Playwright, novelist, composer, librettist, dancer, painter, singer, comedian, manager, producer and director. Noël Coward (1899 – 1973).
Born in 1899, Noël Coward was raised as a working class boy in the London suburb of Teddington. His father was an unsuccessful piano salesman with little personal ambition, resulting in often poor family finances. From a young age, Coward possessed a natural intelligence; he was an avid reader and instinctive performer with an insatiable ambition to learn and succeed.
Encouraged by his mother to attend a dance academy in London, Coward entered into the professional world of theatre at the age of 12. From this point on, his writing and acting career swiftly flourished and he gradually became acquainted with a different class of people.
Coward’s presence in the public eye turned him into a celebrity in his own right across both the UK and USA. The media avidly followed and reported on Coward’s plays and public appearances, elevating his celebrity status significantly as his career continued to develop.
Despite his high-profile persona and arguably lavish lifestyle, Coward was fundamentally a man who loved all artistic forms and possessed a work ethic like no other. He immersed himself in work from the age of 10, which can be seen from the canon of work he produced throughout his lifetime; his final verse was written only days before he died.
Consequently, Coward became known as ‘The Master’ by many of his contemporaries and fans. A quote from Lord Louis Mountbatten on Coward’s 70th birthday perhaps best sums this up:
‘There are probably greater painters than Noël, greater novelists than Noël, greater librettists, greater composers of music, greater singers, greater dancers, greater comedians, greater tragedians, greater stage producers, greater film directors, greater cabaret stars, greater TV stars. If there are, they are 14 different people. Only one man combined all 14 labels – The Master.’