Noel Coward Society is the trading name of Noel Coward Ltd, a
company wholly owned by the Noel Coward Foundation, a registered
charity. The Society is autonomous, run by an executive committee
- Home Chat - March 2000
on the month you wish to view
- January February March (this
- Do you know
of anyone who might have been at Silverlands?
- One of the charities that was
very close to Noël's heart was the Actors' Orphanage. He
was President from 1934 to 1956. Now one of our members, Susannah
Slater, was a child at the orphanage, Silverlands, in the 1950's,
and she needs our help to trace anyone who was at the Silverlands
(or its Rutland Gate outpost for older children) at about that
She is planning a reunion at The Boat House, Chertsey, South
West of London, on the 8th-10th September 2000. The Boat House
used to be The Chertsey Bridge Hotel where lucky children from
Silverlands were taken by visiting relatives for a Sunday tea.
The reunion weekend promises to be quite an event, with Lord
(Richard) Attenborough and others from The Actors' Charitable
Trust (which took over from the Orphanage) hoping to be there.
It would be a pity if some missed it because we couldn't help
Susannah has many memories of Noël and her time at the orphanage:
"I myself remember being picked to present the bouquet to
Mary Martin when she and Noël opened at the Café
de Paris in 1952. The excitement of having a dress specially
made for the occasion which led me to forever after being called
'Little Miss Nylon', and the terror of having to trip down those
stairs without falling and doing my best curtsey."
So if you know of anyone who might have been at Silverlands,
then do make sure they get in touch with Susannah at Vicarage
Cottage, Church Lane, Henfield, West Sussex, BN5 9NY. Telephone
+44 (0)1273 492743. She is already in touch with some from the
USA and Australia and other parts of the world. But there are
still plenty more to find. I know this isn't easy; people no
do necessarily let it be known that they were in an orphanage
so go carefully. However, many have gone into theatre or are
associated in some way, so they may be closer to you than you
realise. Please see what you can do to help.
- Noël's Party
House - an article in the Daily Mail (Saturday 23 Sep, 2000)
on the Actor's Orphanage at Silverlands - interviews with Susannah
Slater, Granville Bantock, Pauline Spurling and an ex housemaster
Canon David Slater and his wife Kirsten.
- The film is due for release
in June of this year. The Society is in touch with the production
company, and we are beginning to exchange some ideas on how we
might be involved in the release of this film, so important in
our world. Some of the publicity material is beginning to trickle
- From it I have taken these Production
- Relative Values is director
Eric Styles' second feature. The screenplay by Paul Rattigan
and Michael Walker is an adaptation of Noel Coward's classic
theatrical production of the same name. Rattigan, an ex-actor,
actually played the role of Nigel, the Earl of Marshwood in a
West End production of the play, which was when he first realised
its great potential for film. "We started work on the screenplay
in 1996, once we had ascertained that the rights were still available
from the Coward Estate. We then took the script down to the Cannes
Film Festival 1997 and sold the idea to the Overseas Film Group."
- Whilst in Cannes they bumped
into the producer of Relative Values, Christopher Milburn. Rattigan
was already acquainted with Milburn having starred in one of
his previous films, Caught in the Act. Milburn loved the script
and was determined to get the project off the ground. He felt
that "Coward's writing was as relevant today as the 1950s.
Relative Values is funny and witty and doesn't feel dated even
though it is a period piece."
- He approached Eric Styles with
whom he had just completed their last film Dreaming of Joseph
Lees for Fox Searchlight, to direct it. "Eric is an extraordinarily
talented director. He has a great visual talent as well as being
able to work with actors and make them achieve exactly what he
- For Styles, directing Coward's
heightened satire of the British class system "was a voyage
of discovery. Most of my previous work has been more gritty and
realistic so making a film about this crazy, implausible situation
happening in a country house in Kent with aristocrats in the
fifties was a wonderful challenge. Once we began to attract our
fantastic cast, the whole thing snowballed and became a really
- Styles knew he could make the
material relevant to a modern day audience. "The film works
for a contemporary audience because the madness of the whole
situation is so appealing - it doesn't have any of the stuffiness
you'd normally associate with this sort of piece."
- Relative Values has an incredible
all-star cast which includes (in alphabetical order) the legendary
Julie Andrews, Edward Atterton, William Baldwin, Colin Firth,
Stephen Fry, Sophie Thompson and Jeanne Tripplehorn.
- Styles and Milburn spent a long
time in conjunction with the casting director Celestia Fox ensuring
they had the perfect actors and actresses for the roles.
Styles was delighted when "Julie Andrews became one of the
first actresses to commit to the project. This was entirely due
to the fact that the script was very good. The writers had worked
on it for nearly two years to turn what was a good play into
a really rich, vibrant, playful, dynamic screenplay which all
of the actors loved. Once Julie was on board it became an amazing
magnet for all the other cast. The whole mystery and intrigue
that surrounds Julie's iconic status was irresistible. At first
I found it a little intimidating but she is so incredibly generous
and giving, with an energy and enthusiasm that just knocks your
socks off, that I soon forgot about my initial nerves. As a director
I was blown away by the level of insight she had, not only into
her character but the whole piece."
- The second member of the cast
to come on board was Sophie Thompson who plays the pivotal role
of Moxie, the Countess of Marshwood's personal maid. "Relative
Values is Moxie's story", says Styles. "It's about
a woman who is going through a huge amount of pain because she
is being forced to leave her employer and the family that she
loves. Moxie plays a very central role in the film and hence
finding the right actress to play her was of great importance.
We needed someone who was both engaging and endearing so that
the audience would feel for her predicament. When we saw Sophie
Thompson we knew that she was perfect for the role. She had all
the qualities we required in addition to a lightness, sincerity
and humility that just added to the character."
- For the roles of Don Lucas and
Miranda Frayle, Styles chose American actors. "The Americans
were very interesting casting. It's difficult to get big American
stars to work on moderate budget British films, so you have to
find actors who are really committed to the project and enter
into the spirit of things. We were incredibly lucky getting Jeanne
Tripplehorn and William Baldwin, who had an energy and a way
of working which differentiated them from the British cast and
gives the piece a real edge and dynamism. They were absolutely
great and not at all afraid of sending themselves up which was
important with a piece about the craziness of actors, their vanity
and their self-importance."
- It was not only the casting
that required a great deal of time and effort. The Marshwood
House location and the set and costume design had to evoke the
perfect atmosphere and style of post-war Britain.
- The Nunnery, an imposing mansion
on the Isle of Man was chosen as Marshwood. The site was originally
a nunnery in the eleventh century and the beautiful house that
now stands there, was designed by the Bath architect John Pinch
in the 1820's.
- Production Designer Humphrey
Jaeger and Costume Designer Nick Ede were chosen for their skill
and ability to make Styles' ideas reality.
- Filming was completed on September
10th 1999 after a six-week shoot on the Isle of Man.
- "Michael Imison, our
Chairman, has seen the film. He tells me that they have expanded
the story, but that this has strengthened it (and, in fairness,
it wasn't one of the Master's strongest plays). He also told
me that Sophie Thompson is the best Moxie he has ever seen. We
will all be able to judge if he is right in June."
- Coward comes
in 2nd - Twice!
- The Stage Newspaper (the UK
equivalent of Variety) held a millennium poll. Not surprisingly,
William Shakespeare came in as Number One. Noël Coward came
second. The first twelve winners were:
1. William Shakespeare
2. Noël Coward
3. Andrew Lloyd Webber
4= Bertolt Brecht
4= Sir Henry Irving
6= Laurence Olivier
6= Cameron Mackintosh
8. Konstantin Stanislavski
9= Henrik Ibsen
9= Oscar Wilde
11= Stephen Sondheim
11= George Bernard Shaw
- In a separate poll, the British
Film Institute asked 1000 constituents to name the greatest 100
British movies of all time: The Third Man (1949) directed by
Carol Reed came in as Number One. Then Brief Encounter (1945)
directed by David lean came second.
- Coward chose well when he chose
David Lean for In Which We Serve (which came 92nd incidentally),
as Lean's Lawrence of Arabia was third, his Great Expectations
was fifth, his Bridge of the River Kwai came eleventh, Doctor
Zhivago was twenty-seventh and Oliver Twist was forty-sixth.
- One of our members came across
this quote from Sir John Gielgud about Coward. It is obviously
recent, but where and when did he say it?
- "My memories of Noël
from 1923 when I first got to know him, are far too many, with
nostalgic events in both our versatile careers. It was hateful
to begin to see him falter as I watched him slowly, but inevitably
begin to age. His impeccable sense of timing never completely
left him. His manners were always impeccable and his enthusiasm
for everything to do with the theatre never failed to charm and
enthral his audience, right to the very end." Sir John
- Hon. President's
Life in Photographs
- Sir John Mills, with his son
Jonathan, has written an autobiography in photographs. Published
by Hutchinson, London at £20.
- Always a keen photographer,
John Mills just took photographs wherever he went, working or
at leisure. Many of them were thought to be lost, when his son
discovered a cache of over 5000 transparencies in two mouse eaten
boxes in the attic of his parent's home. Many of the slides were
damaged beyond hope, but some survived. That discovery led to
the two of them putting together this unique record of over 60
years of working in cinema and theatre.
- In his time, Sir John has worked
with many of the great names. Of course, from our point of view,
Noël may be the one that takes our attention. But they are
all there; Laurence Olivier and Vivien Lee, Rex Harrison, David
Niven, James Mason, Frank Sinatra, David Lean, Walt Disney, Douglas
Fairbanks, Errol Flynn, Montgomery Clift, Richard Attenborough,
Danny Kaye, Bob Hope, Tyrone Power, John Gielgud, the list goes
on and on.For anyone who has memories of at least some of those
years, this book is wonderful nostalgic trip through our yesteryears.
- For some of us, the last time
we saw Sir John on stage was at the Centenary Celebrations at
the Savoy Theatre in London. On that occasion, he was wearing
the dressing gown that Noël wore in 1930 on stage in Private
- In the book he tells its story:
- The first time I met Stephen
Fry was on my eighty-fifth birthday. A lot of people came to
my party at Hills House. Stephen arrived and put a package on
the hall table with the other presents, and I thanked him. We
had a very good party and, as always, the actors were the last
to leave. Stephen was the very last. On the way out, he said
"Would you like to open your present now?" I thought
it would be a bottle of something, but I opened the bag and it
was Noël Coward's dressing gown, the one I'd seen him play
Private Lives in, back in 1930. I couldn't believe it. It had
been in an auction of his memorabilia and Stephen must have paid
a packet for it. It was such a thoughtful thing to do. Noël
was the single most important person in my career. Anyway, Stephen
asked what I was going to do with it and I said I was going to
put it in a glass case. Right now it is hanging on the back of
the loo door!