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date: 22 September 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter focuses on Cole Porter’s list songs on stage and screen. In his private life, Porter liked to make lists of things: the chapter uncovers a list made by Porter of things he required to be provided during the out-of-town tryout of one of his musicals, as well as requests for lists of words and ideas for songs from Can-Can. The list song is a staple of most of Porter’s shows, with key examples including ‘You’re the Top’ and ‘Let’s Do It,’ but their transposition to the screen is not always straightforward. For example, the film adaptation of Kiss Me, Kate moves ‘Brush Up Your Shakespeare’ from a song delivered in front of the curtain to the audience in the theatre (literally a show stop) to a song performed in an alleyway to cheer up Fred. The chapter proposes that this contextual dramatic change from the general to the specific hints at a fundamental aspect of filmed musicals that is inimical to list songs: their separateness and staticness, their drawing of attention to themselves and to words rather than, primarily, visuals or the narrative of the film, and their potential open-endedness may all work against the notion of what a film does.

Keywords: Cole Porter, list songs, Kiss Me, Kate, Can-Can, Brush Up Your Shakespeare

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