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Home Chat - March 2000
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January February March (this page)

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 time.

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 trace them.
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.

Gareth Pike

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.

Relative Values
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 through.
From it I have taken these Production Notes:
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 wants."
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 exciting project."
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."

Gareth Pike

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.
Does Anyone Know?
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 Gielgud 1999
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 Lives.
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! 
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