Noël Coward

English playwright, composer, director, actor, and singer
(Redirected from Noel Coward)

Noël Peirce Coward (December 16, 1899March 26, 1973) was an English playwright, composer of popular music and actor.

Coward in 1972


  • [On the phone] My dear Jim's dead...No dear, he jumped off Waterloo Bridge - Yes, the one next to Charing Cross - No, no, no that's Blackfriars.
    • Early review, cited in Frank Muir's Book of Comedy Sketches
  • Don't put your daughter on the stage, Mrs. Worthington
    Don't put your daughter on the stage
    The profession is overcrowded
    And the struggle's pretty tough
    And admitting the fact she's burning to act
    That isn't quite enough
    She's a big girl and though her teeth are fairly good
    She's not the type I ever would be eager to engage
    I repeat, Mrs. Worthington, sweet Mrs. Worthington
    Don't put your daughter on the stage.
    • "Mrs Worthington" (Song, 1933)
  • The stately homes of England we proudly represent,
    We only keep them up for Americans to rent.
    Tho' the pipes that supply the bathroom burst
    And the lavat'ry makes you fear the worst
    It was used by Charles the First (quite informally),
    And later by George the Fourth on a journey north,
    The state apartments keep their historical reknown,
    It's wiser not to sleep there in case they tumble down;
    But still if they ever catch on fire
    Which with any luck they might,
    We'll fight for the stately homes of England.
    • "The Stately Homes of England" from Operette (1937)
  • Our families have traditions
    We've heard of a thousand times
    Our ancestors were unequivocally right.
    They frequently went on missions
    To rather peculiar climes
    To lead the wretched heathen to the light.
    Though some of them got beaten up and some of them stampeded
    And quite a lot were eaten up - a few of them succeeded.
    On one of these expeditions
    An uncle we thought a bore
    Turned out to be more spirited than ever he'd been before.

    Poor Uncle Harry
    Wanted to be a missionary
    So he took a ship and sailed away.
    This visionary
    Hotly pursued by dear Aunt Mary
    Found a South Sea isle on which to stay.
    The natives greeted them kindly,
    And invited them to dine
    On yams and clams and human hams and vintage coconut wine
    The taste of which was filthy
    But the after-effects divine.

  • Charles: Anything interesting in The Times?
    Ruth: Don't be silly, Charles.
  • Hollywood is a place where some people lie on the beach and look up at the stars, whereas other people lie on the stars and look down at the beach.
    • Interview with Walter Harris in 1960 reported in The Times (26 May 2009)
  • I love criticism as long as it is unqualified praise.
    • Quote in Margaret McManus, "Noël Coward a 'Blithe Spirit' — in Sunny Jamaica", The Des Moines Register (January 8, 1956), Section: Iowa TV Magazine, p. 5
  • The Battle of Britain was twenty-three years ago and the world has forgotten it. Those young men, so many of whom I knew, flew up into the air and died for us and all we believed in... What did they die for? I suppose for themselves and what they believed was England. It was England then – for a few brave months... The peace we are enduring is not worth their deaths. England has become a third-rate power, economically and morally. We are vulgarised by American values. America, which didn't even know war on its own ground, is now dictating our policies and patronising our values. I came away from that gentle, touching, tatty little party with a heavy and sad heart. The England those boys died for has disappeared. Our history, except for stupid, squalid social scandals, is over... We are now beset by the 'clever ones', all the cheap frightened people who can see nothing but defeat and who have no pride, no knowledge of the past, no reverence for our lovely heritage... I despise the young, who see no quality in our great past and who spit, with phoney, left-wing disdain, on all that we, as a race, have contributed to the living world... I say a grateful goodbye to those foolish, gallant young men who made it possible for me to be alive today to write these sentimental words.
    • Diary entry after attending the annual dinner for Battle of Britain veterans (September 1963), quoted in The Noël Coward Diaries, eds. Graham Payn and Sheridan Morley (1982), pp. 543-545
  • He loved me true did Harry-boy and I loved him true, and if the happiness we gave each other was wicked and wrong in the eyes of the Law and the Church and God Almighty, then the Law and the Church and God Almighty can go dig a hole and fall down it.
    • Me and the Girls (1964)
  • Christopher Marlowe or Francis Bacon
    The author of Lear remains unshaken
    Willie Herbert or Mary Fitton
    What does it matter? The Sonnets were written.
    • A Question of Values.
  • Proceeding on the assumption that the reader of this preface is interested in the development of my musical talent, I will try to explain, as concisely as I can, how, in this respect, my personal wheels go round. To begin with, I have only had two music lessons in my life. These were the first steps of what was to have been a full course at the Guildhall School of Music, and they faltered and stopped when I was told by my instructor that I could not use consecutive fifths. He went on to explain that a gentleman called Ebenezer Prout had announced many years ago that consecutive fifths were wrong and must in no circumstances be employed. At that time Ebenezer Prout was merely a name to me (as a matter of fact he still is, and a very funny one at that) and I was unimpressed by his Victorian dicta. I argued back that Debussy and Ravel had used consecutive fifths like mad. My instructor waved aside this triviality with a pudgy hand, and I left his presence forever with the parting shot that what was good enough for Debussy and Ravel was good enough for me. This outburst of rugged individualism deprived me of much valuable knowledge, and I have never deeply regretted it for a moment.
    • Preface, The Noël Coward Song Book, pp. 12–13.
  • If by any chance a playwright wishes to express a political opinion or a moral opinion or a philosophy, he must be a good enough craftsman to do it with so much spice of entertainment in it that the public get the message without being aware of it.
    • Sheridan Morley, A Talent to Amuse (1985).
  • Your motivation is your pay packet on Friday. Now get on with it.
    • Fred Metcalf, The Penguin Dictionary of Modern Humorous Quotations (1987).
  • Amanda: Whose yacht is that?
    Elyot: The Duke of Westminster's I expect. It always is.
    Amanda: I wish I were on it.
    Elyot: I wish you were too.
    Amanda: There's no need to be nasty.
    Elyot: Yes, there is every need. I've never in my life felt a greater urge to be nasty.
  • Elyot: I met her on a house party in Norfolk.
    Amanda: Very flat, Norfolk.
    Elyot: There's no need to be unpleasant.
    Amanda: That was no reflection on her, unless of course she made it flatter.
  • Elyot: Certain women should be struck regularly, like gongs.
  • Amanda: Extraordinary how potent cheap music is.
  • In tropical climes
    There are certain times
    Of day
    When all the citizens retire
    To take their clothes off and perspire.
    It's one of those rules
    That the greatest fools
    Because the sun is far too sultry
    And one must avoid its ultry-
    Vi'let ray.
  • The natives grieve
    When the white men leave
    Their huts.
    Because they're obviously,
  • Mad Dogs & Englishmen
    Go out in the midday sun.
    The Japanese don't care to,
    The Chinese wouldn't dare to,
    The Hindus and Argentines
    Sleep firmly from twelve to one,
    But Englishmen
    Detest a
  • It's such a surprise
    For Eastern eyes
    To see,
    That though the English are effete,
    They're quite impervious to heat.
  • It seems such a shame
    When the English claim
    The Earth,
    That they give rise
    To such hilarity
    And mirth.
  • In Rangoon
    The heat of noon
    Is just what the natives shun,
    They put their Scotch
    Or Rye down
    And lie down.
  • In a jungle town
    Where the sun beats down
    To the rage of man and beast,
    The English garb
    Of the English sahib
    Merely gets a bit more creased.
    In Bangkok
    At twelve'o'clock
    They foam at the mouth and run,
    But mad dogs and Englishmen
    Go out in the midday sun.
  • In Hong Kong
    They strike a gong
    And fire off a noonday gun
    To reprimand
    Each inmate
    Who's in late.
  • In Bengal,
    To move at all
    Is seldom if ever done.
  • The actual facts are so simple. I love you. You love me. You love Otto. I love Otto. Otto loves you. Otto loves me. There now! Start to unravel from there.
  • People are wrong when they say that the opera isn't what it used to be. It is what it used to be — that's what's wrong with it!
    • Act 3, Scene I
  • Mad about the boy
    I know it's stupid to be mad about the boy
    I'm so ashamed of it but must admit the sleepless nights I've had
    About the boy
  • On the silverscreen
    He melts my foolish heart in every single scene
    Although I'm quite aware that here and there are traces of the cad
    About the boy
  • Lord knows I'm not a fool girl
    I really shouldn't care
    Lord knows I'm not a school girl
    In the flurry of her first affair.
  • Will it ever cloy
    This odd diversity of misery and joy
    I'm feeling quite insane and young again
    And all because I'm mad about the boy
  • So if I could employ
    A little magic that will finally destroy
    This dream that pains me and enchains me
    But I can't because I'm mad...
    I'm mad about the boy
  • Gary: You ought never to have joined the Athenaeum Club, Henry: it was disastrous.
    Henry: I really don’t see why.
    Gary: It’s made you pompous.
    Henry: It can’t have. I’ve always been too frightened to go into it.
  • Gary: Beryl Willard is extremely competent. Beryl Willard has been extremely competent, man and boy, for forty years. In addition to her extreme competence, she has contrived, with uncanny skill, to sustain a spotless reputation for being the most paralysing, epoch-making, monumental, world-shattering, God-awful bore that ever drew breath...I will explain one thing further - it is this. No prayer, no bribe, no threat, no power, human or divine, would induce me to go to Africa with Beryl Willard. I wouldn't go as far as Wimbledon with Beryl Willard.
    Liz: What he's trying to say is that he doesn't care for Beryl Willard.
  • Morris: I'll never speak to you again until the day I die!
    Gary: Well, we can have a nice little chat then, can't we?

Quotes about Noël Coward

  • Wrongly attributed to Noel Coward is a quotation about the Queen of Tonga. He is alleged to have been sitting under cover from the heavy rain with Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent at the Coronation in London in 1953. Opposite them was the vast Queen Salote of Tonga. Princess Marina is supposed to have asked "Noel, who is that little man sheltering under Queen Salote's umbrella?" Coward is said to have peered through the rain and said "Oh, her lunch, my dear." In a later interview with Walter Harris, Coward revealed it had been said by someone at White's Club and was immediately attributed to Coward. "It was very flattering of course, except that I had intended to visit Tonga the following winter, and after that of course it was quite impossible."
    • Interview with Walter Harris in 1960 reported in The Times (26 May 2009)
  • My big break came the next year with Bitter Sweet, starring Anna Neagle. I had a dress with a plunging neckline. Noël Coward said he could see the White Cliffs of Dover and I felt devastated. If you're blind, you'll miss me in that one.
    • Anna Lee, speaking with James Bawden, circa 1980s; as quoted in Conversations with Classic Film Stars: Interviews from Hollywood's Golden Era (2016) by Bawden and Ron Miller, p. 208
Wikipedia has an article about: