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65 of 67 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE PLEASURE OF HIS COMPANY, November 23, 2007
This review is from: The Letters of Noel Coward (Hardcover)
Granted, some very fine biographies have been written, those that seem to paint seamless portraits. Yet, for this reader nothing can compare to someone's letters, written with no thought that they will ever be read by anyone save the recipient. These letters are mirrors, if you will, of a person's thoughts and emotions. They are in the person's own words - every adjective, nuance, inflection is his or her choice. And when the choices are Noel Coward's, it is pleasurable reading indeed.

Urbane, witty, snippy, multi-talented, observant, caring, Coward had talent to spare. He was a songwriter, playwright, actor, artist, bon vivant, advisor, trusted friend. And such friends they were - from Marlene Dietrich to the Queen Mother to Somerset Maugham to Liz Taylor (whom he once described as being "hung with rubies and diamonds and looking like a pregnant Pagoda."

His quick wit was always razor sharp, used both to bolster and skewer. When his old friend Clifton Webb lost his mother, Webb was evidently given to prolonged crying bouts which caused Coward to comment, "It must be rough to be orphaned at seventy-one."

His jests and jibes made him a wanted guest and sought after companion. Many of these witticisms are contained in this delightful compendium of letters both from and to Coward. Thoughtfully arranged by Barry Day they are a chronicle of Coward's life from his earliest days when at the age of two he had to be taken from church because he danced in the aisle to accompany the hymn being played. He faithfully sent a weekly missive to his mother, Violet. Thus, we're privy to what life was like for child actors at the turn of the century. During this period he met the 15-year-old Gertrude Lawrence who would play a large part in his professional life. Later, he telegraphed her re his play Private Lives: "Have written delightful new comedy stop good part for you stop wonderful one for me stop."

He first sailed to New York in 1921, where he was convinced that much of his future lay. Indeed, it did although he belonged to the world. Success was to follow success.

The Letters of Noel Coward is not only a joyful visit with Coward but a chapter of theatrical history. It's a weighty 753 page volume, and it's a keeper as I find myself returning to it to browse and savor again the turn of a phrase or Coward's unparalleled ripostes. Thanks to Barry Day for giving us the great pleasure of his company.

Highly recommended.

- Gail Cooke
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 30, 2007 7:07:14 AM PST
I really enjoyed the review. You make the case nicely for the value of letters to understand someone.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 30, 2007 1:17:44 PM PST
Gail says:
Hi Steven, Thanks so much for reading the review and for your kind comment! Happy Holidays!
Gail
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Review Details

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Gail Cooke
(VINE VOICE)    (COMMUNITY FORUM 04)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   

Location: TX, USA

Top Reviewer Ranking: 485