As a big Cary Grant fan, a Cole Porter fanatic, and a member of the legions of admirers of Casablanca, this Porter biopic, from an era when the term “biopic” had yet to be coined, by Casablanca (1942) director Michael Curtiz, has the potential to be my favorite movies of all time. But, unexpectedly, I found a bit lacking here. The adaptation is ludicrously inaccurate in dealing with the facts of Porter’s life. The songwriter’s homosexuality is, not surprisingly, not even referred to, the details of Porter meeting and marrying Linda Lee Thomas are all wrong, and there is the fact that Cary Grant does not look the slightest bit like the short, crippled, sullen-eye composer.
But none of these are really the reason I don’t like this more. Although Night and Day is heavily fictionalized, it suffers from somehow not being fantastic enough. Many scenes are unnatural and stagey. An early scene set at a college-aged Porter at home for Christmas, with the gathered family spontaneously singing “In the Still of the Night” together, a major anachronism, as the song was not written until much later, in 1937. But this is one of the best scenes in the film. A Cole Porter biopic should be unabashedly artificial, just like a Porter stage musical.
But Night and Day is not completely without its merits. The arrangements of Porter songs, both those is the foreground of the action and those used as incidentally music, are good, and Porter’s real-life friend and mentor Montey Wooly, playing himself steals every scene he is in. As to the casting of Grant in the central role, a journalist asked the composer who he would like to have play him in a film based on his life, and Porter replied, “why Cary Grant, of course.” Grant read the quote in the papers and was intrigued enough to pursue the role.