Noël Coward

From LGBT Archive
(Redirected from Noel Coward)
Jump to: navigation, search
Sir Noël Coward, 1972
Sir Noël Coward (1899–1973) 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 combination of cheek and chic, pose and poise".[1]

He lived in Lenham Road, Sutton as a boy and appeared on stage at the since demolished Public Hall aged 8.

He achieved enduring success as a playwright, publishing more than 50 plays from his teens onwards. Many of his works, such as Hay Fever, Private Lives, Design for Living, Present Laughter and Blithe Spirit, have remained in the regular theatre repertoire. He composed hundreds of songs, in addition to well over a dozen musical theatre works (including the operetta Bitter Sweet and comic revues), poetry, several volumes of short stories, the novel Pomp and Circumstance, and a three-volume autobiography. Coward's stage and film acting and directing career spanned six decades, during which he starred in many of his own works.

At the outbreak of World War II, Coward volunteered for war work, running the British propaganda office in Paris. He also worked with the Secret Service, seeking to use his influence to persuade the American public and government to help Britain. Coward won an Academy Honorary Award in 1943 for his naval film drama, In Which We Serve (a fictionalised account of the exploints of Coward's friend Lord Mountbatten, and was knighted in 1969. In the 1950s he achieved fresh success as a cabaret performer, performing his own songs, such as Mad Dogs and Englishmen, London Pride and I Went to a Marvellous Party. His plays and songs achieved new popularity in the 1960s and 1970s, and his work and style continue to influence popular culture.

His 1966 play A song at twilight dealt with the issue of a famous writer who hid his homosexuality.

Coward did not publicly acknowledge his homosexuality, but it was discussed candidly after his death by biographers including Graham Payn, his long-time partner, and in Coward's diaries and letters, published posthumously. The former Albery Theatre (originally the New Theatre) in London was renamed the Noël Coward Theatre in his honour in 2006.

Masquerade: The Lives of Noël Coward by Oliver Soden was published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson in 2023 [2].


  1. Time, 26 December 1969, "Noel Coward at 70",9171,941819-2,00.html
  2. Masquerade: The Lives of Noël Coward by Oliver Soden review – the man in the ironic mask