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Centenary Year - 1999

During the year that marked the centenary of Noël Coward's birth a Centenary Committee chaired by Michael Imison organised a series of performances of plays, films, concerts, meetings and a conference at Birmingham University in England. Organisations across the globe added their own contributions to this year long celebration of Noël Coward and his work. This page reflects the range of activities that took place during 1999.

The Noël Coward Special Collection - Birmingham University
The presentation of the ornamental sword used by actor Edmund Kean (1789-1833) in his performances as Richard III - was presented to Birmingham University at a special session of Centenary Conference at Birmingham University to mark their agreement to house the Noël Coward Special Collection - an archive of papers, books and memorabilia presented to the University by The Estate of the late Sir Noël Coward. The photograph below shows (left to right) Professor Joel Kaplan, Conference Convenor and Professor of Drama, the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Maxwell Irvine, Michael Imison, representing the Coward Estate and Dr Clive Field, University Librarian.

Edmund Keanes Sword

Noel Coward Statue March 1st in the Broadway Hall of Fame at the Gershwin Theatre
The picture below was taken at the unveiling of the Noel Coward statue by Prince Edward on March 1st in the Broadway Hall of Fame at the Gershwin Theatre on Broadway. Those shown from left to right are: Michael Imison (Chairman of the Noël Coward Centenary Committee), Geoffrey Johnson, Jerry Hogan, Danny Dasto, (Noel Coward), the sculptor Angela Conner and Graham Payn.

Coward Satue at The Gershwin Theatre

Events of the Centenary Year

March
HRH The Prince Edward unveiled a statue of Sir Noel Coward at a gathering of the Broadway theatre community on Monday, 1 March at the Gershwin Theatre (221 West 51st St.). The ceremony was the first in a year-long series of events in New York celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of the British playwright, songwriter and performer. Master of ceremonies was Coward historian Barry Day, with remarks from the Broadway producer Alexander Cohen, Prince Edward and Graham Payn, longtime friend and executor of the Noel Coward estate. Cabaret artist Steve Ross sang Noel Coward’s most famous song, "Mad Dogs And Englishmen". Jeannie Lehmann, then in the Broadway company of The Sound Of Music sang "I'll See You Again." Angela Conner, the sculptor of the life-size statue, sat on the dais.

May
May 27th at the Peacock Theatre, London After the Ball by Noël Coward. A concert performance of this unique musical based on Oscar Wilde’s Lady Windermere’s Fan. First performance for over 40 years. BBC Concert Orchestra. John McGlinn conductor. Noël believed that this was his best work, but was devastated by its debut performance in 1954 when much of the music had to be cut to accommodate the vocal limitations of the cast. This was the first ever performance of After the Ball in the musical version which Coward intended. Starred: Rosie Ashe, Penelope Keith, Fiona Kimm, Linda Kitchen, Frances McCafferty, Marie McLaughlin, Karl Daymond, George Dvorsky, Tom McVeigh, Christopher Saunders. Staged by Paul Curran. Edited from the original version of the text with additional material by Barry Day.

Noel Coward Trail: Noël Coward study day at the Theatre Museum, Covent Garden. Participants were asked to .... Step into the immaculate shoes of one of Britain’s greatest theatre figures: playwright, composer and society wit. Expert guides will take you to places associated with Coward and his works, whilst Hatstand Opera provides the sounds of The Master himself. The tour will be followed by an interview with Sheridan Morley and friends.

June
14th June - Hay Fever, directed in a controversial 1999 revival by Declan Donnellan.The cast was headed by Geraldine McEwan as 'Judith Bliss' along with Peter Blythe as 'David Bliss', Sylvestra Le Touzel as 'Myra Arundel', Malcolm Sinclair as ' Richard Greatham, Cathryn Bradshaw as 'Jackie Coryton', Monica Dolan as 'Sorel Bliss', Scott Handy as 'Sandy Tyrell', Stephen Mangan as 'Simon Bliss' and Anne White as 'Clara'. Hay Fever was first seen in June 1925 when it ran for a year initially at The Ambassadors Theatre, and subsequently The Criterion. Hay Fever was last seen in the West End in 1992 at the Abery Theatre where it had a five month run.

If Love Were All - Lucille Lortel Theatre (in Greenwich Village), New York
"The romance, the glamour, and the joie de vivre of an incandescent friendship and an unusual romantic relationship is champagned to the stage in the new musical 'If Love Were All', which returns the incandescent Twiggy to the New York footlights opposite song-and-dance actor Harry Groener." (from the press release). Twiggy, a Tony nominee for My One and Only, plays Gertrude Lawrence; Mr. Groener (Crazy for You, Cats, Oklahoma!) plays Noel Coward. Twenty songs by Noel Coward are featured, including "Mad About the Boy," "I'll See You Again," and "Don't Put Your Daughter on the Stage, Mrs. Worthington." Opened June 10- closed September 5.
Cast: Twiggy, Harry Groener, Devised by: Sheridan Morley, Words & Music by: Noel Coward. Directed & Adapted by: Leigh Lawson, Settings & Costumes: Tony Walton, Choreography: Niki Harris. Musical Direction & Arrangements: Tom Fay.

September
The Museum of Television and Radio (http://www.mtr.org/) presented a comprehensive retrospective of films adapted from Coward’s plays, films Coward wrote, produced, directed, and scored, and films in which he appeared as an actor. “I’m not very keen on Hollywood,” a young Noël Coward wrote his mother, “I’d rather have a nice cup of cocoa.” Despite his reservations, Coward’s career in the “soul-destroying industry” would span four decades, producing some of the most important and celebrated films of wartime Britain and some wry acting performances after the war ended.

Among the highlights of the exhibition, presented in association with the Noël Coward Estate, were restored prints of his collaborations with David Lean (In Which We Serve, 1942, This Happy Breed, 1944, Blithe Spirit, 1945, and Brief Encounter, 1945); a seldom seen 1967 kinescope of Present Laughter, starring Peter O’Toole; and rare footage from the original London stage production of Bitter Sweet, filmed in 1929 by Pathé. Also featured were two silent adaptations by Michael Balcon’s Gainsborough Studios (Alfred Hitchcock’s Easy Virtue, 1927, and Graham Cutts' The Queen Was in the Parlour, 1927); the British adaptation of Bitter Sweet, directed in 1933 by Herbert Wilcox; and Cavalcade (1933), directed by Frank Lloyd and starring Diana Wynyard and Clive Brook.

Rounding out the program were four films with Coward the actor: as a seventeen-year-old boy pushing a wheelbarrow down a village street in D. W. Griffith’s Hearts of the World (1918); as a loutish, cynical young publisher in Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s The Scoundrel (1935, restored print); as the psychiatrist who embarks on an adulterous affair in Terence Fisher and Anthony Darnborough’s 1950 adaptation of Coward’s one-act play The Astonished Heart; and as Hawthorne, the consummate imbecile who so memorably recruits Alec Guinness into the British secret service in Carol Reed’s 1958 adaptation of Graham Greene’s Our Man in Havana. The scene from Havana was one of many that Coward would be accused of stealing, although he himself liked to call it “petty larceny.”

The Billy Rose Tribute to Noël Coward was organised by Joshua Siegel, Assistant Curator, Department of Film and Video. The Department gratefully acknowledged the participation of Barry Day, the co-author with Graham Payn of the biography 'My Life with Noël Coward', the editor of 'Noël Coward: The Complete Lyrics', and the author of the forthcoming 'Coward on Film' and 'Coward: A Life in Quotes'.

Bitter Sweet. 1933. Great Britain. Directed by Herbert Wilcox. 76 min.
Friday, September 24, 6:00 PM. Titus 1 Theater
Monday, September 27, 6:00 PM. Titus 1 Theater

Brief Encounter. 1945. Great Britain. Directed by David Lean. 85 min.
Cavalcade. 1933. USA. Directed by Frank Lloyd. 110 min.
Sunday, September 26, 2:30 PM. Titus 1 Theater
Monday, October 04, 2:30 PM. Titus 1 Theater

Easy Virtue. 1927. Great Britain. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. 80 min.
Friday, September 24, 2:30 PM. Titus 1 Theater
Saturday, October 02, 3:15 PM. Titus 1 Theater

Hearts of the World. 1918. USA. Directed by D. W. Griffith. 80 min.
Thursday, September 30, 2:30 PM. Titus 1 Theater
Saturday, October 02, 12:15 PM. Titus 1 Theater

In Which We Serve. 1942. Great Britain. Directed by David Lean and Coward. 114 min.
Journal de la résistance. (Journal of the Resistance). 1945. France. 35 min.
National Savings Trailer: Noel Coward and Leslie Howard. 1941. Great Britain. 2 min.
Total Running Time: 114 min.
Friday, September 24, 8:00 PM. Titus 1 Theater
Tuesday, September 28, 2:30 PM. Titus 1 Theater

The Queen Was in the Parlour (incomplete version). 1927.
Great Britain. Directed by Graham Cutts. 70 min.
Friday, September 24, 2:30 PM. Titus 1 Theater
Saturday, September 25, 5:00 PM. Titus 1 Theater

The Scoundrel. 1935. USA. Directed by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur. 75 min.
Thursday, September 30, 6:00 PM. Titus 1 Theater
Sunday, October 03, 1:00 PM. Titus 1 Theater

This Happy Breed. 1944. Great Britain. Directed by David Lean. 111 min.
Sunday, September 26, 5:00 PM. Titus 1 Theater
Tuesday, September 28, 6:00 PM. Titus 1 Theater

Screenings: Los Angeles: September 17 to October 21, 1999 Wednesdays to Sundays at 3:30 p.m. New York: September 17 to October 21, 1999 Tuesdays to Sundays at 2:30 p.m. September 17 to 23 Ford Star Jubilee 'Together with Music'. In this television debut, Noël Coward teams with Mary Martin for a no-frills evening of song and patter. Coward, who also served as director and writer, performs some of his wittiest compositions, including "Uncle Harry" and "Mad Dogs and Englishmen." In an uncharacteristic turn, he tributes his costar by singing "Deep in the Heart of Texas," then joins her for a medley including "Anything Goes" and "Shall We Dance?" With commercials. (1955; 90 min.)

September 24 to 30 Ford Star Jubilee
Blithe Spirit - Noël Coward directs himself in this television performance of his famed stage comedy. As writer Charles Condomine, he faces a supernatural dilemma when the spirit of his late first wife, Elvira (Lauren Bacall), materialises, determined to woo him away from his current spouse, Ruth (Claudette Colbert). Mildred Natwick appears as dotty spiritualist Madame Arcati. (1956; 75 min.)

October
The Billy Rose Tribute to Noël Coward

Blithe Spirit. 1945. Great Britain. Directed by David Lean. 96 min.
Friday, October 01, 2:30 PM. Titus 1 Theater
Tuesday, October 05, 2:30 PM. Titus 1 Theater

Our Man in Havana. 1959. Great Britain. Directed by Carol Reed. 107 min.
Sunday, October 03, 3:00 PM. Titus 1 Theater
Monday, October 04, 6:00 PM. Titus 1 Theater

Pathé film of Bitter Sweet (excerpts). 1929. Great Britain. 25 min.Silent.
Sunday, October 03, 5:00 PM. Titus 1 Theater

Present Laughter. 1967. Great Britain. Directed by Gordon Flemyng. 97 min.
Friday, October 01, 6:00 PM. Titus 1 Theater
5:00 PM. Titus 1 Theater

Goldenhurst I.. 1935. Great Britain. 5 min.
Hawaii. 1935. Great Britain/USA. 5 min.
Jamaica II. 1950. Great Britain/Jamaica.
Present Laughter. 1967. Great Britain. Directed by Gordon Flemyng. 97 min.
Riviera. 1935. Great Britain/France. 5 min.
Total Running Time: 127 min.
Sunday, October 03, 5:00 PM. Titus 1 Theater

The Astonished Heart. 1950. Great Britain. Directed by Terence Fisher and Anthony Darnborough. 89 min.
Friday, October 01, 8:30 PM. Titus 1 Theater
Saturday, October 02, 5:00 PM. Titus 1 Theater
Screenings: Los Angeles: September 17 to October 21, 1999 Wednesdays to Sundays at 3:30 p.m. New York: September 17 to October 21, 1999. October 1 to 7 Producers' Showcase Tonight at 8:30
Otto Preminger directs and introduces a trio of short Coward plays, each starring Ginger Rogers in her television debut. In Red Peppers, Rogers and Martyn Green play bickering musical hall entertainers. In Still Life, the playlet that inspired the classic film Brief Encounter, Trevor Howard and Rogers are two middle-aged people who begin an extramarital affair after a chance meeting at a railway cafe. Shadow Play finds Rogers and Gig Young in a surreal combination of drama and music, as a married couple facing a breakup and dreaming of their happier days. With commercials. (1954; 90 min.)

October 8 to 14 Ford Star Jubilee This Happy Breed
This adaptation of Noël Coward's wartime tribute to English resilience follows the lives of various members of one middle-class family in South London during a twenty-year period, from 1919 to 1939. Coward, shedding his usual urbane mannerisms, stars as the head of the household, Frank Gibbons. (1956; 90 min.)

October 15 to 21
Cowardly Delights Small World
At his home in Jamaica, Coward answers questions from host Edward R. Murrow and converses via satellite with actress Siobhan McKenna and author James Thurber. (1959; 10 min.)

What's My Line? In this segment from the popular game show, Coward shows up as the mystery guest.
(1964; 6 min.)

Androcles and the Lion
In two sequences from this original musical, Coward performs a pair of Richard Rodgers numbers, "The Emperor's Thumb" and "Don't Be Afraid of an Animal." (1967; 10 min.)

The Dick Cavett Show
Sir Noël is interviewed shortly after receiving his knighthood. (1970; 25 min.)

Camera Three: "Mad About the Boy" Noël Coward: A Celebration
This two-part tribute to Coward, described by the New York Times as "marvelously witty and entertaining," features performances by George Rose, Jean Marsh, Carole Shelley, and Kristoffer Tabori.
(1976; 55 min.)

Special Offers for Members in New York
Mad About the Boy: Noël Coward on Film
Mad About the Boy: Noël Coward on Television is part of a joint celebration with Mad About the Boy: Noël Coward on Film at BAM Rose Cinemas at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), 30 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn (September 17 to October 17).
October 15: Private Lives (1931; 82 min.)
October 16: Blithe Spirit (1945; 96 min.)
October 17: Design for Living (1933; 88 min.)

Opened 20th October 1999 ran until March 2000, 'Song at Twilight' at the Gielgud Theatre, London. Shortened version of the play directed by Sheridan Morley starring Corin and Vanessa Redgrave and Kika Markham.

November
November - December 1999. Museum Of Modem Art, New York, USA. Season of Coward films.
Commemorating Coward

1 - 2 November 1999. Birmingham University, England. The Noel Coward Centenary Conference. At the beginning of this month Birmingham University hosted the Noel Coward Centenary Conference to celebrate the University's designation as the final repository of the Noel Coward Archive. The archive, which includes working manuscripts and typescripts of most of Coward's plays, unpublished play texts, letters, scrapbooks, and theatrical memorabilia, is now housed in a number of locations in Switzerland and the UK. A bequest in the will of Coward's executor and long-time companion, actor Graham Payn, will place the archive on permanent loan in the University Library.

The first item of theatrical memorabilia from the archive - the ornamental sword used by actor Edmund Kean (1789-1833) in his performances as Richard III - was presented to the University at a special conference session.

Over a period of two days the conference brought together a distinguished group of scholars, journalists, and theatre practitioners to reassess Coward's contribution to the English stage. Participants included: Coward's accompanist, Peter Greenwell; Judy Campbell, who played opposite Coward in Present Laughter, This Happy Breed and Blithe Spirit; actors Corin Redgrave (A Song at Twilight, 1999) and Malcolm Sinclair (Hay Fever, 1999); directors Philip Franks (Private Lives, Royal National Theatre 1999), Christopher Newton (Shaw Festival, Canada), and Sue Wilson (BBC); theatre critic Michael Coveney (Daily Mail); Coward biographer Philip Hoare; playwright David Edgar; journalist and broadcaster Sheridan Morley; and senior academics from Cambridge University; King's College, London; and the Universities of Birmingham, Sheffield and Sussex. A volume of conference papers and interviews was published by Methuen in the autumn.

3 - 17 November 1999. Carnegie Hall (Weill Hall), New York USA. Elaine Stritch in Sail Away.
4 - 20 November 1999. Malvern Theatre Company (Melbourne, Australia) production of Present Laughter.
6 November 1999. Chicago Humanities Festival, USK Concert Performance of After The Ball
7 November 1999. Vera Fletcher Hall, Thames Ditton, UK. Noel Coward's Not Yet The Dodo recital by Tim Heath.
11 - 13 November 1999. Capitol Theatre, Horsham Arts Centre, Horsham UK Theatre 48's production of Present Laughter.
11 - 18 November 1999. Colonial Theatre, Boston, USA Production of Waiting In The Wings
14 November 1999. Battersea Arts Centre, Wandsworth, London, UK. Noel Coward's Not Yet The Dodo recital by Tim. Heath
18 - 20 November 1999. St. Joseph's Hall, Bournemouth Road, Parkstone, Poole, England. Amateur production of Blithe Spirit
Opens 24 November 1999. Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, Scotland. Production of Cavalcade, directed by Philip Prowse.
28 November 1999. The Chelsea Art Club, London, UK. Noel Coward's Not Yet The Dodo recital by Tim Heath.

December
National Film Theatre, London, England. Season of films with and by Noel Coward, curated by Sheridan Morley.
1 December 1999. Carnegie Hall, New York USA. Grand Charity Concert.
10 December 1999. The Maltings Theatre, St Albans, UK. Noel Coward's Not Yet The Dodo recital by Tim Heath
11 - 18 December 1999. Hampton Hill Playhouse, Hampton Hill, Surrey, UK. Teddington Theatre Clubs production of Relative Values Box Office.. 0208 979 2509 (Opens mid-November)
14 December 1999. The British Library, London, UK. Noel Coward's Not Yet The Dodo recital by Tim Heath
15 - 16 December 1999.
'The Swallows', Station St., Port Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. 'An Evening With Noel Coward', starring Sally Ann Wilson, Barry James & Ed Bailey. Bookings may be made by telephoning (03) 9646 2746.
16 December 1999. Broadway Opening. Production of Waiting In The Wings.
16 December 1999, 7.15pm. Teddington Theatre Club, Hampton Hill Playhouse. Unveiling of a portrait of Coward, inaugurating the Noel Coward Room at the club's new home at the Hampton Hill Playhouse. "Relative Values"
16 - 18 December 1999. The Mill Studio, Guildford, UK Noel Coward's Not Yet The Dodo recital by Tim Heath
On December 16th, Noel Coward’s birthday, New York celebrated with an all-star concert "Mad About The Boy" at Carnegie Hall featuring such stars as Diana Rigg, Lynn Redgrave, Bobby Short, Barbara Cook, Helen Hunt, Andrea Marcovicci and Cleo Laine, among many others. Produced by Donald Smith for The Mabel Mercer Foundation.

Noel Coward events in New York included a concert production of "Sail Away" featuring its original star, Elaine Stritch, in six performances in Weill Recital Hall as part of Carnegie Hall’s continuing Musical Theatre program. A Noel Coward Professional Development Workshop for Teachers coincided with "Sail Away."