Anecdotes
From Cornwall and Lynne Lewis of the marvellousparty email list:
We have a little claim to Noël Coward through the holidays he used to take here at nearby Charlestown, as a young boy. He later donated a fine bell to the local church to commemorate this. All the other bells are called for archangels but Noël's bell is named "Noël!"
 
From Ray Stanley and sent to Marvellous Party email list.
"In 'Being and Becoming', the excellent autobiography authored by Myrna Loy and James Kotsilibas-Davis, Myrna writes that Coward tried to borrow her from M-G-M to play Elvira in the film version of Blithe Spirit - "a role I was born to play. It was my part. Remember the scene where she materializes, sees her rival's garden, and says, 'It looks like an old salad'? Oh, it's a wonderful part.M-G-M wouldn't let me go." (P.192).
 
Myrna would have been perfect for Amanda in Private Lives. M-G-M, who frequently remade some of their films, never did so with P.L. It would have been a good vehicle for the Powell-Loy team. When I interviewed Coward in 1963 I asked if he had sold the film rights to certain plays, in particular Present Laughter. "I think that would make a very good picture", he said, "but you'd have to have a marvellous comedian to play it. It'd be wonderful for Rex Harrison or for Cary Grant". "You wouldn't do it yourself?" I queried. "I think I'm a bit long in the tooth for that now!" he replied.
 
When playwright Noël Coward ran into novelist Edna Ferber and both were wearing nearly identical suits, he said, "Edna, you look almost like a man." "So do you," she replied. [quoted in The American Women's Almanac, Louise Bernikow]
 
"I’ll go through life either first class or third, but never in second." NY Post 28 Mar 1973
 
From: Peg Cartwright, San Francisco
I am an avid Bea Lillie fan - and am forever grateful that I got
to see her on stage when I lived in NYC - those marvelous pearls!! My
favorite story is this: Bea was questioned at a party if she was wearing "the
Peel pearls." When she answered in the affirmative, the questioner said, "You know, you can tell if they're real by biting them." Bea's immediate answer was "Yes darling, but not with false teeth!" God she was fast and funny!
 
We have had some interesting emails from Ray Stanley who was a reporter at the time of Marlene Dietrich's visit to Australia. He points out some corrections to Murray Matheson's version of events below and also includes a couple of Coward anecdotes:
 
"There are some inaccuracies in the Anecdotes item of Murray Matheson's comments on Marlene Dietrich in Australia. As always Dietrich was impeccably dressed and made up when she arrived at Sydney Airport, before proceeding to Melbourne, and she certainly did not hit the girl reporter with her handbag. Two years later, in Adelaide, she slapped a TV reporter three times on the cheek. The incident with the girl reporter occurred at the very beginning of her first Aussie tour, and she certainly gave several interviews after that. One in fact was with myself - and she even took me out to supper one night after her performance! The incident with Coward occurred the previous year, and was with a male reporter!"
 
"As regards anecdotes about the Man himself. One I've always liked - but now can't recall the sources of hearing it, although there were several - about when, in the early sixties, he was spending a week-end with the Oliviers at Brighton. One day one of the children, who was looking out of the window, said: "Uncle Noël - what are those two dogs doing in the street?" Actually one was mounting the other. Quick as a flash Coward said: "Well, you see the dog in front is blind and the other one is pushing him all the way to St. Dunstan's!"
 
"And another anecdote: In 1953 Anna Neagle made a l2 inch 78 featuring some of the songs she sang in her show The Glorious Days, numbers such as Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes, K-K-Kaaty, Keep The Home Fires Burning, etc. etc. Coward thought it was all pretty dreadful and sent his friends copies of it at Christmas as a joke. Husband Herbert Wilcox heard about this, was furious, and bought up all the remaining copies. So to-day the record is pretty rare and very much a collector's item. I was told all this by an actor friend who has worked at the BBC a lot. The BBC have a copy of the record in their library."
Noël Coward once remarked that "having to read a footnote resembles having to go downstairs to answer the door while in the midst of making love.''

Murray Matheson tells a story about an Australian reporter: "Marlene (Dietrich) hadn't bothered to change her clothes or make-up because she thought she was having her press reception at her suite in the hotel. But as she arrived at the airport, they were all there waiting like carrion to catch her, and as she was just walking into the airport, a horrible girl reporter, about 21, poised and screamed at her, "When are you going to retire, Marlene.'

And she was so horrified, she hit the girl with her handbag and never gave another interview in Australia apart from one in which she fell in love with the man and gave lots of interviews. But anyway, this same girl was waiting for Noël, I'm sure, when he arrived and he kept rather an icy silence until he went to the hotel, but she came into the elevator with him and fixed him with a beady eye and said, "Oh, go on, Mr. Coward, say something witty!" And he arched an eyebrow and said, "Kangaroo!"

And another about Coward and Vivien Leigh: "Oh, I think it was Titus Andronicus, but anyway, it was the one where she had her hands cut off, and she was very nervous, and she had to build a fire with lots of faggots - which in England are sticks for building the fire. And she knew Noël was in front and she was so nervous and she only had stumps and she couldn't pick the sticks up. She kept dropping them. However, she did eventually get the fire to light and waited in trepidation for Noël to come back to her dressing room and. as he came in, he just said, "Butterstumps!"
 
Radie Harris recalled the suicide of an actor whose I.Q. was considered by his colleagues to be not much larger than his hat size, and when Coward learned of it, he asked, "How did he kill himself?" "With a gun," he was told. "He blew his brains out." Whereupon Coward said, "He must have been a marvellous shot."
 
Marti Stevens tells this story: "Wilton's you probably know is just about the most expensive restaurant in London. So old Michael (Wilding) figured he'd fork out the lolly and ask Sir Noël, and he very nicely said - he mumbled - Michael mumbled a lot, so he often missed his turn, and Maggie was the translator. "Mikey says you should have the woodcock Noëly." But actually, Noël was longing for fish, but he was the guest so he said, "Okay fine." So now he gets this bird, old bird, and he's sawing away at this thing and the maitre d' came by and said, "Sir Noël, I hope you find this satisfactory. I hope you found no shot in it." Noël looked up and he said, "No, no, thank you. The bird died a natural death!" The maitre d' goes away and poor old Noël is still sawing away at this old bird, you see, and finally looked at Maggie and he said, "You see, darling, the whole problem tonight is there's far too much wood and not enough cock!"
 
Coward to Jeremy Brett: "Dear boy don't boom out to the audience. Don't go out. Bring them to your teeth. Make them come to you."

Noël Coward - Actor's Service Records Displayed
Coward went in to the army in March 1918, when he had turned 18, and was described on enlistment as 'Actor'. He served as a private in the 28th ('Artists Rifles') Battalion London Regiment. Regimental number 767872. Coward soon went sick with 'neurasthenia', and was described as being 'pale, shaky and nervy, can't stand any noises'. He never saw service overseas, and had been discharged by the end of August. He received an allowance of 8 shillings and three pence for 13 weeks after discharge, although a medical report described his illness as 'hereditary'. He had suffered ill health as a child, and in these papers puts some of the blame on a childhood accident, when he suffered concussion after being knocked off his bicycle at the age of 9. Perhaps this is an early case of the current vogue for blaming family conditioning, since there is one telling comment - 'Family history bad'. However, his military character was 'good, steady and well conducted'. He received a Silver War Badge. None of these details are recorded in Coward's DNB entry, although his biographies have not been examined.
 
Leslie's Grade Organisation was at the centre of an 'octopus', owning 50 cinemas and half a dozen agencies whose clients included Olivier, Ralph Richardson, John Gielgud, Noël Coward, Julie Christie, Albert Finney etc. Lew Grade's ATV owned Palladium, Drury Lane & Lyric Theatres. Bernard Delfont also owned string of theatres.
 
In 1970 actress Tammy Grimes won a Tony Award for her performance in Private Lives (Revival)
 
Noël Coward is the model for the character Beverly Carlton in The Man Who Came to Dinner, (1939), by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman.
 
"Noël Coward was the Bruce Springsteen, the Bruce Willis of his Day". Joanna Lumley, as reported by The Independent: The Weekend Review, 12th. December, 1998, page 4.
 
There is a Blue Plaque at 131 Waldegrave Road, Teddington where Noël Coward was born. Another Blue Plaque is 56 Lenham Road, Sutton where he lived.
 
In 1999 Noël Coward's archive of 60 plays and more than 300 popular songs was bequeathed to Birmingham University by his longtime companion, Graham Payn.
 
Judas's march-past by Philip Hoare in The Times Literary Supplement, 10th. December, 1999, page 19. A review of a production at Citizens' Theatre, Glasgow. " . . . it was Cavalcade that turned the intelligentsia against Coward. Up to that point, Virginia Woolf, among others, had confessed herself 'in love' with the decorative ornament of the salons of Ladies Colefax and Cunard. When Coward published his anti-war polemic, Post-Mortem, just a year before Cavalcade, it seemed he was playing up to their expectations, ready to rub along with the Pylon Boys of the next decade. But Cavalcade destroyed all that. 'A play which makes me rage', thundered Ethel Mannin, objecting to such obsequious class portrayal; Sean O'Casey called it 'but the march-past of the hinder parts of England, her backside draped with a Union Jack'. Even the cat-loving Beverley Nichols was minded to snap, 'That play is about the finest essay in betrayal since Judas Iscariot', arguing that Coward had written the play to ingratiate himself with the middle classes - presumably the same people who bought the serialisation of the play in the Daily Mail (as with the rest of his output, Coward was an adept self-publicist)."
 
HRH The Prince Edward unveiled a statue of Sir Noël 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 Noël Coward estate. Cabaret artist Steve Ross sang Noël Coward’s most famous song, "Mad Dogs And Englishmen". Jeannie Lehmann, currently 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.
Noël 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 Noël Coward Professional Development Workshop for Teachers coincided with "Sail Away."
On December 16th, Noël 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.
 
Raise statues to people, not concepts, by Ian Jack in The Independent, 12th. December, 1998, page 7. "His old friend, the Queen Mother, unveiled him last week. He also flaunts a cigarette - this may now be his most daring aspect - and we meet him, like Wilde, at the same level. No need to look up. Coward sits down while Shakespeare in another corner stands above us, pointing with a quill at a manuscript."
 
The two faces of Noël by Sheridan Morley in The Sunday Times, 8th. August, 1999, page 8. "What has been most intriguing to me is the way we have opened up old confrontations. In his lifetime, Noël always had an avid audience of admirers around the world, but also an often equally vocal band of critics who objected sometimes to the 'jack-of-all-trades, Master-of-most' spread of his talent to amuse and sometimes the false idea that he was an apologist for the bright young things or the stately homes of England."
"Plays and characters that seem on the surface to be created in support of the pre-war status quo are actually lethally critical of it, just as many of Cole Porter's lyrics are a savage attack on the privileged community that sang them to each other, apparently mindless of their true content."
 
Coward was wrong: Millennial poll remembers him among stage greats by Clare Garner in The Independent, 7th. January, 2000, page 7. "The Stage's millennium poll was compiled from a survey in which readers were asked to nominate their top three figures from the worlds of theatre, light entertainment, film and broadcasting. Among those who offered suggestions were Chris Smith, the Secretary of State for Culture, the actors Maureen Lipman and Sir Donald Sinden, the radio presenter and raconteur Ned Sherrin, the writer Malcolm Bradbury, Nicholas Payne, artistic director of the English National Opera, and Hilary Strong, director of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe."
"In one of the more refined surveys among a welter of such polls, Shakespeare is regarded as the most influential artist of the last millennium."
"In second place was the British dramatist, composer, actor and producer Sir Noël Coward, who would have been heartened by his ranking, given that he said in the Sixties that the one thing he feared about death was that: 'I won't be remembered'."
"Lord Lloyd-Webber's rival Sir Cameron Mackintosh came joint sixth with Lord Olivier, but had his revenge by coming top of this year's Stage 100 poll, which is based on informal questioning of leading figures from the theatre industry and aims to identify Britain's top theatre name of the moment."
" . . . Oscar Wilde and the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen shared ninth place, with Stephen Sondheim, lyricist for West Side Story, and the playwright George Bernard Shaw joint eleventh."

 Copyright - The Noel Coward Society - 2004
 
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