most likely never invited to his high social events. But on Broadway and in Hollywood, he was a generous collaborator who treated the people he worked with as the creative equals they were. And without a doubt the songs he wrote excuse a lot of snobbish behavior. The songs with his lush and often melodramatic melodies combined with lyrics so clever, so naughty at times and, often, so poignant, are what his life and work are really about. It's his songs we remember, not his social or personal life. If only this program had been able to give us those songs in better form. We may learn about Anything Goes, but we're given to look at a kinescope of an aging Ethel Merman and a grinning Frank Sinatra from a television production made in the Fifties. Even worse, we have to endure clips from some of those lumbering movie musicals from the Sixties...Shirley MacLaine and Sinatra so out of place with Porter's brand of naughty, sophisticated mischief...Hollywood's version of Kiss Me Kate where Porter's lyrics were dumbed down and sanitized.
For a quick and relatively honest look at Porter's life, this DVD is worth having. To appreciate his songs, however, buy some good CD's. I'd start with Bobby Short Loves Cole Porter, Short's You're the Top: The Love Songs of Cole Porter, and Lee Wiley Sings the Songs of George & Ira Gershwin & Cole Porter. To appreciate his mastery of lyric writing, dip into The Complete Lyrics of Cole Porter, edited by Robert Kimball"