Noel Coward by Sheridan Morley

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The Independent Culture

The credit list for those whose voices are heard in Sheridan Morley's "audio biography" reads like a survey of 20th century theatre, and nothing could so neatly make the point that Sir Noel Coward was inextricably bound up in it. John Gielgud, Joyce Grenfell, Laurence Olivier, and many others recall their memories of Teddington's blithest spirit – a unique man who came from nowhere and ended up as a household name. He wrote over 50 plays and 20 films, nearly 400 songs, countless poems, short stories and sketches. Not all of them were good, but enough are so hauntingly unforgettable that since I listened to the cassettes I have had phrases of "I'll see you again", "Don't put your daughter on the stage, Mrs Worthington" running through my head. Coward's talents lay somewhere between those of Gilbert and Sullivan and Oscar Wilde. But he was subtler than the first and less self-important than the second. Morley doesn't give his own view of Coward; he lets us hear from those who knew him and from Coward himself – singing and acting in his own inimitable way.