November 27, 2012

He went to a marvelous party

Be daring,
be different,
be impractical,
be anything that will assert
integrity of purpose
and imaginative vision
against the play-it-safers,
the creatures of the commonplace,
the slaves of the ordinary.

~Cecil Beaton

“I’m an enormously talented man,” Noel Coward once said superciliously, “and there’s no use pretending that I’m not.”

One of the most renowned bon vivants of the dinner party circuit was the urbane and sophisticated Noel Coward, the son of a failed piano salesman who wrote about the rich with such wit and insight that they simply assumed he was one of them. So impeccable were his skills at self-creation with his “thin veneer of sophistication,” his persona was not only the inspiration for Cary Grant, but scores of others hoping to copy his inimitable style.

Coward claimed that he habit of wearing flamboyant silk dressing gowns was purely functional, “wonderful things to play in because they’re so comfortable to act in.” Nevertheless, they caused quite a stir, and he welcomed, if not courted, the publicity. They were not so much regarded as feminine as they were subversively antimasculine. Still, he persisted in flouncing about in them during interviews until they became his trademark, a symbol of the new Jazz Age–loose, smart and glittery. He was as well known for the way he dressed as for his literary successes and stage performances. “I took to wearing colored turtle-necked jerseys,” he said, “more for comfort than effect, and soon I was informed by my evening paper that I had started a fashion.”

Cecil Beaton noted that “all sorts of men suddenly wanted to look like Noel Coward–sleek and satiny, clipped and well groomed, with a cigarette, a telephone, and a cocktail in hand.”

“Wit ought to be a glorious treat like caviar; never spread it about like marmalade.”
~Noel Coward

True, and we could use some of that wit right now.


frenchtoast said...

“There are bad times just around the corner we can all look forward to despair … “ -Noel
Indeed, once again, times are tough all over. But what’s new?

Lovely post Ms Edna.

Mona said...

“Goodnight, my darlings, I'll see you tomorrow.” -N.C.

Charles said...

Noel Coward On Himself;
"I can't sing, but I know how to, which is quite different."

You can't write, but you know how to, which is quite different.

Thanks for the lift.

Alistair said...

Watching Queen Elizabeth's coronation parade, friends wondered aloud who the little man sharing a carriage with the 400 pound Queen of Tonga might be. According to David Niven, Coward replied: "Her lunch."