Sad About the Boy: Noel Coward

Noel Coward, born 100 years ago next week, is largely unsung, but shouldn't be

Anyone assembling a roster of artistic types who shaped the 20th century aesthetic could do worse than a team comprising Duke Ellington, Fred Astaire, Ernest Hemingway, Alfred Hitchcock and Noel Coward. Through some unlikely alignment of the planets, all five were born in the last eight months of 1899, and thus have all been celebrated in this centennial-sodden year.

Oddly, the most protean among them is the least well known today. No other 20th century figure approaches Coward's creative breadth: playwright, actor, composer, lyricist, novelist, stage director, film producer, Vegas "entertainer." His nose for talent was such that he launched Laurence...

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