Coward, Sir Noël


Coward, Sir Noël

▪ English playwright, actor, and composer
in full  Sir Noël Peirce Coward 
born December 16, 1899, Teddington, near London, England
died March 26, 1973, St. Mary, Jamaica

      English playwright, actor, and composer best known for highly polished comedies of manners.

      Coward appeared professionally as an actor from the age of 12. Between acting engagements he wrote such light comedies as I'll Leave It to You (1920) and The Young Idea (1923), but his reputation as a playwright was not established until the serious play The Vortex (1924), which was highly successful in London. In 1925 the first of his durable comedies, Hay Fever, opened in London. Coward ended the decade with his most popular musical play, Bitter Sweet (1929).

      Another of his classic comedies, Private Lives (1930), is often revived. It shares with Design for Living (1933) a worldly milieu and characters unable to live with or without one another. His patriotic pageant of British history, Cavalcade (1931), traced an English family from the time of the South African (Boer) War through the end of World War I. Other successes included Tonight at Eight-Thirty (1936), a group of one-act plays performed by Coward and Gertrude Lawrence, with whom he often played. He rewrote one of the short plays, Still Life, as the film Brief Encounter (1946). Present Laughter (1939) and Blithe Spirit (1941; filmed 1945; musical version, High Spirits, 1964) are usually listed among his better comedies.

      In his plays Coward caught the clipped speech and brittle disillusion of the generation that emerged from World War I. His songs and revue sketches also struck the world-weary note of his times. Coward had another style, sentimental but theatrically effective, that he used for romantic, backward-glancing musicals and for plays constructed around patriotism or some other presumably serious theme. He performed almost every function in the theatre—including producing, directing, dancing, and singing in a quavering but superbly timed and articulate baritone—and acted in, wrote, and directed motion pictures as well.

      Coward's Collected Short Stories appeared in 1962, followed by a further selection, Bon Voyage, in 1967. Pomp and Circumstance (1960) is a light novel, and Not Yet the Dodo (1967) is a collection of verse. His autobiography through 1931 appeared as Present Indicative (1937) and was extended through his wartime years in Future Indefinite (1954); a third volume, Past Conditional, was incomplete at his death. Among his more notable songs are “Mad Dogs and Englishmen,” “I'll See You Again,” “Some Day I'll Find You,” “Poor Little Rich Girl,” “Mad About the Boy,” and “Marvellous Party.”

      Coward was knighted in 1970. He spent his last years chiefly in the Caribbean and Switzerland. One of his previously unpublished plays, The Better Half, last performed in 1922 and thought to have been lost, was rediscovered in 2007. That same year a collection of his letters was published as The Letters of Noël Coward.

Additional Reading
Biography and criticism may be found in Sheridan Morley, A Talent to Amuse (1969, reissued 1985); Cole Lesley, Remembered Laughter (1976); John Lahr, Coward, the Playwright (1982); Clive Fisher, Noel Coward (1992); Stephen Cole, Noël Coward: A Bio-Bibliography (1993); and Philip Hoare, Noël Coward (1995).

* * *


Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Coward, Sir Noel Peirce — (1899 1973)    Born at Teddington, Middlesex, the son of Arthur Sabin Coward, a clerk. Both father and mother were musical and keen theatre goers. At an early age he could play accurately by ear numbers from the show he had seen that day. When he …   British and Irish poets

  • Coward,Sir Noel Pierce — Cow·ard (kouʹərd), Sir Noel Pierce. 1899 1973. British actor, playwright, and composer especially noted for his witty and worldly comedies, such as Hay Fever (1925) and Private Lives (1930). * * * …   Universalium

  • Sir Noel Pierce Coward — noun English dramatist and actor and composer noted for his witty and sophisticated comedies (1899 1973) • Syn: ↑Coward, ↑Noel Coward • Instance Hypernyms: ↑dramatist, ↑playwright, ↑actor, ↑histrion, ↑playe …   Useful english dictionary

  • Noël Coward — Noël Coward, 1972 Sir Noël Peirce Coward (16 December 1899 – 26 March 1973) was an English playwright, composer, director, actor and singer, known for his wit, flamboyance, and what Time magazine called a sense of personal style, a… …   Wikipedia

  • Noel Coward — Noël Coward Sir Noël Peirce Coward (* 16. Dezember 1899 in Teddington, Middlesex; † 26. März 1973 in Blue Harbor, Jamaika) war ein englischer Schauspieler, Schriftsteller und Komponist. Inhaltsverzeich …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Noel Peirce Coward — Noël Coward Sir Noël Peirce Coward (* 16. Dezember 1899 in Teddington, Middlesex; † 26. März 1973 in Blue Harbor, Jamaika) war ein englischer Schauspieler, Schriftsteller und Komponist. Inhaltsverzeich …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Noël Coward — Sir Noël Coward est un dramaturge britannique né à Teddington (Middlesex) le 16 décembre 1899 et mort à Port Maria  …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Noel Coward — noun English dramatist and actor and composer noted for his witty and sophisticated comedies (1899 1973) • Syn: ↑Coward, ↑Sir Noel Pierce Coward • Instance Hypernyms: ↑dramatist, ↑playwright, ↑actor, ↑histrion, ↑ …   Useful english dictionary

  • Noël Coward — Noel Coward en su adolescencia Nombre real Noël Peirce Coward Nacimiento 16 de diciembre de 1899 …   Wikipedia Español

  • Noël Coward — (1963) Noël Coward (1972) …   Deutsch Wikipedia


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.