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Noel Coward: A Biography

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To several generations, actor, playwright, songwriter, and filmmaker, Noël Coward (1899-1973) was the very personification of wit, glamour, and elegance. His biographer, Philip Hoare, given unprecedented access to the private papers and correspondence of Coward family members, compatriots, and numerous lovers, has produced the definitive biography of one of the twentieth c To several generations, actor, playwright, songwriter, and filmmaker, Noël Coward (1899-1973) was the very personification of wit, glamour, and elegance. His biographer, Philip Hoare, given unprecedented access to the private papers and correspondence of Coward family members, compatriots, and numerous lovers, has produced the definitive biography of one of the twentieth century's most celebrated and controversial figures


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To several generations, actor, playwright, songwriter, and filmmaker, Noël Coward (1899-1973) was the very personification of wit, glamour, and elegance. His biographer, Philip Hoare, given unprecedented access to the private papers and correspondence of Coward family members, compatriots, and numerous lovers, has produced the definitive biography of one of the twentieth c To several generations, actor, playwright, songwriter, and filmmaker, Noël Coward (1899-1973) was the very personification of wit, glamour, and elegance. His biographer, Philip Hoare, given unprecedented access to the private papers and correspondence of Coward family members, compatriots, and numerous lovers, has produced the definitive biography of one of the twentieth century's most celebrated and controversial figures

30 review for Noel Coward: A Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    Sketchbook

    Hoare (of Morecock & Fartwell) presents the bestest, automatically definitive, bio of Coward, though you have to cope with a sticky-wicket at center : ie, the self-invented personality of Coward. He loved his mum and took care of her, but Rebecca West thought his vanity and temper tantrums were excessive. Though I find Coward (1899-1973) obnoxious, he was a "star" writer, composer, actor, director for 50 years. (Actually, he was a lousy actor). He left us, amid 45+ plays, 6 classics : Private Liv Hoare (of Morecock & Fartwell) presents the bestest, automatically definitive, bio of Coward, though you have to cope with a sticky-wicket at center : ie, the self-invented personality of Coward. He loved his mum and took care of her, but Rebecca West thought his vanity and temper tantrums were excessive. Though I find Coward (1899-1973) obnoxious, he was a "star" writer, composer, actor, director for 50 years. (Actually, he was a lousy actor). He left us, amid 45+ plays, 6 classics : Private Lives, Blithe Spirit, Hay Fever, Present Laughter, Design for Living, Fallen Angels. Who can top that in any century? ~ Plus dozens of songs fr musicals and revue sketches. Hoare keeps referring to him as coming fr "lower-middle class," but if your mum works as a "char," I'd be exact and knuckle "lower-class." He taught himself to be the epitome of worldly sophistication. (I mention class as it's very UK)... Age 14, he was sent by dear mum off for the summer to Cornwall "to expand" w society portraitist Philip Streatfeild, age 35. ~~ Say no more. ~~ Before Philip shortly died of TB, he implored obese society dowager Mrs. Astley Cooper to "look after Noel." She did. The talented teen always had a "marvelous party" and, when W1 was underway, he and bestest femme pal, Esme Wynne , co- writing songs-sketches, competed for the gallants in uniform. (Hoare puts to rest the pr myth of young Noel & Gert Lawrence). Mrs A-C "connected" him to U-Life. Here's his "life," warts and all. And do mind those warts--. Noel had no Looks. He was Sexless. His play, "The Vortex" - 1924-25 - (mum w young lover learns her son has a drug problem. Read: same-sex issue) -- was a wild success in Lon & NYC, and suddenly, Noel was an intl star who kept open bed. Insisted upon it w actors who wanted a leg up in the Biz. (Several are named, you can figure out the rest). Today, the play reads as rubbish. But Noel developed super-confidence, arrogance and image. This section -- his emergence as a star -- is superb social, sociological and theatre history. In 1925 he met hotsy Yalie & stockbroker John C Wilson, who became his lover and manager. Like all couples - het or hs - they had a few romantic years (5), then sought others and ended as friends, which hets, (married or not) cannot do. Wilson became a producer and director (the musical, "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," starring Carol Channing, 1949). 5 years (fr my research) seems to be the top for "coupular" romance in any form, anywhere. In mid40s, Noel tried to make his heir, then young Graham Payn, a star - and failed. Payn adds nothing to the bio that fleshes out the Coward personality. Not even a leg up. Dark shadows consumed horny Coward in 1957 when he cast a handsome young actor in his Bwy debut (Bill Traylor) in "Nude with Violin" -- and demanded sex, often. Soon Traylor tried to kill himself. Old Fart Noel bawled, "I was in love..." It never occurred to Noel, nearing 60, that he was repulsive. (Lizard skin, etc)...The incident was shussshed x PRs... This, indeed, is show biz. Wanna succeed? Keep barf bags handy. Anyway : 6 plays.

  2. 4 out of 5

    George Ilsley

    The definitive Coward biography—as it likes to proclaim on the cover. Cecil Beaton cover photo, homage to Proust and Saki on page 41; Noel Coward’s spiritual companions are clear. Oscar Wilde too of course but one only talked about that whole mess quietly in private. Wilde was always the example of what not to do. So Coward did everything in plain view yet remained hidden. How did he manage that feat? Everyone helped him do it, you see, there was so much that one never talked about, never mentio The definitive Coward biography—as it likes to proclaim on the cover. Cecil Beaton cover photo, homage to Proust and Saki on page 41; Noel Coward’s spiritual companions are clear. Oscar Wilde too of course but one only talked about that whole mess quietly in private. Wilde was always the example of what not to do. So Coward did everything in plain view yet remained hidden. How did he manage that feat? Everyone helped him do it, you see, there was so much that one never talked about, never mentioned, and if it was never declared out loud it never became important. Everyone knew of course but somehow it was never really true—such is the power of discretion. The unspoken didn't matter so much. Books like these I enjoy revisiting through perusing the index. A fantastic life, a very readable biography with three sections of photos. Noel Coward in Las Vegas! Coward entertaining the troops in Australia! Knighted at Buckingham Palace!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Keith

    This was a very long read but very thorough for me on the life of Noel Coward. Okay check: Coward was a writer, composer, director and actor and had worldwide fame. But what I came away from reading this book was that Noel, the person, was immature, self-centered, egotistical, dictatorial and only valued friendship as long as he was benefitting from it. A Coward quote I found interesting: Christians astonish me. The more they believe in a beatific future the more they weep when a loved one goes to This was a very long read but very thorough for me on the life of Noel Coward. Okay check: Coward was a writer, composer, director and actor and had worldwide fame. But what I came away from reading this book was that Noel, the person, was immature, self-centered, egotistical, dictatorial and only valued friendship as long as he was benefitting from it. A Coward quote I found interesting: Christians astonish me. The more they believe in a beatific future the more they weep when a loved one goes to it. A pagan and his pagan relatives are the happiest people. They die easily... because they have no regrets for the past and don't believe in the future. Of course there were many more quotes I enjoy and many more I cringed as I read them.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Katharine Holden

    Interesting, but repetitive.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Dr Robert

    A wonderful view into the life of a fascinating man

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Terry

    I didn't actually read this book cover-to-cover, especially Coward's ancestry and background - just skimmed over that (I knew a little of it, anyway). But I couldn't resist keeping on reading when I would dip into it! I think Philip Hoare writes in a very readable style and he certainly does a lot of research. Coward emerges as a very complex man: the polished sophistication and light musical touch is actually a carefully wrought persona. Underneath, he was much more complex and difficult to kno I didn't actually read this book cover-to-cover, especially Coward's ancestry and background - just skimmed over that (I knew a little of it, anyway). But I couldn't resist keeping on reading when I would dip into it! I think Philip Hoare writes in a very readable style and he certainly does a lot of research. Coward emerges as a very complex man: the polished sophistication and light musical touch is actually a carefully wrought persona. Underneath, he was much more complex and difficult to know and to remain friends with. Well, he did write Private Lives. Still, anyone interested in digging a bit below the surface of a fascinating and unique twentieth century entertainer could do worse than start here.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Dana D. Burnell

    Written at a rather breathless pace, and somehow I never got a palpable feeling of what Coward was like--there were so many excellent external details, but the man himself eluded me. . .interesting because in Maria Riva's bio of her mother, she includes a letter from Coward to Dietrich. And in this one page, the whole man springs to life: Sad, independent, wise, wary, and deeply mistrustful of love. Too bad this book couldn't provide an image of similar complexity. Written at a rather breathless pace, and somehow I never got a palpable feeling of what Coward was like--there were so many excellent external details, but the man himself eluded me. . .interesting because in Maria Riva's bio of her mother, she includes a letter from Coward to Dietrich. And in this one page, the whole man springs to life: Sad, independent, wise, wary, and deeply mistrustful of love. Too bad this book couldn't provide an image of similar complexity.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Tosh

    Hoare wrote a wonderful biogpraphy on one of the most underrated talents of the 20th Century. I don't always see eye-to-eye with Coward, but I find him fascinating. I am a fan of his plays and songs. His fiction I think is kind of weak, but he's so important aesthetically with respect to the U.K. arts. Hoare wrote a wonderful biogpraphy on one of the most underrated talents of the 20th Century. I don't always see eye-to-eye with Coward, but I find him fascinating. I am a fan of his plays and songs. His fiction I think is kind of weak, but he's so important aesthetically with respect to the U.K. arts.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Elisabeth S. Gilliland

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jimmy Leduc

  11. 4 out of 5

    Claudia G. Albrecht

  12. 4 out of 5

    Janet Shelley

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jackie

  14. 5 out of 5

    Adina Daniels

  15. 5 out of 5

    Robby Johnson

  16. 5 out of 5

    Patrick Goodnow

  17. 4 out of 5

    Dorothy. Meyer

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

  19. 5 out of 5

    Nigel

  20. 5 out of 5

    Markus

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ian

  22. 5 out of 5

    Donal Walsh

  23. 5 out of 5

    Bobby

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sandy

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sebastian

  26. 4 out of 5

    Maryann MJS1228

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Courtney

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mark

  29. 4 out of 5

    Tish Willis

  30. 5 out of 5

    David

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