(Sir) Noël Coward - Writer

Producer, Writer, and Actor. Nationality: British. Born: Noël Pierce Coward in Teddington, Middlesex, England, 16 December 1899. Education: Attended Chapel Road School. Career: Child actor, writer for revues in late 1910s; 1924—first successful play, The Vortex , followed by a series of comedies, musicals (often writing the music and lyrics), and dramas; also a stage director of his own and

Noël Coward
Noël Coward
other plays; 1942—first film as writer (also producer and co-director), In Which We Serve ; cabaret entertainer from the 1950s. Awards: Special Academy Award for In Which We Serve , 1942. Knighted, 1970. Died: 26 March 1973.

Films as Producer:


In Which We Serve (+ co-d + sc + mus + ro)


This Happy Breed (Lean)


Blithe Spirit (Lean); Brief Encounter (Lean) (+ co-sc)

Films as Writer:


Journal de la résistance (Grémillon) (commentary, + narrator)


The Astonished Heart (Fisher and Darnborough) (+ mus + ro)


Meet Me Tonight (Pelissier) (+ mus)


Cavalcade (Allen)

Films as Actor:


Hearts of the World (Griffith)


The Scoundrel (Hecht and MacArthur)


Around the World in Eighty Days (Anderson)


Our Man in Havana (Reed)


Surprise Package (Donen)


Paris When It Sizzles (Quine)


Bunny Lake Is Missing (Preminger)


Boom! (Losey)


The Italian Job (Collinson)


By COWARD: plays—

I'll Leave It to You , London, 1920.

The Young Idea , London, 1922

The Rat Trap , London, 1924.

The Vortex , London, 1925.

Hay Fever , London, 1925.

Fallen Angels , London, 1925.

Easy Virtue , London, 1926.

The Queen Was in the Parlour , London, 1926.

This Was a Man , London, 1926.

The Marquise , London, 1927.

Home Chat , London, 1927.

Sirocco , London, 1927.

Bitter-Sweet , London, 1929.

Private Lives , London, 1930.

Post-Mortem , London, 1931.

Cavalcade , London, 1932.

Design for Living , London, 1933.

Play Parade , 6 vols., London, 1933–62.

Conversation Piece , London, 1934.

Pointe Valaine , London, 1935.

Tonight at 8:30 , 3 vols., London, 1936.

Operette , London, 1938.

Curtain Calls , New York, 1940.

Blithe Spirit , London, 1941.

Australian Broadcast , London, 1941.

Present Laughter , London, 1943.

This Happy Breed , London, 1943.

Peace in Our Time , London, 1947.

Quadrille , London, 1952.

South Sea Bubble , London, 1954.

Relative Values , London, 1954.

After the Ball , London, 1954.

Nude with Violin , London, 1957.

Look after Lulu , London, 1959.

Waiting in the Wings , London, 1960.

Suite in Three Keys , London, 1966.

Plays , 4 vols., London, 1979.

The Collected Stories of Noel Coward , New York, 1986.

Three Plays by Noel Coward , Garden City, 1997.

By COWARD: other books—

A Withered Nosegay (non-fiction), London, 1922.

Chelsea Buns (verse), London, 1925.

The Collected Sketches and Lyrics , London, 1931.

Spangled Unicorn (verse), London, 1932.

Present Indicative (autobiography), London, 1937.

To Step Aside (stories), London, 1939.

Middle East Diary (non-fiction), London, 1944.

Brief Encounter (script), in Three British Screen Plays , edited by Roger Manvell, London, 1950.

Star Quality (stories), London, 1951.

The Noel Coward Song-Book , London, 1953.

Future Indefinite (autobiography), London, 1954.

(Editor) The Last Bassoon , London, 1960.

Pomp and Circumstance (novel), London, 1960.

Collected Short Stories , London, 1962, augmented edition, 1969.

Pretty Polly Barlow (stories), London, 1964, as Polly Barlow , New York, 1965.

The Lyrics of Noël Coward , London, 1965.

Not Yet the Dodo , (verse), London, 1967.

Bon Voyage (stories), London, 1967.

Diaries , edited by Graham Payn and Sheridan Morley, London, 1982.

Collected Verse , edited by Graham Payn and Martin Tickner, London, 1984.

The Complete Stories , London, 1985.

Autobiography , London, 1986.

By COWARD: articles—

Picturegoer (London), August 1927.

Picturegoer (London), 29 April 1933.

Photoplay (New York), February 1935.

The Listener (London), 7 April 1966.

Revue du Cinéma International , April 1971.

On COWARD: books—

Braybrooke, Patrick, The Amazing Mr. Noël Coward , London, 1933.

Graecen, Robert, The Art of Noël Coward , London, 1957.

Levin, Milton, Noël Coward , New York, 1968.

Morley, Sheridan, A Talent to Amuse: A Biography of Noël Coward , London, 1969.

Castle, Charles, Noël , London, 1972.

Merchant, William, Privilege of His Company: Noël Coward Remembered , London, 1975.

Lesley, Cole, The Life of Noël Coward , London, 1976, as Remembered Laughing , New York, 1976.

Yaraventilimath, C. R., Jesting Jeremiah: A Study of Noël Coward's Comic Vision , Dharwad, 1978.

Lesley, Cole, Noël Coward and His Friends , London, 1979. Lahr, John, Coward the Playwright , London, 1982.

Fisher, Clive, Noël Coward , London, 1992.

Cole, Stephen, Noël Coward: A Bio-bibliography , Westport, Connecticut, London, 1993.

Payn, Graham, My Life with Noël Coward , New York, 1994.

Hoare, Philip, Noël Coward , Sinclair-Stevenson, 1995.

Morella, Joseph, and George Mazzei, Genius and Lust: The Creative and Sexual Lives of Noel Coward and Cole Porter , New York, 1995.

Browne, Phyllis, Thanks for the Tea, Mrs. Browne: My Life with Noel , Dublin, 1998.

Hoare, Philip, Noel Coward , Chicago, 1998.

Mander, Raymond, Theatrical Companion to Coward , New York, 1999.

On COWARD: articles—

Picturegoer (London), 27 April 1935.

Photoplay (New York), June 1935.

Picturegoer (London), 15 February 1947.

Obituary in Cinéma (Paris), May 1973.

Films in Review (New York), March 1975.

Lahr, John, in Automatic Vaudeville , New York, 1984.

Baker, Bob, "In Which He Served," in Sight & Sound (London), Summer 1990.

Stillwater, Marianne, "Noël Coward et David Lean," in Cinéma (Paris), July-August 1991.

Gottlieb, S., "Kissing and Telling in Hitchcock's Easy Virtue ," in Hitchcock Annual (Gambier), no. 1, 1992.

* * *

Noël Coward, bright young man of the 1920s and 1930s and darling of cafe society for over five decades, wore many creative caps in addition to his chief vocation as playwright. Likewise his ventures into films were under a number of guises—actor, screenwriter, producer, and director.

As a playwright he saw most of his plays adapted for the screen but with little actual involvement on his part— Bitter Sweet , Private Lives , Design for Living , and Blithe Spirit . In 1933, the American production of his play, Cavalcade —the saga of a British family between the Boer War and the First World War—won the Academy Award as Best Picture of the Year. As an actor, he did two bit parts in 1918 in D. W. Griffith's Heart of the World . Later acting roles included Around the World in Eighty Days , Bunny Lake Is Missing , and Boom! As a screenwriter he was less prolific, but his output includes two hallmark films— In Which We Serve , based upon his original screenplay, and Brief Encounter , which he adapted from his one-act play Still Life . Curiously, neither of these films rely on the flippant, sometimes sarcastic, and often effete subject matter of many of his famous plays. Instead they were inspiring, realistic depictions of the English during the Second World War.

In Which We Serve was Coward's admirable effort to boost British wartime morale, a propaganda film with lasting value. The germination for the film began with Louis Mountbatten's description of life aboard the HMS Kelly prior to its sinking during the Battle of Crete. Coward developed the screenplay, and also produced the film, wrote the music, co-directed with David Lean, and acted the role of the ship's captain. Told in sober, documentary style with the use of flashbacks, it is flagwaver of considerable merit which earned Coward a special Academy Award.

Brief Encounter remains one of the screen's most durable romantic films. For all its simplicity—the story of an extramarital affair between two happily married, middle-class people—the film is a moving and convincing account of basic human emotions. Coward wrote the screenplay with David Lean and Anthony Havelock-Allan; Coward produced and Lean directed. The complete opposite of Hollywood's glossy women's pictures, Brief Encounter is sparingly directed by Lean, and beautifully acted by Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard.

—Ronald Bowers

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