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Songwriter Cole Porter was born into a wealthy family in Peru, IN on June 9, 1891. He was educated at Yale University and studied law at Harvard. In 1916, his first musical comedy, See America First, failed after fifteen performances. In 1919, he married Linda Lee Thomas, a wealthy, socially prominent divorcee, eight years older than he. Biographies have indicated that Porter, a secret homosexual, and his wife lived separate lives for much of their marriage. Porter wrote many successful shows including Fifty Million Frenchmen, Wake Up and Dream, Anything Goes, DuBarry Was a Lady and Silk Stockings, as well as film scores. Contrary to the film's story, Monty Woolley was not a professor of Porter's, but a fellow student, and Porter was never wounded in World War I, although he did have a serious horseback riding accident in the mid-1930s which eventually resulted in the amputation of one leg in 1956. The film's credits state that it was "based on the career of Cole Porter." The chronology of Porter's songs and musical plays was altered for the film. Modern sources speculate that the character of "Carol Hall" was based on Ethel Merman. Mary Martin first attracted attention for her singing of "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" in Porter's musical Leave It To Me, and the song became her signature. Night and Day marked Martin's last major film appearance, although she did appear as herself in the 1953 M-G-M release Main Street to Broadway.
Hal B. Wallis was slated to produce the picture, but left the studio before the start of filming because of a disagreement with Jack L. Warner. According to a September 20, 1945 Hollywood Reporter news item, the film's pre-production costs were almost $4,000,000, with $1,000,000 being spent just on developing the script. Papers in the Warner Bros. Collection at the USC Cinema-Television Library add the following information about the production: Elick Moll, Steve Fisher, Tom D'Andrea, Philip G. Epstein, Stephen Morehouse Avery and Joseph Than all worked on various versions of the screenplay. The extent of their contribution to the final film is not known. In a telegram dated September 15, 1945, Jack Moffitt, who is credited onscreen with the adaptation, protested his credit. The scenes at Yale University were actually filmed on location at Los Angeles City College, CA. Other scenes were filmed in California at the Busch Gardens in Pasadena, the Warner Bros. Ranch, the Providencia Ranch in Universal City and in Beverly Hills. Cinematographer Bert Glennon was replaced by Peverell Marley on June 26, 1945, two weeks after production began. From 6 October to October 12, 1945, strike conditions stopped work on the film.
Ray Heindorf and Max Steiner were nominated for an Academy Award for their musical score. The film clip of Roy Rogers singing "Don't Fence Me In" is from the 1945 Republic picture of the same name. In 2004 De-Lovely, another film biography of Porter, was released. That film, directed by Irwin Winkler and starring Kevin Kline as Porter and Ashley Judd as his wife, combined musical numbers based on Porter's songs with biographical scenes. The film centered on the complex relationship between the Porters and the songwriter's bisexuality, a fact not publicly discussed until after his death in 1964.