Noel Coward

Noel Coward

NOEL COWARD was born on December 16, 1899 in Teddington. By July 23, 1907 he had made his first public appearance in an end of term concert at St. Margaret's in Sutton. In January 1911, Noel made his professional debut when he was given a part in a musical co-written by his employer, Miss Lila Field, and her sister Ayre O'Naut. The children's show was called The Goldfish, and it premiered at the Little Theatre, then went on to the Crystal Palace Theatre and the Royal Court during April of that year. Due to this, he caught the attention of the great Charles Hawtrey (considered the best light comedian of his day) who asked the boy actor to appear in his autumn production of The Great Name as a page boy. Later on he was to appear in the very first production of When the Rainbow Ends; a fairy tale show that was to be demanded almost every Christmas for the next 40 years. During this run Hawtrey encouraged the children in the show to stage their own special matinees. In early 1912 Noel discovered another talent... he directed the 11-year-old Dot Temple's first play. From this year onward there was no stopping Noel Coward. He was on a fast track to success even at this tender age of 12. By 1915 Noel got his first adult role in Charley's Aunt, and had written both music and lyrics to his first song: Forbidden Fruit. He made his cabaret debut in 1916, and in 1917 he produced his first play: Ida Collaborates written by Esme Wynne. In 1920 his first West End play was produced. I'll Leave It To You was written by Noel and he played one of the leading roles. By 1922 his first book was published: A Withered Nosegay, and the very next year he produced his first revue with Gertrude Lawrence called London's Calling!. He wrote, produced and starred in many of his West End shows, and in 1925 The Vortex was produced on Broadway also starring Noel Coward. In 1929 Bitter Sweet was produced as Noel was writing Private Lives, one of Noel's most produced plays. This premiered in the West End with Noel and Gertrude Lawrence starring, and then went on to Broadway in 1931, also with Noel and Gertrude. This year Noel also met Graham Payn. In 1932 Noel won the Academy Award for Best Picture for Cavalcade, and a year later Design For Living was produced on Broadway with Coward and the Lunts. In 1934 Noel got his first major film role in The Scoundrel. He also formed Transatlantic Productions along with the Lunts for the purpose of producing his plays as well as those by other writers. The first volume of Noel Coward's autobiography was published in 1937: Present Indicative; the second part of which (Future Indefinite) was published in 1954. The third part of this autobiography (Past Conditional) was worked on in 1967 but later abandoned. Noel had a post in the Enemy Propaganda Office in Paris during September 1939 to April 1940. In this year his first collection of short stories (To Step Aside) was published, and Noel went out on singing tours for the war effort. Another widely produced play, Blithe Spirit, began a long run in the West End and on Broadway, and Noel started writing In Which We Serve for which he won an Academy Award for Best Production the next year, when it was premiered. Yet another very famous play of Noel's (Present Laughter) was produced in the West End in 1943 along with This Happy Breed with Coward in the leading roles. In 1944 he continued entertaining the troops, and the next year the well-known film Brief Encounters premiered. In 1948, sadly, Noel made his last appearance with Gertrude Lawrence as a replacement for Graham Payn in Tonight at 8:30. Another last was his production of Quadrille for Transatlantic Productions in 1954. The next year he made his television debut in "Together With Music" with Mary Martin. In 1958 Noel made his last Broadway appearance in Nude With Violin and Present Laughter and in 1966 he made his last West End appearance in his last three plays: Suite in Three Keys. In 1968 he was portrayed by Daniel Massey in a film about Gertrude Lawrence called Star!. Noel's 70th birthday the next year was celebrated with many tributes on stage, screen, television and radio, and in 1970 he was Knighted by Queen Elizabeth. In 1972 Oh Coward! and Cowardy Custard were produced in New York and London respectively. Noel made his last public appearance at a gala performance of Oh Coward!. He died on March 26, 1973 in Jamaica.

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