Synopsis of "Red Hot and Blue" by Cole Porter

by Josh Turner
Cole Porter found fame by writing songs for musical theater.

Cole Porter found fame by writing songs for musical theater.

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In the 1930's and 1940's, Cole Porter wrote the music and lyrics for many hit Broadway productions including "Gay Divorce," "Anything Goes," "Jubilee" and a string of others. "Red, Hot and Blue!" hit the stage in 1936. Although most reviews called the show mediocre, it starred some of the biggest names in show business including Ethel Merman, Jimmy Durante and Bob Hope.

Hopeful Beginnings

"Red, Hot and Blue!" melded the music of Cole Porter with the writing of Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse. Porter had success with an earlier production called "Anything Goes," and producer Vinton Freedley hoped "Red, Hot and Blue!" would garner the same attention. The show allowed depression era audiences to see the inner world of the upper class while giving a satirical take on the U.S. government.

First Act

The story follows the exploits of "Nails" Duquesne, a rich widow played by Ethel Merman. Nails, whose name comes from her former profession as a manicurist, enjoys using her money to help various causes by putting together benefits. She decides to set up a benefit for the rehabilitation of ex-convicts, but she has ulterior motives. She and her assistant, "Policy" Pinkle, played by Jimmy Durante, decide to find the lost love of her conservative lawyer and love interest, Bob Hale, played by Bob Hope.

Red Hot Plot

At the age of 6, Hale met the love of his life, a saucy 4-year-old. The relationship dissolved when he pushed her onto a waffle iron leaving its pattern on her behind. Under the guise of the ex-con benefit, Duquesne and Pinkle use this one and only clue to set up a national lottery. Whoever finds Hale's childhood sweetheart receives all of the proceeds from the lottery --- five-hundred million dollars.


The story takes an unexpected twist when Duquesne's lottery garners the attention of the U.S. Finance Committee. She receives a summons from the Supreme Court and the trio heads to Washington, D.C. The story continues as they berate the U.S. government with wisecracks and puns. The Finance Committee has an ulterior motive of its own; the committee wants to take the money from the lottery to pay off the national deficit. The story ends with the committee declaring the lottery unconstitutional on the grounds that it would benefit the people of the U.S.


"Red, Hot and Blue!" did not gain the acclaim or success of its predecessor, but it launched the career of then newcomer Bob Hope. Many hail the score as one of Porter's weakest, but it added another hit to his repertoire in the song "It's De-Lovely." Various theater troupes have performed the play, and in 1949 it spawned a movie of the same name.

About the Author

Josh Turner started writing in 2001. He wrote ad campaigns and business materials for Carpetland U.S.A. and his work has also appeared in his campus newspaper, “The Correspondent,” and “The Wellhouse” magazine. Turner is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in mathematics with a minor in journalism from Indiana University.

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