Noel Coward

(Biography by John Kenrick)

Of all the remarkable figures who peopled the 20th Century, none was even remotely comparable to Noel Coward. Born the son of an unsuccessful piano salesman, Noël Pierce Coward had no more than a few years of elementary school education. Even so, by early adulthood he was internationally recognised as the personification of wit and sophistication. Successful as a composer, lyricist, actor, singer, director, novelist, painter ... small wonder friends and colleagues called him "The Master".

Noel Coward is remembered as the most witty and elegant of theatrical personalities. He left behind over fifty plays, twenty-five films, hundreds of songs, and several books. Fortunately, he also left behind diaries chronicling the last thirty years of his life, from 1941 to 1973. Moving through the theatrical, social, political, and historical worlds on both sides of the Atlantic, the impressive cast of characters includes Laurence Olivier, Frank Sinatra, Lauren Bacall, John and Jackie Kennedy, Harold Pinter, members of the Royal Family, and the Beatles, among a host of others. The Noel Coward Diaries is a social and theatrical chronicle as stylish and irresistible as the man himself.

Noel Pierce Coward was born on December 19, 1899, and received his first name because Christmas was just days away . He was the son of Arthur and Violet Veitch Coward. Arthur was an unsuccessful piano salesman with little personal drive, so family finances were often shaky. Violet had seen her first son die as an infant, so she was fiercely devoted to Noel and did her best to gloss over their genteel poverty. Noel's younger brother Eric suffered from chronic poor health that kept him in the background for most of his short life. From day one, Noel was the family's star attraction. A basically healthy child, Noel survived several accidents in which fate seemed to intercede on his behalf. Once while playing on a beach, a broken bottle severed an artery in his foot. The only person in sight had just completed first aid training, and was able to save the boy's life. Such strokes of luck later earned Noel the nickname "Destiny's Tot."


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