Edit
Noël Coward Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (5) | Mini Bio (1) | Trivia (53) | Personal Quotes (34) | Salary (1)

Overview (5)

Date of Birth 16 December 1899Teddington, Middlesex, England, UK
Date of Death 26 March 1973Blue Harbor, Jamaica  (heart attack)
Birth NameNoël Peirce Coward
Nickname The Master
Height 6' (1.83 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Noel Coward virtually invented the concept of Englishness for the 20th century. An astounding polymath - dramatist, actor, writer, composer, lyricist, painter, and wit -- he was defined by his Englishness as much as he defined it. He was indeed the first Brit pop star, the first ambassador of "cool Britannia." Even before his 1924 drugs-and-sex scandal of The Vortex, his fans were hanging out of their scarves over the theater balcony, imitating their idol's dress and repeating each "Noelism" with glee. Born in suburban Teddington on 16 December 1899, Coward was on stage by the age of six, and writing his first drama ten years later. A visit to New York in 1921 infused him with the pace of Broadway shows, and he injected its speed into staid British drama and music to create a high-octane rush for the jazz-mad, dance-crazy 1920s. Coward's style was imitated everywhere, as otherwise quite normal Englishmen donned dressing gowns, stuck cigarettes in long holders and called each other "dahling"; his revues propagated the message, with songs sentimental ("A Room With A View," "I'll See You Again") and satirical ("Mad Dogs and Englishmen," "Don't Put Your Daughter On the Stage, Mrs. Worthington"). His between-the-wars celebrity reached a peak in 1930 with "Private Lives," by which time he had become the highest earning author in the western world. With the onset of World War II he redefined the spirit of the country in films such as This Happy Breed (1944), In Which We Serve (1942), Blithe Spirit (1945) and, perhaps most memorably, Brief Encounter (1945). In the postwar period, Coward, the aging Bright Young Thing, seemed outmoded by the Angry Young Men, but, like any modern pop star, he reinvented himself, this time as a hip cabaret singer: "Las Vegas, Flipping, Shouts "More!" as Noel Coward Wows 'Em in Cafe Turn" enthused Variety. By the 1960s, his reappraisal was complete -- "Dad's Renaissance", called it -- and his "Hay Fever" was the first work by a living author to be produced at the National Theatre. He was knighted -- at last -- in 1970, and died in his beloved Jamaica on 26 March 1973. Since his death, his reputation has grown. There is never a point at which his plays are not being performed, or his songs being sung. A playwright, director, actor, songwriter, filmmaker, novelist, wit . . . was there nothing this man couldn't do? Born into a musical family he was soon treading the boards in various music hall shows where he met a young girl called Gertrude Lawrence, a friendship and working partnership that lasted until her death. His early writings were mainly short songs and sketches for the revue shows popular in the 1920s, but even his early works often contained touches of the genius to come ("Parisian Pierrot" 1923). He went on to write and star (with Gertie) in his own revues, but the whiff of scandal was never far away, such as that from the drug addict portrayed in "The Vortex." Despite his obvious homosexual lifestyle he was taken to the hearts of the people and soon grew into one of the most popular writer/performers of his time.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Steve Crook <steve@brainstorm.co.uk>

Trivia (53)

HRH Prince Edward Wessex unveiled a statue of Coward at a gathering of the Broadway theatre community on Monday, 1 March 1999, at the Gershwin Theatre (221 West 51st St.). The ceremony was the first in a year-long series of events in New York celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of the British playwright, songwriter, and performer.
He was created a Knight Bachelor in the 1970 Queen's New Year Honours List for his services to drama.
Godfather of actor Daniel Massey.
Mother named him Noel because his birthday arrived so close to Christmas.
Was performing onstage before he was 10.
Wrote some 140 plays, and hundreds of songs.
Turned down the role of Humbert in Lolita (1962).
Worked undercover for British Intellegence during WWII.
The character of Eric Dare in Cole Porter's musical "Jubilee" is based on Coward.
Turned down the role of the eponymous villain in the first James Bond film, Dr. No (1962).
Friend and neighbor of James Bond creator Ian Fleming.
Godfather of Juliet Mills.
Portrayed by Harry Groener in the short-lived Off-Broadway musical "If Love Were All" (1999).
He was director David Lean's original choice for the role of Col. Nicholson in The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957). The role was ultimately played by Alec Guinness, who won a Best Actor Oscar for his performance.
Befriended the ten-year-old Peter Collinson, when he was the governor of the orphanage where Collinson lived. Collinson later directed him in The Italian Job (1969). He subsequently became Collinson's godfather.
Was the first "tax exile," a British subject living outside the UK in order not to incur the income tax, to be knighted.
Biography/bibliography in: "Contemporary Authors." New Revision Series, Vol. 132, pp. 107-114 (as David Cornwell). Farmington Hills, MI: Thomson Gale, 2005.
Won a Special Tony Award in 1970 "for his multiple and immortal contributions to the theatre." He also received two Tony nominations in 1964: as Best Director (Musical) for "High Spirits," which was based on his play "Blithe Spirit;" and as Best Author (Musical), along with collaborator Harry Kurnitz, for "The Girl Who Came to Supper," which was based on Terence Rattigan's "The Sleeping Prince."
He once encountered Edna Ferber, who was wearing a tailored suit. "You look almost like a man," said Coward. "So do you," replied Ferber.
Mentioned in the Rodgers & Hart song, "The Lady is a Tramp."
The character of Beverly Carlton in the Moss Hart/George S. Kaufman play "The Man Who Came to Dinner" was based on Coward.
Inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1988.
1920: Started the turtle neck fashion fad.
Enjoyed the music of Sergei Rachmaninoff.
Attended The Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts - other former actors at the academy include Kelly Brook, Richard Todd, Leslie Phillips, Emily Lloyd, Stephen Manwaring and Martine McCutcheon.
He developed his trademark clipped, staccato manner of speaking in order to mask a lisp and because it made it easier for his partially deaf mother to hear what he was saying.
Sir Winston Churchill personally blocked an awarding of the Knight Bachelor of the Order of the British Empire to Noel Coward even though the playwright had spied for Britain during the war, according to never before seen letters. In 1942, he urged King George VI to abandon his plans to bestow the honor on Coward, who was the King's personal friend.
Upon his death, his remains were interred at the Firefly Estate in Montego Bay, Saint James, Jamaica.
Noël Coward and Gertrude Lawrence, each, began their British theatrical professional careers as children at ten years of age. Lawrence, born June 4, 1898 and Noël Coward (December 16, 1899), becoming acquainted in their early London stage appearances. In 1908, Gertrude Lawrence was cast by director Basil Dean, for the Liverpool Repertory Theatre, Gerhart Hauptmann's "Hannele" where Gertrude met Noël. In 1923, Noël Coward developed his first musical review, "London Calling!" specifically for his 'best friend' Gertrude Lawrence. Noël Coward wrote his 1931 play "Private Lives" specifically for Gertrude Lawrence. Gertrude Lawrence, with Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein II while developing their musical "The King and I", asked Noël to perform the "King of Siam" role in their new musical "The King and I". Noël refused Gertie's offer! Subsequently, Noël told Mary Martin about the proposed role, who then got in the mix, suggesting her former lead actor Yul Brynner in her Broadway musical "Lute Song".
Noël Coward's nick name for Gertrude Lawrence was "Gertie".
On Sunday April 29th, 1945, news that Mussolini had been shot on Saturday 28 April, hung upside down in the street and spat at, Noël remarked "The Italians are a lovable race.".
On September 13, 1945, learning the discovery of Hitler's secret Nazi plan of the German extermination blacklist of English citizens to be dealt with when England was invaded were "P.M. Winston Churchill, Vic Oliver, Dame Sybil Thorndike (1882-1976, for whom George Bernard Shaw had written "St Joan" and who played frequently with the Old Vic Company), Rebecca West (author and journalist) and ME! What a cast." said Noël Coward. Rebecca West learning that she and Noël had been on the list of prominent English political and literary figures to be arrested and executed if the Germans had invaded, wrote Noël a postcard "Just think who we'd have been seen dead with!".
Noël Coward had done occasional troop concerts with the French actor and singer Maurice Chevalier (1888-1972). At this time, Chevalier was accused of collaboration, his allegiance had been questionable. On a Monday afternoon, 27 July 1944, Chevalier told Noël that he had appeared once in Germany. The only payment for which was the release of ten prisoners; that he had sung twice over the radio because he couldn't get out of it without getting into trouble with the Gestapo. Noël believed Chevalier and at all events it was not for Noël to judge.
Noël Coward was not a great admirer of the Duke of Windsor. Noël suggested at the time of the abdication that statues of Wallis Simpson be erected throughout England for the blessing she had bestowed on the country.
Jules C. Stein (April 26, 1896 - April 29, 1981) was an American physician and businessman who co-founded Music Corporation of America (MCA). When Noël was visiting New York City in September 1947, Jules C. Stein and his MCA agency associate Charles Miller made a fantastic proposition to Noël if he would guarantee Paramount Pictures three commitments, either as an actor, author, or director, they would pay $500 a week for 23 years. Noël visualized British newspaper headlines "Coward signs up to American Film Company - another rat leaving the sinking ship". Coward's instincts told him violently to refuse. He did and they were astounded. Noël Coward valued his freedom more.
Noël Coward's first stage appearance appeared at the Crystal Palace, London, 1911, in the play "The Goldfish" by Lila Field.
Jerome Kern's (27 Jan 1885-11 Nov 1945, age 60) friendship with Noël Coward (16 Dec 1899-26 March 1973, age 73) resulted with an agreement for them to collaborate on a musical play project. With Jerome Kern's death, 11 November 1945, at age 60, Noël lamented that they were prevented from sharing the collaborating experience.
After the Broadway closing of the musical "One Touch of Venus", 10 February 1945, Richard Halliday and Mary Martin were in negotiations with Noël Coward for Mary to appear in "Pacific 1860" reopening of the Drury Lane theatre after the war. Noël Coward was author, composer, lyricist and director, the first post-war pleasant and old fashioned lavish musical produced by Noël Coward. The story is set in a fictional Pacific British Colony during the reign of Queen Victoria. The operetta involves a romantic and sentimental story about a visiting Prima Donna and her conflict between love and career. There is also the theme of snobbishness from the island's establishment. In New York, Noël's friend Jack Wilson had done everything to dissuade Mary and Dick Halliday from going to London. "Pacific 1860" was the first show to play at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane after World War II. Noël Coward, who had seen his early highly theatre successful and profitable 1930s "Calvacade" production at the Drury Lane, paid for the ambitious restoration of the theatre after the war end. Building permits to repair bomb damage at the Lane were remarkably hard to come by and much of his year was spent cutting through several hundred yards of red tape before rehearsals could start in late autumn . In March, Noël had cabled Mary Martin (b. 1913) a Texan singer who had first made her name in such Hollywood musicals as "The Great Victor Herbert" and with the song 'My Heart Belongs To Daddy'. Rehearsals started 4 November 1946. The London production premiered on 19 December 1946, Theatre Royal Drury Lane, starring Mary Martin, opposite actor Graham Payn, lasting in performances for four months. The lead role of Elena Salvador was taken by Mary Martin, and the other principal actors included Coward's lover Graham Payn as Kerry Stirling, Sylvia Cecil as Rosa Cariatanza, and Winifred Ingram as Trudi. Sets and costumes were designed by Coward's friend and regular designer, Gladys Calthrop. The show was not a success and ran for only four months, closing on 12 April 1947. Mary and Dick Halliday departed London April 18, 1947. Noël Coward's initial reaction to Mary Martin's singing was favorable citing Mary's projection technique with stage personality. During rehearsals Mary and Dick Halliday presented temperamental problems. Mary approached the Elena roll with serious earnest, with Noël instructing and directing Mary to lighten her character with more comedy. After the closing of the operetta, Noël came to the sad conclusion that the fundamental problem with "Pacific" is that Mary, sweet and charming as she is, knows nothing about Elena, never has and never will, and that although she has a delicious personality, she cannot sing. She is crammed with talent but she is still to 'little' to play sophisticated parts.
Noël Coward and Marlene Dietrich (b. 1904-1992), the German-born American film and cabaret star, had become, and remained, close friends since their first conversation - by transatlantic telephone - in 1935.
The Theatre Guild, on 28 July 1952, offered Noël the dubious task of doing the music, book and lyrics of "Pygmalion" with Mary Martin. He decided against the project, which four years later Lerner and Loewe did as "My Fair Lady".
In July, 1951, Noël Coward's pianist and accompanist Norman Hackforth encouraged Noël to appear in cabaret at London's Café de Paris for a four week engagement opening on 29 October 1951. Beatrice Lillie, nick-named "Beattie" by Coward, and Noël's close friend Marlene Dietrich were already veteran survivors of the Café de Paris cabaret. The cabaret concert engagement, honed during his war time tour entertaining the troops, was a triumphant supreme success - "tore the place up. Glittering audience headed by Princess Margaret and the Duchess of Kent." The cabaret packed every night, jammed full and wildly enthusiastic. Subsequent bookings because of Noël's popularity became special cabaret appearances with his fan based audience. Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical "South Pacific" opened in the fall of 1951 at the Drury Lane with Mary Martin in her original role. Noël and Mary agreed to perform with an orchestra in a charity event at the Café cabaret on 13 January 1952. A second Café de Paris four week engagement opened on Monday night, 16 June 1952, closing Saturday night, 11 July 1952, "a glamorous farewell performance, rapturous reception - the place was crammed with stars: the Lunts, Claudette Colbert, Gene Kelly, Danny Kaye, etc.". On Tuesday, 26 May 1953, a third four week concert engagement opened with Noël performing nightly at the Café de Paris cabaret. Again a triumphant success with Noël controlling his nerves and his material. During the engagement, Noël appeared Thursday night, 11 June, at 'Stars at Midnight at the Palladium" charity event, going on at 3:20 a.m., on and off in nine minutes singing "Uncle Harry," "Mad Dogs" and "Bad Times." During Noël's cabaret late night 12:15 a.m. appearances, he was starring in George Bernard Shaw's "The Apple Cart." On Coronation Day, 9 June 1953, after the Café de Paris cabaret appearance, Noël faced two more shows at the Savoy Hotel, appearing the same night in the Savoy's cabaret. A fourth, four week Café cabaret engagement was scheduled opening Monday, 18 October 1954, closing Saturday, 13 November 1954. During the Cafê engagement, Noël's appeared on Monday, 1 November for an Orphanage Charity Gala. During the engagement's last week, Joe Glasser, a New York theatrical agent, offered to arrange a season in Las Vegas in return for two concerts a night. Noël picking up $35,000.00 a week playing to what Coward was later to call Nescafé Society. The offer proved irresistible.
In March of 1955, prior to Noël Coward's appearance during the month of June at Wilbur Clark's Desert Inn Casino and Hotel, Joe Glasser arranged a film deal for Noël to star in a Paramount film of Terrence Rattigan's play "The Sleeping Prince" to film in Hollywood with Judy Holliday. A second Paramount feature film with Danny Kaye was part of the film deal. MGM wanted Noël to play the Prince in the film version of Ferenc Molnar's play "The Swan." Darryl Zanuck's Twentieth Century Fox Film Studios, sitting with their fingers crossed, offered Noël additional film deals, anything of his choice. The "Sleeping Prince" was eventually made in England with Lawrence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe as "The Prince and the Showgirl".
Early May, 1955, In New York prior to his Las Vegas concert engagement, Noël learned his English piano accompanist Norman Hackforth had been refused a work permit for the USA. Peter Matz, on his arrival in New York City in 1954 from his two year sojourn in Paris, France, returned to New York to study music theory and piano. Matz gained a job as rehearsal pianist for Harold Arlen's Broadway musical "House of Flowers" based on the celebrated Truman Capote novella about love in a brothel in the West Indies, opening 30 December 1954, running 165 performances. Peter Matz provided the vocal and dance arrangements for the Arlen/Capote Broadway musical. Matz's varied musical skills obvious, as the job expanded to writing orchestrations and vocal arrangements for Arlen's next musical, "Jamaica" starring Lena Horne. It was Arlen who introduced Peter Matz to Marlene Dietrich, who needed someone to help construct and accompany her cabaret concert act. Frantic, running out of prep time for the Las Vegas casino engagement, Noël confided to Marlene Dietrich of his long time collaborator-pianist's work permit denial by the State Department. Matz had been introduced to Coward by Marlene. Marlene urged Noël to grab Peter Matz at all costs. At Idlewild Airport (renamed John F. Kennedy in 1963), after seeing Marlene off, Noël was desperate to find a replacement for Norman Hackforth. Coward called Matz from the airport and came to Matz's apartment to audition him. The test came when Coward asked Matz to play the "Trolley Song". "I had no idea with his songs or the style of that English Music Hall comedy thing" Matz recalled. Coward asked "Can you be in Los Angeles tomorrow?" The answer was "yes" and rehearsals for Las Vegas started just three weeks before Noël was to open. What followed at Clifton Webb's residence in Beverly Hills, the next ten days, was that they worked on the Las Vegas material all day every day. Matz learned from Coward not only the songs but a whole new style of performance. "He made me learn, very forcefully, that this was about comedy. A couple of times he screamed, 'Don't play when I am making a joke', (and) I gradually learned that this was a whole other kind of music". Matz was writing the orchestral arrangements for Carlton Hayes's band, a typical Las Vegas dance band with saxophones and many trumpets and trombones, which needed finesse and much discretion if Coward's lyrics were to be clearly heard. The results were impressive: Coward wrote in his diaries that Matz's "orchestral arrangements and variations are incredible - vital and imaginative. Sometimes they go too far for my personal taste, but I cannot fail to be impressed by the expert knowledge of instrumentation. Peter Matz, at the age of twenty-six, knows more about the range of various instruments and the potentialities of different combinations than anyone of any age I have ever met in England ... very exciting and stimulating".
Noël Coward (age 55), his secretary-manager Cole Lesley (age 43,1911-1980) and Peter Matz (age 26, 1928-2002) departed Clifton Webb's residence in Beverly Hills and arrived in Las Vegas, Nevada, on June 1st to prepare for Noël's four week engagement at Wilbur Clark's Desert Inn Hotel and Casino. Frank Sennes (the booking agent for the Desert Inn) negotiated Noël to perform a supper club concert and a second concert every night, during the month of June through July 4th, 1955. Opening night produced rave notices flashed around the world in newspaper headlines "The greatest attraction Las Vegas ever had proving Noël Coward was the greatest performer in the world". The opening night, from the social-theatrical point of view, was fairly sensational. Frank Sinatra chartered a special plane and brought Judy Garland, the Bogarts (Humphrey and Lauren Bacall), David and his wife "Prim" (Primula) Niven, Gordon and Sheila MacRae; then there was Jane Powell, Joan Fontaine, Zsa Zsa Gabor, the Joseph Cottens, the English stage and film director Peter Glenville, Lawrence Harvey, Rosemary Clooney, Sammy Davis Jr.. After opening night, the following Friday, June 10, Noël was driven out into the Nevada desert, photographed by Life Magazine in his black dinner-jacket, black bow tie, red carnation in his lapel, sipping a cup of tea, the temperature at 118 degrees. (Life Magazine, June 20, page 20). During the sold-out engagement, the Desert Inn was flooded by a torrential desert rain storm causing three million dollars of damage in repairs to the casino. The Las Vegas four week engagement paid Noël $35,000.00 per week out of which Noël paid his own expenses, paid Cole, Peter Matz and Joe Glasser's commission. In addition, the Desert Inn paid $60,000.00 for an option and some shares of Noél's TV company formed to benefit from Noël's new CBS deal for three television specials, tax free as it is capital gain. Near the end of the Las Vegas engagement, on Monday and Tuesday of the last week, June 27 and 28, Goddard Lieberson with his Columbia Records' recording myrmidons recorded four performances for a long-player platter release. The delighted experts with the recorded results guaranteed an American LP album "Noël Coward at Las Vegas" on the market. Noël added 'Matelot' and 'A Room with a View' to the repertoire, also 'Alice is at it Again' for the recording 'concert performance' session.
The 1955 Columbia Records live album LP disk "Noël Coward in Las Vegas" is a vocal masterpiece, is without doubt the master's finest appearance on record, accompanied by Peter Matz. The tracks are as follows: (1) Noël Coward Medley - 5:19; (2) Uncle Harry - 3:45; (3) Lock Lomond (traditional) - 2:28; (4) A Bar on the Piccola Marina - 4:48; (5) World Weary - 3:11 - used in Cockran's revue 'This Year of Grace'; (6) Nina (Coward, Cole Porter) - 4:22 - for the revue 'Sigh No More'; (7) Mad Dogs and Englishmen - 3:14 - used in Cockran's revue 'Words and Music'; (8) Matelot - 4:35; (9) Alice is At it Again - 3:33; (10) A Room with a View - 3:04 - used in Cockran's revue 'This Year of Grace'; (11) Let's Do It, Let's Fall in Love (Porter) - 4:30 - song from Cole Porter's "Paris"; (12) The Party's Over Now - 1:44 - used in Cockran's revue 'Words and Music'. What amazes about Noël Coward's Desert Inn Casino lounge show is his ability to convey with no detectable effort all of the nimble diction and convivial grace necessary to perform these intricate songs in a live setting - not a syllable out of place, not a line delivered but with ease and precision. Coward did in fact share much with his live audience; he leaves his audience absolutely crackling in glee at the English stuffed shirts who populate his comic pieces "Uncle Harry," "A Bar on the Piccola Marina" and his classic "Mad Dogs and Englishmen" - a vocal masterpiece. "Noël Coward in Las Vegas" is without a doubt the master's finest appearance on record.
After conversations over trans-Atlantic telephone lines, a New York City theatrical character, typically shrewd, decent, sharp agent, 58 year old Joe Glaser flew into London meeting Noël in mid-November of 1954. Discussion ensued for a satisfactory financially profitable Las Vegas casino lounge concert engagement contingent on whether or not Noël liked the Las Vegas scenery. Plans were made for Joe Glasser to meet Noël in December, in New York, escorting Noël for a couple of days so that Noël could case the Las Vegas joints to decide which hotel-casino lounge he preferred to appear, if any. Glasser watched Noël's concert performance at London's theatrical lounge Café de Paris and was obviously bewildered why the audience liked it so much. Glasser and Coward arrived in Las Vegas on Friday, 3 December 1954, with Noël's conclusion that every instinct and desire is concentrated on money, curious products of a most curious adolescent country; their morals are bizarre in the extreme. Noël took a great shine to Joe Glasser, who at fifty-eight, never drinks, never smokes and adores his mother; who is naturally over the moon with delight for having got Noël under his wing; Noël Coward's name is big prestige stuff for a brisk little Jewish go-getter who hitherto has mainly booked colored acts and promoted prize fights. The following week Glasser and Coward in a whirl-wind descended upon Hollywood and Beverly Hills for the next five days, connecting with movie and television network moguls and partying with transplanted thespians.
Between December 1954 through March 1955, William S. Paley's Columbia Broadcasting System television network negotiated to inaugurate a new spectacular color television live special program series to counter National Broadcasting Company Color Television network's live "Producers' Showcase". NBC inaugurated the live series-program on 18 October 1954, a dramatic color broadcast production of "Tonight at 8:30" electronically transmitted from NBC Television's New York City studio. Both NBC and CBS networks scheduled these 90 minute color specials once a month. During the early 1950's not all of NBC's television product was broadcast in color, NBC becoming a full color network in the late 1950s. Bill Paley approached Noël Coward about starring in three of these CBS Spectacular Specials. Noël's London theatrical managers Lance Hamilton and Charles Russell negotiated $600,000 for Noël Coward's production company to produce the three television commitments; all scheduled after Noël's Las Vegas Desert Inn (3 June-4 July, 1955) cabaret concert appearance. Noël's first American television commitment would coincide with the inaugural new CBS-TV "Ford Star Jubilee" special live television series. Noël Coward had also been approached by Chrysler and General Motors offering him more money to perform on television. Noël, hesitant, decided on the lesser fee since he was more comfortable with the CBS offer. Paley insisted that Noël's first television appearance be based upon his Las Vegas Desert Inn Hotel and Casino concert act material. Noël agreed proposing his close friend Mary Martin appear in the 90 minute musical special with him. Mary delighted with the proposition, agreeing to share the CBS stage. After Las Vegas, Noël returned to Jamaica with Peter Matz arriving later, followed by Mary Martin and her husband/manager Richard Halliday, to develop, write, compose, arrange and orchestrate the television show material content. Upon first hearing the newly composed songs "Together with Music" and "Ninety minutes is a long, long time", Mary objected to the opening first number. Noël, during the night, rewrote the music and lyrics for "Together with Music". Noël scripted the entire 90 minute musical concert-play. With Noël staging, directing, rehearsing, memorizing the script with Mary; pianist-arranger-orchestrator Peter Matz rehearsed, accompanying Noël and Mary with all the musical material for the television special. The last Saturday night, 24 Sept 1955 in Jamaica, before Mary and Richard returned to the mainland, Noël and Mary performed the show at their cocktail party so that they could get some sort of audience reaction. After the cocktail party guests departed, Noël remarked "Mary was magical; she gave out as if she were doing a command performance". Noël arrived in New York on Wednesday evening 5 October to begin rehearsals and camera blocking. The first "Ford Star Jubilee" special featured (#1.#1) "The Judy Garland Show" broadcast 24 September 1955 from CBS Television City, Studio 43, Hollywood, California. (#1.#2)"Together with Music" starring Noël Coward and Mary Martin was broadcast the next month on 22 October 1955 from CBS New York City-Studio 72, Broadway and 81st Street. This color television program broadcast was the first color show transmitted from the CBS network in New York City. This telecast copied during the electronic transmission process in black and white kine-scope is the only example of Noël Coward and Mary Martin performing his famous cabaret concert material on film. In New York studio rehearsals, Noël blocked and rehearsed every technical aspect of the camera positions related to Noël's staging and blocking of their concert act. The two camera dress rehearsal in front of a live studio invited audience on Thursday night (22 October), and Friday night was recorded on B&W kine-scope; processed during the night; reviewed the following day; early Saturday morning with Mary and the entire technical crew. Noël gave the crew his notes. The studio booth camera-director Jerry Shaw accepted Noël's pick-up shot notes. After resting in their hotel rooms that afternoon, Mary and Noël returned to the CBS studio stage, performing their concert act in front of a completely new invited live studio audience. Afterwards, one of the first telephone calls came from Marlene Dietrich, in Las Vegas, ecstatic and praising the performance.
Arriving in Los Angeles on Sunday December 16, 1955 celebrating his fifty-sixth birthday, Noël Coward was Clifton Webb's house guest. Clifton Webb (1893-1966), born Webb Parmelee Hollenbeck, an American character actor and film star, had been touring the States in "Blithe Spirit" and "Present Laughter" with immense success; he and Noël had first met on a Davos, Switzerland, skiing holiday in 1924. Noël would begin rehearsing his second CBS "Ford Star Jubilee" ninety minute television production of his play "Blithe Spirit". Using Clifton Webb's residence as both a social and business operation base, Clifton's living room became Noël's rehearsal stage-setting, directing and blocking his cast in Webb's living room until the sets were finished and decorated on stage 43 at CBS Television City. A successful first cast reading of the play on Sunday 18 December at the Bogarts' pleased Noël, noting that Betty Bacall, playing 'Elvira' opposite Noël's 'Charles', 'was word perfect considering she was shooting a film'. Claudette Colbert played 'Ruth'. Noël commented neither woman was easy to work with; Colbert was 'extremely tiresome', and Bacall was 'no comedienne'. Colbert complained that 'Noël was unremittingly difficult'. When she apologized for fluffing her lines - 'I knew them backwards last night', Noël retorted, 'Yes, and that's the way you're saying them this morning.' Colbert had always regretted the fact that the distance between her nape and shoulders was short: 'The thing Noël said that hurt me most - but funny it was - he said "If she had a neck, I'd wring it.'" Preparations followed the usual precise requirements: Coward demanded rehearsals on a fully furnished studio stage set (in the poltergeist scenes of the play, even the furniture had to be rehearsed), and all but essential personnel were barred ('That's so the men spending their money won't bother their ulcers', Noël told a journalist). He also requested a studio audience for an early rehearsal so that he could judge their reactions. These were unprecedented demands for a medium used to casual drama production methods. But just as camera rehearsals began, an abscess was discovered on Coward's sciatic nerve in his right leg. A doctor sent for, 'and injected the damn thing eight times with the thickest needle I have ever seen'. Numbed with Novocaine, Coward continued, although he seemed bad-tempered for much of the rehearsals. But the ninety-minute show was - 'played without nerves and on nerves...the result was that the performance went like a bomb'. The studio invited audience was described as 'very hep' by the New York Herald-Tribune, who likened it to 'a smart Broadway opening with a terribly fashionable cast, in front of an upper-drawer audience.'.
Upon completion (January, 1956) of Noël Coward's second CBS TV Ford Star Jubilee appearance in "Blithe Spirit". Noël narrowed down prospective plays considered for his third CBS special. In Jamaica, Noël sprang at his play "Present Laughter" cutting the script down for TV, planning for camera shots, angles and close-ups from the very beginning. Bill Paley was anxious for Noël not to do "Present Laughter", instead proposing Coward's 1942 London success "This Happy Breed". The play, written in 1939 but, because of the outbreak of World War II, it was not staged until 1942, when it was performed on alternating nights with Coward's play, "Present Laughter." The two plays later alternated with Coward's "Blithe Spirit." The title, a reference to the English people, is a phrase from John of Gaunt's monologue in Act II, Scene 1 of William Shakespeare's Richard II. "This Happy Breed" had been made into a very successful 1944 British feature film directed by David Lean. In early March, Ford Motor Company announced in the press without warning that Noel's third television appearance was canceled because the ratings on "Together with Music" and "Blithe Spirit" had not been high enough. Noel flew to New York on Tuesday (13 March 1956) arriving at 9:45 p.m. in snow. Meeting Bill Paley Wednesday morning (14 March) at eleven o'clock, Noël's only policy was stately reticence and outraged dignity. Bill Paley received Noël, and his agents "Russel and Ham" with twitching apprehension! The CBS TV press release announcing Noël Coward's next CBS TV appearance had been postponed until October, when Noël would launch the new "CBS Playhouse 90" series with Noël starring in his play "This Happy Breed". Ford Motor and J. Walter Thompson Advertising Agency had made their announcement to the press without consulting CBS obviously to humiliate Noël as publicly as possibly. Unfortunately, they had not taken into account the fact that Noël Coward's previous CBS TV appearances had been triumphant successes, ratings or no ratings. The reason for Ford's rage was the result of Noël ridiculing them in the Hollywood Press interviews for trying to censor some of his risqué lyrics in "Together with Music" and also certain specific risqué dialogue lines in "Blithe Spirit; TV audiences in the Mid-West were considered eminently shock-able and likely to alleviate their outrage by refusing to buy Ford cars. Bill Paley declared Ford's press release about ratings for Noël Coward's television special ratings being inadequate was false and untrue. By the end of March, all was changed around again from Ford's high eminence - Noël was now to do "This Happy Breed" on Saturday, 5 May, per the original network contract. Added to their discomfiture, Ford Motor realized that they had nothing prepared for the 5 May broadcast schedule and that they were up shit creek without a paddle. Noël's first instinct was to refuse haughtily. Bill Paley urged Noël with pulsating sincerity to do the damned thing on 5 May.
Remaining in New York City, Noél, over-riding CBS and Ford, determined not to return to Hollywood's CBS Television City facility. This caused a tremendous sensation in television circles with Noél suspected of having sinister powers! Noél began editing the script for television, planning camera shots, angles and close-ups, as he had prepared "Present Laughter"; casting, in production meetings, directing and rehearsing the television play "This Happy Breed" with the NYC-CBS assigned TV-facility booth director Ralph Nelson (1916-1987, age 71). Casting stage actress Edna Best as Ethel in-spite of her being dreadfully ill with a mental breakdown for months, her doctors swearing she will be all right for the television appearance and that it would be therapeutically the best thing in the world for her. A hectic terrific hoo-ha as to whether Kay Kendall should play Queenie. Kendall was arriving in New York City to secretly live-in-sin with Rex Harrison, which was madness from her point of view. Noél managed to get Rex to agree to her playing the role and "then the silly bitch refused", so Noél engaged Patricia Cutts. Rehearsals began Monday, 16 April 1956, Everyone was word perfect in rehearsals with a week to go! Noél was playing his role better than he performed originally, probably because he was older, knew more, seeming to feel right as Frank Gibbons the moment he enters the first scene. Edna Best giving an exquisite performance as Ethel, true, uncompromising and infinitely touching. Noél noting she is a fine actress and no trouble at all. When Noél reflected back on the bloody hell that Claudette put him through, he could hardly believe his good fortune in having a leading lady who goes through her business calmly and methodically and is concentrated on getting every ounce of reality out of the character rather than fussing about her angles, her clothes, not troubling to learn the words. The Thursday and Friday night camera dress rehearsals, with an invited studio audience at the CBS Studio 72, were kine-scope copied and reviewed the next morning. Noél did a successful "Person to Person" impromptu interview with Ed Murrow from Charles and Ham's apartment on Friday night prior to the Saturday night color special live broadcast on CBS' "Ford Star Jubilee" showcase. Sunday, May 6th, it was all over and, it seems, a much greater triumph than either of the other two television productions. Saturday night, before the credits were over on the screen, CBS had over one thousand telephone calls. Bill Paley called Noél immediately telling him "it was the greatest thing he had ever seen on television,' his voice still husky with emotion. From Hollywood, as always, Marlene Dietrich in an emotional state; also receiving telephone calls from Clifton Webb, the Bogarts, glamorous American stage actress Katherine Cornell and director Guthrie McClintic who had been friends since the early 1920s. New York can be a rat race at the worst of times and, at the best of times, a three-ring circus. The notices of "This Happy Breed" were fabulous. The New York ones soberly enthusiastic and most heart-warming but nothing compared with the raves from Philadelphis, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angels, San Francisco, Denver, Dallas, etc. The general consensus of opinion is that "This Happy Breed" is the finest telecast ever broadcast, with Noél's performance the best of all! Edna, rightly, shared all honors and the entire cast received good notices and immediate offers for jobs from all over the place. The one discordant note in all of this was that the rating was lower than either of the previous two broadcasts.
Noël Coward first saw Elaine Stritch featured in the much vaunted 1958 musical "Goldilocks" written and directed by the New York newspaper critic Walter Kerr and his bubbly giggling wife! Coward's opinion of the musical: "How does an eminent New York critic of his calibre have the bloody impertinence to dish out such inept, amateurish, nonsense! Elaine Stritch saved that show!" Remembering Stritch's performance, Noël Coward cast Elaine as "Mimi" in his 1961 Broadway musical "Sail Away" - "an excellent comedienne, wildly enthusiastic and very funny. An ardent Catholic, has been in analysis for five years! A girl with a problem." Elaine Stritch had a reputation of being tiresome, complicated and difficult; not bitchy and vile like some. Stretch, as Noël suspected began by being tiresome, over-full of suggestions and not knowing a word, but after a few rehearsal days she saw the light. "She was never, I hasten to add, beastly in any way, just fluffy and nervous inside, sure, authoritative and a real deliverer!" After Broadway, "Sail Away" opened 21 June 1962 at London's Savoy Theatre, produced by the London theatrical impresario specializing in musicals, Harold Fielding, after a two-and-a-half-week try-out in Bristol. Noël had Stritch for five days of rehearsal. Noël's assistant Coley was wonderful with Stritch and had given her a list of five words which must never again cross her lips - guilt, problem, scared, frightened, insecurity! Coward observed Elaine was completely confused about everything. "She is an ardent Catholic and never stops saying fuck and Jesus Christ. Like most Americans dreadfully noisy!".
Edward Albee's dramatic original Broadway play "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" opened on October 13, 1962, starring Uta Hagen as Martha, Arthur Hill as George, Melinda Dillon as Honey, George Gizzard as Nick, In the play's July, 1963 through the 1964 closing performance schedule, Elaine Stritch performed the part of Martha, only in matinée performances. Noël Coward went to see Stritch play "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" - "She was absolutely magnificent. A truly great performance. If only she could play it in London. She is really a fine actress".

Personal Quotes (34)

Having to read a footnote resembles having to go downstairs to answer the door while in the midst of making love.
[About Oscar Wilde] It is extraordinary indeed that such a posing, artificial old queen should have written one of the greatest comedies in the English language!
[To Peter O'Toole] If you'd been any prettier, it would have been "Florence of Arabia".
Comedies of manners swiftly become obsolete when there are no longer any manners.
Everybody worships me, it's nauseating.
Extraordinary how potent cheap music is
Don't put your daughter on the stage, Mrs. Worthington.
I never care who scored the goal, or which side won the silver cup--I never learned to bat or bowl--But I heard the curtain going up.
[asked what he thought about his Bunny Lake Is Missing (1965) co-star Keir Dullea] Keir today, gone tomorrow.
Wit is like caviar - it should be served in small portions and not spread about like marmalade.
Certain women should be struck regularly, like gongs.
My importance to the world is relatively small. On the other hand, my importance to myself is tremendous. I am all I have to work with, to play with, to suffer and to enjoy. It is not the eyes of others that I am wary of, but of my own. I do not intend to let myself down more than I can possibly help, and I find that the fewer illusions I have about myself or the world around me, the better company I am for myself.
[In a telegram to Gertrude Lawrence upon her marriage to Richard Aldrich] Dear Mrs. A: Hooray! Hooray! You finally are de-flowered. I love you now and every day. Sincerely, Noel Coward.
[His last words] Good night my darlings. I'll see you in the morning.
I don't much care for Hollywood, I'd rather have a nice cup of cocoa.
My life really has been one long extravaganza.
The day when I shall begin to worry is when the critics declare: 'This is Noël Coward's greatest play.' But I know they bloody well won't.
I can accept anything in the theatre provided it amuses me or moves me. But if it does neither, I want to go home.
[MGM studio chief Louis B. Mayer] ordered Nelson Eddy to marry. Eddy agreed, but he didn't want a virgin bride or some insatiable creature, and Mayer understood. Sometimes the least sexual marriages last the longest, so long as it's mutual . . . Mayer found him an older divorcée who'd been married to a movie director--she was wise to the ways of Tinseltown, she was not sexually demanding or needful, and she was well-pleased to live the comfortable life of a movie star's wife.
[on Sophia Loren] She should have been sculpted in chocolate truffles so that the world could devour her.
[on A.E. Matthews] He bumbled through the play like a charming retriever who has buried a bone and can't quite remember where.
[talking about the diaeresis (two dots) over the "e" in his first name] I didn't put the dots over the "e" in Noël. The language did. Otherwise it's not Noël but Nool!
[on one of his most famous love songs, "I'll See You Again"] I have heard it played in all parts of the world. Brass bands have blared it, string orchestras have swooned it, Palm Court quartets have murdered it, barrel organs have ground it out in London squares, and swing bands have tortured it beyond recognition. I am still fond of it and very proud of it.
Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.
[on the Duke of Windsor's abdication to in order to marry a divorced woman] A statue should be erected to Mrs. Simpson in every town in England for the blessing she has bestowed upon the country.
[In 1940, on coping with air raids] When the warning sounds I gather up some pillows, a pack of cards and a bottle of gin, tuck myself beneath the stairs and do very nicely with the consolations of a drink and solitaire until "all clear" sounds.
A bout of influenza laid me low in Shanghai, and I lay, sweating gloomily, in my bedroom in the Cathay Hotel for several days. The ensuing convalescence, however, was productive, for I utilized it by writing 'Private Lives'. The idea by now seemed ripe enough to have a shot at it, so I started it, propped up in bed with a writing-block and an Eversharp pencil, and completed it, roughly, in four days. It came easily, and with the exception of a few of the usual 'blood and tears' moments, I enjoyed writing it. I thought it a shrewd and witty comedy, well constructed on the whole, but psychologically unstable.
I have a slight reforming urge, but have rather cunningly kept it down.
I was a brazen, odious little prodigy, over-pleased with myself and precocious to a degree. I was a talented boy, God knows, and when washed and smarmed down a bit, passably attractive.
The world has treated me very well. But then I haven't treated it so badly, either.
I behaved through most of the [Second World] war with gallantry tinged, I suspect, by a strong urge to show off.
[on Method actors who believed they needed to know a character's motivation to portray a role] If you must have motivation, think of your pay packet on Friday.
[on the first of the Ian Fleming novels to be filmed; Ian had asked Noël to play "Dr. No"] No, no, no, a thousand times no!
[on Arthur Miller] The cruelest blow life has dealt him is that he hasn't a grain of humour.

Salary (1)

Paris - When It Sizzles (1964) $10,000

See also

Other Works | Publicity Listings | Official Sites | Contact Info

Contribute to This Page