Birthday: December 16, 1899
Died At Age: 73
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Also Known As: Noel Coward, Sir Noël Peirce,Noël Coward
Born in: Teddington
Famous as: Playwright
father: Arthur Sabin Coward
mother: Violet Agnes Coward
Died on: March 26, 1973
place of death: Firefly Estate
education: Chapel Royal Choir School
Noel Coward was one of the most prominent actors and playwrights of the 1930s, who amused the audience with his wit and satire, for nearly four decades. A born star, he was capable of writing successful and hit plays in just a few days, owing to his immense prodigious talent. His command over playwriting could supersede even the most qualified playwrights of his time. Known as ‘The Master’ among his friends and colleagues, he had truly mastered the art of writing plays and songs. He was very popular both in Britain and the U.S. and was particularly liked for his sense of dressing. In fact, he is credited for introducing the turtle necks into fashion in the 1920s! Despite his sophistication, he was down-to-earth and was famous for his generosity. Essentially, one of the early ‘pop stars’ from Britain, he was distinguished for his ‘cool’ demeanor, which reflected in his plays, most which were comedies. He rose to prominence in the inter-war years, entertaining the world, in the worst of times. However, his career was a bit overshadowed with the emergence of the ‘angry young man’ generation, fuelled by the plays of young and aggressive playwrights, like John Osborne. But, it was just a matter of time before he sprung back to the limelight with a new set of plays written from a different perspective.
Childhood & Early Life
Noel was born to Arthur Sabin Coward and Violet Agnes Coward as their second child. He was sent to the Chapel Royal Choir School and used to perform in amateur concerts, which he began at the age of seven.
At the age of 12 he made his acting debut with the children’s show ‘The Goldfish’, staged in London, in January 1911. Soon after, he was cast in a number of plays and was gaining recognition as a child artist.
In 1918, during World War I, he was recruited into the British army, but was dismissed after nine months, owing to health problems. To support himself, he began selling short stories to magazines and started writing plays in collaboration with his friend Esm� Wynne, a playwright.
Continue Reading Below
You May Like
He appeared in his own play ‘I'll Leave It to You’, in 1920, aged 20, which received mixed reviews. After few more performances, he traveled to the U.S. in 1921, where he was introduced to Broadway.
He travelled back to London, after a good learning experience in Broadway and staged ‘The Young Idea’ in 1923, with which he tasted success for the first time as a playwright. The following year, he enjoyed great critical acclaim and commercial success with his play ‘The Vortex’.
‘Fallen Angels’, a comedy, produced in 1925, was a huge success and so was ‘Hay Fever’, another comedy by Coward. After a streak of successful plays, he involved himself in official works, at the outbreak of World War II.
On the advice of Churchill who asked him to “Go and sing to them when the guns are firing” during World War II, he toured throughout Europe, Africa, Asia and America singing and acting for the troops. Meanwhile, he also wrote some war songs, which include the popular, ‘London Pride’ and ‘Don't Let's Be Beastly to the Germans’.
In 1941, he wrote the hugely successful play ‘Blithe Spirit’ and in 1942, he made a patriotic film ‘In Which We Serve’ based on the war, for which he received special recognition from the film industry.
After the war, he wrote a number of plays, which were an average success, except for ‘Pacific 1860’ in 1946 and ‘Ace of Clubs’ in 1949, which failed miserably. Yet his performance in George Bernard Shaw’s ‘The Apple Cart’ as ‘King Magnus’ was applauded and helped him maintain his image.
In 1955, he made a live album (for gramophone) called ‘No�l Coward at Las Vegas’. The success of the album earned him a contract with renowned television channel CBS, where he had to write 90-minute television specials till 1956.
He continued to write plays such as ‘Sail Away’ in 1961 to positive reviews and ‘Suite in Three Keys’ in 1966, which happened to be his last successful play.
He also acted in some very famous British movies, such as ‘Boom!’ in 1968 and ‘The Italian Job’ in 1969. However, towards the end of his career, he turned down a number of big acting offers.
Continue Reading Below
The 1924 play ‘Hay Fever’ was one of his most famous early works, which ran for 337 performances in the theatres.
He is also remembered for the comedy ‘Private Lives’, in 1930 which was adapted for a film and has been adapted for the television and radio several times.
‘Blithe Spirit’, another comic play by Coward was premiered in 1941 and was staged once again in Broadway where it ran for 657 performances. It was adapted for television and radio and was also made into a film.
‘In Which We Serve’, a patriotic war movie by the playwright, during World War I, received several awards and honors, including an Academy Award nomination.
Awards & Achievements
Coward received an Honorary Academy Award in 1943 for ‘In Which We Serve’ for his "his outstanding production achievement."
His movie ‘In Which We Serve’ also won the ‘Silver Condo’ award in 1944 as the Best Foreign Film.
He was conferred the knighthood in 1969 and was also made a fellow of the ‘Royal Society of Literature’.
Personal Life & Legacy
A homosexual, Cowards never spoke about his sexual orientation publicly. However, he gave Cole Lesley, his secretary, the permission to write about it in his biography after his death.
He was associated with South African-born English actor and singer, Graham Payn. They shared a long-term relationship, which lasted until the death of Coward.
The playwright died of heart failure at the age of 74. Long after his death, a statute of him was unveiled in Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, in 1998
In 2006, a theater, previously known as the New Theatre and later as Albery in St Martin's Lane, was renamed as ‘No�l Coward Theatre’.
This famous and acclaimed playwright from Britain was the godfather of Daniel Massey, an English actor and performer.