English Cultural Icon: NoŽl Coward (1899-1973)

Figure 1.--Here we see NoŽl Coward havuing fun with a group of kids at a piano. We re not sure what the circumstances were. It looks kike after Workd War II, perhaps about 1950. The baloons and party hats suggest that it is his birthday.

NoŽl Coward was born in in Teddington, Middlesex, a London suburb 1899). One biographer we think described him best, "Noel Coward virtually invented the concept of Englishness ...." His father was Arthur Sabin Coward (1856Ė1937), a not very sucessful piano salesman. His mother was Violet Agnes Coward (1863Ė1954) daughter of Henry Gordon Veitch, a captain and surveyor in the Royal Navy. And there was an army connection. His mother's cousin, Rachel Veitch, was the mother of World War I Field-Marshal Douglas Haig, the major British military figure on the Wesern Friont. NoŽl second of their three sons born close together. He proved to be an amazingly gifted cultural figure, active in the created arts. He began as an actor at 6 years of age and then added artist (painter), author, dramatist, composer, and lyracist to his accomplishments. The British loved him best for his wit and he was at the center of the inter-war cultural dynamic. It was an generation shattered by World War I and then thrown into the Roaring Twenties. His greatest innovatiom was using naturalistic conversation in his plays, a major reason they continue to be popular in the 21st century. And he dealt honestly with controversial topics, including homosexuality, showing him way ahead of his times. He has been called the first British pop star. He explified urbane culture, but unlike American coastal elites did not dislike his country or the men and women who protected it. His World War II film, 'In which we serve' (1942) has to be one of the finest films about the Royal Navy. His urbanbe humor was a bit old fashioned after the War ad he opriceeded to reinvent himself. A testament to his talent is that his songs and plays are still popular today.


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Created: 8:09 PM 10/2/2018
Last updated: 8:10 PM 10/2/2018