Cole Porter was born on June 9, 1891, in Peru, Indiana. His name derived from his parents, Kate Cole and Sam Porter. Kate's father, James Omar (J.O.) Cole, was an influential man both in the community and in Cole's early life. Cole learned piano and violin at age six and began writing his own tunes at the age of ten, which his mother would pay to have published and distributed to friends.
Cole wrote the fight song for Yale's football team, as well as musicals for fraternities and the Yale Glee Club performances and the Yale Dramatic Association. He left Yale having written approximately 300 songs and six full scale productions. Cole Porter spent the years immediately after leaving Yale flailing in an unsuccessful Harvard law career. Cole's grandfather J.O., disapproved of men choosing careers in the arts and tried to convince Cole to become a lawyer. Cole eventually moved to the Yale club in New York, and began his music career.
Porter's first musical, See America First, written in 1916, was judged a complete flop. Discouraged and ashamed, Porter moved to Paris in July of 1917. Porter capitalized on being in Europe during World War I. He fabricated stories for the American press about working with the French Foreign Legion and the French military, thus appearing as a war hero to the folks back home while actually living the high life as a rich socialite with a penchant for parties.
Porter spent the next several years enjoying the wealthy lifestyle afforded by his marriage to wealthy American Linda Thomas in 1919. After early success with one-off songs like "Don't Fence Me In", which was re-released in a World War II musical called Hollywood Canteen, Cole signed some contracts with the film industry. He and Linda moved to Hollywood in the 1920s where he continued writing music for films.
The first film with a Cole Porter song was The Battle of Paris from 1929, but his two tunes from that movie had little impact on his career because the film wasn't very good.
In 1937, Cole was involved in a horse riding accident and fractured both of legs. This was a personal tragedy for a vain man who placed an enormous value on looks for both social and sexual reasons. He was in the hospital for months, but his mental and physical health waned. It got worse with the eventual amputation of one of his legs. This did not stop Cole from writing music. During this period were Cole's popular songs "Most Gentlemen Don't Like Love", "From Now On", and "Get Out Of Town".
In 1945, he lent his permission to the movie Night and Day, allegedly about the life of Cole Porter. Although the movie was great for his ego and likely hysterically funny for his friends, history suffers because this movie had very little relationship to the actual life of Cole Porter. The 2004 movie De-Lovely, starring Kevin Klein, provided a more accurate look at Cole Porter's life.
After this point, he had one major production, Kiss Me, Kate, which was based on the Shakespeare classic Taming of the Shrew. Kiss Me, Kate is generally acknowledged to be Porter's greatest achievement. Cole was very skeptical of this production but eventually lent his hand to the production and it became very successful, eventually spawning a moderately successful movie. Porter produced fewer successful productions in the later days, but Cole wrote songs for the musicals Can Can and Silk Stockings during this period and before his death in 1964.