“I understand. I understand everything. I was in love myself once…many times.”
Michael Curtiz’s Night and Day – a rare treat that requires some searching through libraries to locate on DVD – is a fictionalized biopic of the late, great Cole Porter’s life as a Yalie through the height of his career in the 20’s & 30’s, and concluding around the time the film was released in 1946. It’s worth noting that two of Porter’s most successful projects, the Broadway productions Kiss Me Kate and Can-Can (he wrote the lyrics & music for both), were released subsequent to the film & so are not covered in Night and Day. Both were later released as Oscar Nominated films.
On October 24, 1937, Cole Porter, a longtime equestrian, received compound fractures to both of his thighs from a horseback riding accident that left him permanently disabled. His genius is evident by the staying power of his great tunes, many of which are included in Night and Day. Besides the title song, the soundtrack includes Anything Goes, Let’s Do It, I Get a Kick Out of You, I’ve Got You Under My Skin, and Begin the Beguine.
This is the earlier of two Cole Porter biopics. It stars Cary Grant who is, as usual, great. The other, Irwin Winkler’s De-Lovely was released in 2004 & won Kevin Kline a Golden Globe for the performance. That the latter was released almost 40 years after his death speaks mountains of Porter’s music. Both films are excellent! Night and Day is arguably the better of the two, having earned Ray Heindorf & Max Steiner an Oscar Nomination for Best Score for a Musical in 1947 at the 19th Academy Awards. It is, however, a sanitized depiction of Cole Porter’s life. Because of the movie censorship rules at the time, his open homosexuality & platonic marriage to Linda Lee are omitted from the film, perhaps accounting for the Rumor – That Wingless Flyer – that Porter disliked the film immensely. Or perhaps it’s because the film is so fictionalized: It opens in 1914 with Porter leading & playing piano for the Yale Repertoire Company Orchestra, when he was actually at enrolled in Harvard Law School. There’s a modicum of critical detraction over the casting of the suave, British, Cary Grant as Cole Porter. But it’s important to remember: Night and Day is not a documentary! And reportedly, the composer was pleased with the casting & said, “If they wanted Cary Grant to play you in a movie, would YOU complain?”.
You may recognize Night and Day’s director, Michael Curtiz. He’s best known for some crappy romance set in Morocco during World War II starring Humphrey Bogart & Ingrid Bergman. Let’s see…what was it called again??? Oh yeah, that’s right, 16th Academy Award Winner for Best Picture, Director, and Adapted Screenplay: Casablanca. Curtiz, Gary Grant, Heindorf & Steiner: Night and Day has pedigree. The DVD isn’t available from Blockbuster nor is the film for streaming on Netflix. But if you like Cole Porter’s music – and who doesn’t – it’s worth searching online to find a local library that has it & taking a quick trip to borrow it for a Night and Day!