Noel Coward Poster


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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 (29)

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 awarded the Knight Bachelor of the Order of the British Empire in the 1970 Queen's 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.

Personal Quotes (27)

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.

Salary (1)

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

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