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Creator / NoŽl Coward

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"Just say the lines and don't trip over the furniture!"

Noël Peirce Coward (1899Ė1973) was a British playwright, most active in the twenties and thirties. Known for comedies featuring the upper class.

In World War II, he talked Winston Churchill into making him an agent for British intelligence, and proved to be surprisingly good at it; his reputation as a comic celebrity helped loosen a lot of lips of the enemy. In the fifties he had a resurgence as a singer, singing his own comic songs.

He was also an actor, mostly on stage, but with several film roles, including a memorable turn as the criminal mastermind Mr Bridger in the original The Italian Job. He gave director David Lean his big break, asking the then-editor to co-direct his war film In Which We Serve.

The other thing that's inevitably going to come up at some point is that he was as camp as a row of tents, and although he refused to discuss his private life while he was alive, nobody was much surprised when his authorized biographer confirmed after his death that he was gay.

Works by Noël Coward include:

Other works by Noël Coward provide examples of:

  • Bestiality Is Depraved: One of the Old India Hands mentioned in "I Wonder What Happened To Him":
    He got chucked out of the club in Bombay,
    for, apart from his mess bills exceeding his pay,
    he took to... "pig-sticking" note ... in quite the wrong way.
    I wonder what happened to him?
  • Childhood Brain Damage: Another old India hand from "I Wonder What Happened To Him", Munro, was "mentally dim", the reason quoted as being "dropped on his head by his ayah" at age two.
  • Drowning Our Romantic Sorrows: Tom and George empty a decanter of brandy this way in Design for Living.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Coward's humorous works contain an abundance of blatant references to homosexuality and genderqueer lifestyles which seem to have completely passed the censors at the time by.
  • Land Poor: Coward tackled the topic in The Stately Homes of England.
    The stately homes of England, how beautiful they stand
    To prove the upper classes maintain the upper hand
    Though the fact that they have to be rebuilt
    And frequently mortgaged to the hilt
    Is inclined to take the gilt
    Off the gingerbread and certainly damps the fun
    Of the eldest son
    Still we won't be beaten, we'll scrimp and scrape and save
    The playing fields of Eton have made us frightfully brave
    And although the Van Dycks have to go and we've pawned the Bechstein Grand
    We'll stand by the stately homes of England
  • List Song: "I've Been to a Marvellous Party" and "Mad Dogs and Englishmen", among others.
  • Stage Mom: "(Don't Put Your Daughter On The Stage,) Mrs. Worthington" is addressed to a stage mother whose aspirations are greater than her daughter's potential.
  • Stiff Upper Lip: "There Are Bad Times Just Around The Corner" subverts it with a vengeance.
  • Upper-Class Twit: The four lords from The Stately Homes of England:
    We know how Caesar conquered Gaul
    Apart from this our education lacks co-ordination.

Noël Coward in fiction:


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