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The Letters of Noel Cowardby Noel Coward
Synopses & Reviews
A publishing event! The first and definitive collection of letters (most of them previously unpublished) both from and to the incomparable Noël Coward, a unique and irresistible portrait of a society and age—from the Blitz to the Ritz and beyond.
The range, charm, and vitality of his talents—he was a playwright, actor, composer, librettist, lyricist, director, painter, writer, cabaret singer, wit—brought him into close encounters, and often close friendship, with the great and the gifted. He knew everybody who was anybody in the theater and in the movies, in literature and in politics, on both sides of the Atlantic.
Among those at his “marvelous party”: George Bernard Shaw . . . T. E. Lawrence . . . Virginia Woolf . . . the Churchills . . . Daphne Du Maurier . . . Greta Garbo (she wrote asking him to marry her; he wrote back saying he almost accepted) . . . Ian Fleming . . . W. Somerset Maugham . . . Marlene Dietrich (he advised her, “To hell with God damned ‘LAmour. It always causes far more trouble than it is worth”) . . . Tallulah Bankhead . . . Edith Sitwell . . . FDR . . . Gertrude Lawrence (in a cable about Private Lives: “Have written delightful new comedy stop good part for you stop wonderful one for me stop”), and many more.
There are letters about his productions of Bitter Sweet . . . Cavalcade . . . In Which We Serve . . . Brief Encounter . . . Private Lives, etc. . . . about his activities during World War II (he was a spy for the British government along with co-conspirator Cary Grant) . . . about the move to make him a knight that was endorsed in a personal letter from King George VI and blocked by Winston Churchill. Here are letters to and from his beloved mother, Violet . . . his longtime set and costume designer, Gladys Calthrop . . . his traveling companion from the 1930s on, Lord Amherst . . . and his business manager and onetime lover, Jack Wilson, in which he reveals his “secret heart.”
Profoundly savvy, witty, loving, bitchy, and often surprisingly moving, The Letters of Noël Coward gives us “Destinys Tot” at his crackling best. An irresistible portrait of a time, of the man himself, and of the world he lived in and enchanted.
Book News Annotation:
He was the epitome of style and wit, and he knew everybody. Judging from his letters to illuminati ranging from Shaw to Du Maurier to Woolf, he was also catty (on Clifton Webb: "It must be rough to be orphaned at 71"), conflicted (he almost accepted Garbo's marriage proposal), opportunistic (why not, when his correspondents included Churchill and Mountbatten) and a master appropriator, even going so far as to underline words in the manner of Queen Victoria. Biographer and dramatist Day provides an elegant framework for the frequently hilarious interplay of words on both sides of the equation and gives significant contexts for the enormous amount of work Coward did between writing letters. Day's choices provide fascinating insights into Coward's theatrical and film productions, his frequently contentious relations with his casts and crews, and his secret heart, as expressed to his business manager and one-time lover, Jack Wilson. Annotation ©2008 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
The definitive collection of letters of the incomparable Coward reveals a unique and irresistible portrait of a society and age--from the Blitz to the Ritz. Profoundly savvy, witty, and often surprisingly moving, this collection presents the artist at his crackling best. Illustrations throughout.
About the Author
Barry Day was born in England and received his M.A. from Balliol College, Oxford. In addition to his seven previous books on Noël Coward, Day has written about Dorothy Parker, Oscar Wilde, Johnny Mercer, and Rodgers and Hart. He has written and produced plays and musical revues showcasing the work of Coward, the Lunts, Oscar Wilde, Dorothy Parker, and others. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a Trustee of the Noël Coward Foundation and was awarded the Order of the British Empire. He lives in New York, London, and Palm Beach.
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