Noël Coward

Noël Coward

Playwright, Composer, Lyricist, Author


Biography


Noel Coward was an English playwright, composer, actor, singer, and social wit, whose volume of work includes more than 50 plays and an impressive catalogue of screenplays, musical theater pieces, short stories, and poetry.

Coward was born in 1899 in Teddington, England. After attending a dance academy in London, his first professional engagement occurred at the age of 11 in the children’s play, The Goldfish. From then on, he appeared on stage extensively throughout his teens. When he was 14, he was introduced to the wealthy socialite Mrs. Astley Cooper, who took him under her wing and assisted Coward’s rise through London’s high society. In 1918 his wrote his first play, The Rat Trap, which was finally produced at the Everyman Theatre in Hampstead in 1926.

In 1920, Coward wrote and starred in his first West End play, I’ll Leave It To You but his first real success did not come until 1923 with his comedy, The Young Idea. In 1924, Coward wrote The Vortex, which achieved critical and financial success, as well as achieving notoriety for its depictions of nymphomania and drug abuse within the upper classes. Coward’s plays were now in demand and he went on to have four plays running simultaneously in the West End during 1925: The Vortex, Hay Fever, Fallen Angels, and On With the Dance.

During the early 1930s, Coward’s success continued with plays such as Private Lives (1930) and Design For Living (1932). Coward knew that Design For Living would not be approved for performance by censor in London with its themes of bisexuality and a ménage à trois, so he premiered it in New York. During this time, Coward also continued to write songs and musical pieces. Many of his best known songs were recorded for His Master’s Voice (HMV), including “Mad Dogs and Englishmen” and “Mrs Worthing”.

During World War II, Coward worked for the Secret Service as well as entertaining the troops across Europe, Asia, and Africa. He continued to write, producing the naval film, In Which We Serve, and the hugely popular black comedy Blithe Spirit, which broke West End box office records for a comedy with a run of 1,997 consecutive performances. It was later adapted into a film in 1945, directed by David Lean and starring Rex Harrison. After the war, Coward continued to write for the stage but he did not achieve the success he had garnered previously.

In 1955 Coward recorded a hugely popular cabaret act at Las Vegas, “Noel Coward at Las Vegas, and went on to produce three television specials of his repertoire from 1955-6. In his later career, he appeared in several films, including Around the World in Eight Days (1956) and The Italian Job (1969).

Coward was knighted in 1969 and subsequently also received a Tony Award for lifetime achievement. He died in 1973 at his home in Jamaica. In 2006, the former Albery Theatre in London’s West End was refurbished and renamed as the Noel Coward Theatre.


Shows by Noël Coward

Title
Synopsis

In Soho, London, a man named Benny runs a nightclub called Ace of Clubs on behalf of its owner, Rita. Benny picks up a package inside a raincoat in the club's coatroom along with a gangster, Smiling Snyder. Snyder, however... read more

After the Ball tells the story of the twenty-one-year-old Lady Windermere who wrongly thinks her husband is having an affair with a woman who turns out to be her mother.... read more

The play is a biting satire about sexual morality. The story revolves around an unhappily married couple, Alice and David. David is about to embark on an affair with Alice's best friend, Marion, but he is an honorable man a... read more

Set in 19th and 20th Century England and Austria-Hungary, the story revolves around a young woman, Sarah, and her marriage to her music teacher, Carl. Sadly, after five years living together in poverty, Carl is killed in a d... read more

Blithe Spirit is set at the house of writer, Charles Condomine, and his wife, Ruth. One evening, Charles invites local eccentric medium, Madame Arcati, to hold a seance at his house. He asks along his friends, Dr. and Mrs. Br... read more

At Milford Junction Railway Station, a housewife named Laura Jesson awaits the train home after a day of shopping. There is something in her eye, and a doctor, Alec Harvey, takes it out. They see each other again the next s... read more

Fallen Angels is the comedic story of Julia and Jane, two upper-class women in England in the early 1900’s. They are married to Fred and Willy, two respectable Englishman. When Maurice, a former French lover, shows up in Engl... read more

This play is based in a middle-class drawing room in 1860. The story is about the Featherway family that has gathered for a funeral. During the play, the family drinks and reminisces. At first they act sad and emotional. Howe... read more

Fumed Oak is a short play in two scenes by Noël Coward, one of ten that make up Tonight at 8:30, a cycle written to be performed across three evenings. This play is a 2-scene comedy. A middle-aged salesman walks out his famil... read more

The show tells the tale of an American chorus girl, Mary Morgan, wooed by a Balkan archduke, the Prince Regent of Carpathia, during the 1911 coronation of George V.... read more

Hay Fever is one of Noel Coward’s most durable comedies, continuing to delight audiences with its astute observations on family relationships and rivalries. The action takes place in the house of the Bliss family over the cou... read more

This play is based on "Occupe-toi d'Amelie" by Georges Feydeau. Look After Lulu is a comedy about a prostitute whose lover Philippe is enlisted in the army. This friend tricks her into a mock wedding. Look After Lulu is a far... read more

Set in 1954 Paris, Nude with Violin is a light comedy of manners. The play is a satire about the high value placed on art and the hypocrisy in the art world. A famous painter, Paul Sorodin, has died. His relatives and friend... read more

A famous actor, Garry Essendine, finds himself visited by a young admirer, Daphne Stillington, who manages to convince him to allow her to stay the night. The next day, Garry manages to convince her to leave -- but only afte... read more

In Private Lives, passion, laughter, romance, anger, and love set the stage for a battle of the sexes as divorced couple, Amanda and Elyot, find themselves unwittingly thrown together in Coward’s classic comedy of manners. Un... read more

Overview

Nationality
English
Born
12/16/1899
Died
3/26/1973
Show Categories
Musical, Opera, Play, Operetta
Genres
Satire, Comedy, Farce, Drama, Romance, Historical/Biographical

Clips