Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Born Today December 16: Sir Noël Coward


Born Noël Peirce Coward in Teddington, Middlesex, England, UK.  He is best known as a influential comedy playwright; but in reality he was the epitome of a Renaissance man:  he was also a composer/lyricist, director, painter, singer and actor.  He possessed a unique and extraordinary wit, with which in invented a form "Englishness" that persisted at least up until and, even through, the British rock invasion of the 1960's.  He was on the unprofessional stage by the age of 6 and acting professionally by the age of 11, while attending dance academy in London (on strong encouragement from his mother).  He is supposed to have written his first play, a drama, by the age of 16.  In 1921, he visited an increasingly swinging New York City and caught "the Broadway bug" in a big way, when a play he was starring in debuted on "The Great White Way."  By this time, he had already appeared in film for the first time, and with no slouch director either; he had two bit parts in D. W. Griffith's Hearts Of The World, which was released in 1918 and is an anthology of series of tales set in Europe about the coming of The Great War (and is currently on Amazon's Prime rental free).  In the silent era, only three films were produced as adaptations of his work; one of the directed by Alfred Hitchcock. The first one was German, Forbidden Love (originally titled "The Queen Was in the Palour"), was made in 1927.  The next was Easy Virtue in 1928, and was directed by Hitchcock before he left England for Hollywood.  The last was The Vortex, also in 1928, based on his infamous play of the same name that had taken New York by scandalous storm earlier in the 1920's.  From then on out, his adapted works were in full sound; and often either included songs that he had written, or were turned into musicals.  One of my personal favorites, is the David Lean directed Blithe Spirit (1945), which he is reported to have worked on the screenplay covertly.  Coward died in Jamaica, on his Firefly Estate, in Blue Harbor on 26 March 1973 of a heart attack, after suffering for many years the condition that is properly known as "hardening of the arteries."  He is buried there.

Statue over-looking his burial slab in Jamaica.

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