Paul Stancato Discusses Noël Coward

February 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

Noël Coward Photo

Posted by George Grantham Bain Collection

The English playwright Noël Coward began acting at the age of seven and quickly developed a reputation for excellence. His first solo-written play was produced when he was 18, and he starred in his own play, a comedy titled I’ll Leave It to You, at the age of 20. The latter ran for a month and met with mixed, though generally positive, reviews. Four years later, in 1924, Coward finished The Vortex, his first commercially successful play, which garnered overwhelmingly enthusiastic reviews from critics. The shocking play bluntly depicted the sexual escapades and drug use rampant in the upper classes at the time, surprising and amusing audiences in the United States and the United Kingdom. The following year, Coward solidified his place among the great playwrights of the time with Fallen Angels and Hay Fever. Today, many recognize Hay Fever as a classic and one of Coward’s most enduring plays.

Coward’s success continued until World War II, at which point he quit writing to take on official government duties. After the war, he began to author new plays, but none of them achieved the popularity of his prewar hits. Not discouraged, Coward continued to produce play after play until, in the 1950s, he became a star again for several hit films, including Around the World in 80 Days, Our Man in Havana, and later, The Italian Job. Coward’s newfound popularity endured until his death in 1973. In 1969, Coward was knighted in recognition of his contributions to popular culture. Today, theaters around the world continue to produce many of his works, such as Private Lives, Present Laughter, and Design for Living.

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