In the news: House for sale (in Paris!) & songwriter Cole Porter’s connection with the little song sparrow herself: Edith Piaf.

According to Jean Rafferty’s article in the New York Times (27 September 2012), A House… , Cole Porter’s old house in Paris is up for sale. For house, read mansion—or maybe palace or mini-château. Check the previous link for a picture.

Houses, as opposed to apartments, are uncommon in the Faubourg Saint-Germain district—or anywhere else in central Paris, for that matter. At €40 million, this one is a steal. [Before making an offer, those of you who earn your salary in dollars or pounds may want to wait a month or two to take advantage of the improving exchange rate].

Cole Porter moved to Paris in 1917, and wrote many musical comedies during the inter-war years—Fifty Million Frenchmen for example. Anything Goes is another example. The title, if not the musical itself, will be familiar to Indiana Jones fans. (Check the musical number at the start of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom).

By 1939, when Europe was again heading towards war, Porter’s wife closed down the Paris house while her husband was in the USA.

Most fans have a favourite Cole Porter song. Mine is Miss Otis Regrets… It is the tragic tale of the well-bred western heroine who shoots down the lover who wronged her. She leaves it up to her butler to inform visitors that “Miss Otis regrets she’s unable to lunch today, madam.” Alas, Miss Otis has been seized by the mob and has a prior engagement with the noose!

What a surprise, when I recently found a connection between my favourite Cole Porter song and my favourite French-language singer: Édith Piaf.  The Little Sparrow, as she was known (because piaf is a slang word for sparrow) was born in 1915. She was a child performer who matured into a wonderful vocalist, and she had a difficult and mixed-up life (a French Judy Garland, if you will).

The little songbird did a marvellous rendition of Miss Otis Regrets—en français, of course.

Piaf sang throughout WWII, often in Paris, and sometimes in Germany to French soldiers who had been captured during the Fall of France and were in German PoW camps. There were close to 2 million French prisoners of war in Germany.

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