WHILE the 1920's ended on December 30, 1929--and a far different political, social, and sociological climate prevailed during the ensuing decade--a number of highly gifted writers managed to keep alive in the musical theater of the 1930's some of the feverish spirit and the unconventional attitudes of the roaring Twenties. The most significant of these was Cole Porter.
In his lyrics and melodies--for like Irving Berlin he wrote both--he fixed the smartness and cynicism, the freedom in sex attitudes, the lack of inhibitions in speech and behavior, and the outright iconoclasm that had characterized the 1920's. He is the arch cynic to whom a crushing love affair was just one of those things and who could be true to his girl only in my fashion. He is the dilettante who sprinkles throughout his lyrics cultural, literary, and geographical allusions of a well-read, well- educated, and well-traveled person. He is the nonconformist unafraid of the erotic, the exotic, or the esoteric. He is the sensualist who brings to his melodies throbbing excitement, purple moods, irresistible climaxes.
Most of all he himself is like a character from a novel of F. Scott Fitzgerald. All his life Cole Porter was the avid hunter of excitement, adventure, and gaiety; all his life he traveled under the banner of anything goes. He was the sybarite to whom the good things of life was almost a religion. Provocative in his attitudes, unpredictable in mood and action, irresponsible in behavior, he was truly a living symbol of the decade in which he first achieved maturity as a song writer.