The first time I saw De-Lovely, the 2004 biography of Cole Porter starring Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd, I thought it was an interesting but not particularly impressive movie. At least, unlike the 1946 movie about Porter (Cary Grant’s Night and Day, which presented him as straight), De-Lovely was reasonably accurate and had no trouble dealing with the fact that Porter was gay and yet married to a woman.

So far, so good. A pleasant but inconsequential movie, with some irresistible Cole Porter songs ably sung by Kevin Kline. And then came the day that Barbara and I saw the Sara & Gerald Murphy exhibit at Williams College, where we realized that the Murphys and their sons had played a major part in the life of Cole Porter — but we hadn’t remembered them from De-Lovely. Time to see that movie again, right?

The were two results to seeing it again. The minor one was that we found (not surprisingly) that there were indeed a great many appearances by the Murphys in the movie. If we had known who they were, we would have paid attention to them. (There’s a moral there somewhere.) But the major result was that we realized that this was a far better movie than we had originally thought. Maybe it was simply the effect of seeing it for the second time, maybe it was the focus caused by the fact that we had something to look for — whatever it was, De-Lovely had changed from a competent movie to a first-rate one. Of course it was still the same movie, but not in our perception. Everything held together well, the songs were perfectly integrated into the biography, we understood Cole Porter far better than we had done earlier, and even the performances were better than they were the first time around. So now I highly recommend De-Lovely, but perhaps some advanced preparation would help.

Categories: Movies & (occasionally) TV