High Society

Why hadn’t I ever seen this movie before? I’m referring to the 1956 version of High Society, with a cast that includes Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, Celeste Holm, Grace Kelly, and Frank Sinatra. Most importantly, it has lyrics and music by Cole Porter.

Of course I loved it.

Any combination of Louis Armstrong with Cole Porter would inevitably lead to high expectations about the music, and those expectations are not unfulfilled. Everything about this musical sparkles, including Porter’s lyrics. The upper-class details are unsurprisingly way out of my league — “too rich for my blood,” as they say — but that’s OK. It’s basically a retelling of The Philadelphia Story, transplanted from Philadelphia to Newport and turned into a musical, but retaining the plot and even the characters’ names. The Newport Jazz Festival provides a context that explains why Louis Armstrong is in this otherwise lily-white environment; just view it from the lens of 1956, not 2019. Six decades make a big difference.

Celeste Holm, by the way, is best known as the mother of Ted Nelson. At least in some circles.

Categories: Movies & (occasionally) TV