Cole Porter

Cole Porter ALS to Lover "... love to all my playthings"

Two page autograph letter signed, 5.25" x 7.25" on light blue stationary stock with Carlton Hotel Lyon (France) letterhead.  Accompanied by the postmarked mailing envelope, post marked "'28". 5.75' x 4". Signed by Cole Porter as "Cole". Letter neatly written in graphite on recto and versos. Near fine with center folds. Envelope torn off at side, shows some paper loss, a paper clip mark, and handling marks.  Additionally accompanied by the original telegram from Cole to Webb with typed lyrics to a proposed musical piece. Single page typed telegram, 9" x 5", with expected folds which allow the telegram to be neatly folded and mailed. Postmarked "Paris 28", and addressed to Clifton Webb. On pale green lined paper with adhered telegraph type. Near fine. Provenance: The ALS and telegram were a part of a larger archive of personal materials that Cole Porter gave to Clifton Webb, an accomplished actor who maintained both a professional and a personal relationship with Porter for decades.

An incredibly revealing ALS to actor Clifton Webb who maintained both a professional and a personal relationship with Porter for decades. Webb, previously a dancer, first appeared on Broadway in Porter's first Broadway play. Webb worked mostly on Broadway in the 1920's and 1930's before his film career blossomed in the forties in such movies as Laura (1944), The Razor's Edge (1946), and Sitting Pretty (1948). His performances in those three films earned him academy award nominations.

Hints as to nature of Cole's relationship to Webb lay in the content of the letter which runs the gamut from brusque to surly, to playful. His somewhat matter of fact, yet lurid ALS is shown in full below:


"Dear Clifton --

I am sending you the refrain of your song. You should have a copy made by Olivier, chez Durand, music shop, Place de la Madeleine. He is the head copiest there. Keep one copy for rehearsal & give the other to Tom Waring & pet him into doing it for his band. I will send the verse and the lyric as soon as finished. Also tell Leteutre, Sayag's secretary, to put this on the program -- this title Maid of Mystery. And when you have done all these things, take you finger and stick it up your ass. My address is Chateau de Gourdon, Gourdon-par-le-Bar, Alpes Maritimes. Goodbye & Love to all my playthings. 


Saturday morning".


Additional clues to the "Maid Of Mystery" song/musical, which appears to now have gone unpublished, lay in the lyrics for the piece sent in part via the telegram, and the musical scores which had accompanied the archive. Both of which demonstrated that Cole had completed a significant amount of work on this proposed piece, inclusive of lyrics, the musical introduction and the refrain.

The spectacular telegram, dated 1928 was posted to Webb to provide him with the proposed lyrics alluded to in the ALS. The lyrics appear to be the intended for the refrain of the song:

"Oh Maid of Mystery let me guard your secret. Oh Maid of Mystery tell me who you are neath you incognito are you someone I know or some princess from lands afar are you prosperpiny from the realms of infernal or are you Venus dear and a star divine. Just remove your disguise, let me gaze in your eyes, oh mysterious maid be mine."

Even with these clues,  "Maid of Mystery" still remains a bit of a mystery, apparently never publicly performed, and still unpublished. Instead, it was replaced by "Looking at You," a song Porter was so fond of he also included it in the 1929 revue Wake Up and Dream. However this ALS is intensively revealing and alludes to Cole's secret life.

William McBrien, author of "Cole Porter: A Biography" , makes a compelling argument that the composer's homosexual love affairs inspired his most personal and passionate work. "The love songs were very coded. They make sly references," McBrien says. "And there is a wonderful ambiguity to most of them. That's why they could get so much heterosexual mileage. Cole was aware that if you disclosed too much in Hollywood, you were likely to lose your job--and your audience." As he delved deeper into the composer's trunk of more than 800 songs, Songs such as "I Loved Him, but He Didn't Love Me." began to take on new meaning. The bittersweet lyrics can now be viewed in a more contemporary light, with many of Cole's songs displaying fiery emotions.

Item: 62899

Price: $5,000.00
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