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Lot #816
Cole Porter

The composer of “You’re the Top” fine-tunes Aladdin, his final musical

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The composer of “You’re the Top” fine-tunes Aladdin, his final musical

Important American composer and lyricist (1891–1964) best known for his urbane, witty lyrics and sinuous music. Of the hundreds of songs he wrote for dozens of shows, an astounding number, including “You’re the Top,” “I Get a Kick out of You,” and “Let’s Misbehave” became enduring standards. Unsigned pencil notes in Porter’s hand on a lightly lined 8.5 x 11 sheet, no date (circa 1958). The origin of the notes, headed “No Wonder Taxes Are So High,” is explained in an accompanying note on a slip of letterhead from the Waldorf Astoria Towers, where Porter lived: “From Aladdin (T.V.) 1958, Cole Porter’s original notes, [signed] M. P. Smith, Sec’y.”

Aladdin, commissioned as an installment of the DuPont Show of the Month, was Porter’s last completed musical and the only work he created expressly for television. Based on a book by S.J. Perelman and starring Sal Mineo (as Aladdin), Cyril Ritchard, Dennis King, and Basil Rathbone, the show originally aired on February 21, 1958.

Porter’s notes, which include a number of cross-outs and emendations, employ the “list” format that had become a trademark in such songs as “Let’s Do It” and “You’re the Top.” In part: “What the Emperor likes … Droves of dromedaries … Requires ten thousand lanterns …Winter robes of Russian sables … Criminals to punish … Rarities from Sheba … Enjoys embroidered vestments … To give expensive dinners … Gives many many expensive entertainments … Sofa made of silver … Is fond of painted services of porcelain … Pavements made of marble … Is fond of golden idols … Rather noisy fireworks … Solid gold pavilions….”

Severely depressed by multiple personal crises—including the loss of his mother and his wife earlier in the decade, as well as chronic pain and the amputation of his right leg after dozens of operations following a 1937 horse-riding accident—Porter completed no more songs after Aladdin and spent his remaining years out of the public eye. A few tiny rust stains and spots of mild marginal soiling, otherwise fine, clean condition. A poignant relic from the twilight of one of the most remarkable careers in the musical theatre! RRAuction COA.

Auction Info

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  • Dates: #356 - Ended April 14, 2010