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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very slight disappointment
I thoroughly enjoyed The Noel Coward Diaries, edited by Graham Payn and Sheridan Morley and therefore I was looking forward to reading some more of The Master's barbed quips in the book, edited by Barry Day.

In fact, there was much of it that I did enjoy, but I was really not prepared for so many letters written to Coward, as opposed to from him. I really...
Published on 7 Jan 2008 by Mr. R. D. M. Kirby

versus
2.0 out of 5 stars Don't bother
Not as witty as one might have hoped, but that's the luck of the draw.
What makes these letters extremely disappointing is the very poor editing job - as pointed out by other reviewers. Good photographs, but spoiled by captions which simply, and irritatingly, repeat information already given in the text. Worst of all, wrong factual information provided as background...
Published on 4 Jan 2011 by Bonzo


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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very slight disappointment, 7 Jan 2008
By 
Mr. R. D. M. Kirby "Dick Kirby" (Suffolk, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I thoroughly enjoyed The Noel Coward Diaries, edited by Graham Payn and Sheridan Morley and therefore I was looking forward to reading some more of The Master's barbed quips in the book, edited by Barry Day.

In fact, there was much of it that I did enjoy, but I was really not prepared for so many letters written to Coward, as opposed to from him. I really would have preferred the letters to have been in chronological sequence, instead of lumping the correspondence to Gertie Lawrence altogether in one chapter. It is rather confusing when it is not made immediately clear who is sending a letter to whom, especially when nicknames are used to start and/or finish - or indeed, when no reference is made at all.

But this is criticism of the editing, not the letters by Noel Coward which are everything the reader would expect; sharp, very amusing and brilliantly composed. A book which can be dipped into, time and time again.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE PLEASURE OF HIS COMPANY, 23 Nov 2007
By 
Gail Cooke (TX, USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
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 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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5.0 out of 5 stars love Coward's wit and eloquence, 13 May 2013
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This review is from: The Letters of Noel Coward (Diaries, Letters and Essays) (Paperback)
Excellent insight into theatreland and delightfully waspish observations. A book that is a tribute to all things literary and a testament to a vanished age.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Cowardy Custard, 10 Nov 2011
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This review is from: The Letters of Noel Coward (Diaries, Letters and Essays) (Paperback)
This a most fascinating book. I have read lots of biography, lots of his recordings. Wonderful lyrics! When I met him some years ago, I found him to be absolutely Charming.
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5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful Master, 27 May 2011
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What a read! Took me a long time, but well worth it. anyone slightly interested in Noel Coward should read this...what an
insight into his life, loves and hates. Brilliant writing and hilarious poems. Loved it, loved it.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Don't bother, 4 Jan 2011
This review is from: The Letters of Noel Coward (Diaries, Letters and Essays) (Paperback)
Not as witty as one might have hoped, but that's the luck of the draw.
What makes these letters extremely disappointing is the very poor editing job - as pointed out by other reviewers. Good photographs, but spoiled by captions which simply, and irritatingly, repeat information already given in the text. Worst of all, wrong factual information provided as background to the letters e.g. Anthony Eden did not resign at the time of the Munich Crisis, he'd done that over six months earlier; it is now very much disputed that the bombing of Coventry was accepted by the British government as the price for keeping the Enigma secret secure. I could go on. Sloppiness which makes reading these fairly hum-drum letters a frustrating experience.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Slushy, Gushy and Mushy - Coward's Luvvy Letters, 13 May 2009
By 
John Fitzpatrick (São Paulo, Brazil) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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This review is from: The Letters of Noel Coward (Diaries, Letters and Essays) (Paperback)
If you can stomach the gushy style that matched the greasy slick-backed oily hair and stuffed-shirt style of Noel Coward then this book is worth reading*.

Among the "luvvy" verbiage there are many parts that are funny, interesting and show how prolific, hard working and well connected on both sides of the Atlantic Coward was.

His network of contacts included not only his (near) contemporaries and peers like Somerset Maugham, Edith Sitwell, Louis Mountbatten, John Gielgud, Winston Churchill, Terence Rattigan and Marlene Dietrich but also the younger generation which hated everything he stood for, such as John Osborne, Harold Pinter and Arnold Wesker.

He also maintained a correspondence for a number of years with Lawrence of Arabia.

Despite his snobbery and vanity, Coward comes over as a kindly person who took on a lot of voluntary tasks such as traveling great distances to put on performances for the military during the war and acting as a kind of unofficial ambassador for England.

At the same time, he was a true professional playwright and actor. For example, he once wrote a show containing nine one-act plays. Can you imagine anyone doing that today? On top of that he wrote thousands of letters (many of which were very long) and kept diaries.

When his kind of light comedy went out of style in the 50s and 60s he reinvented himself by heading off to places like Las Vegas where he did cabaret acts (how he managed to be a success in places like this is a mystery) while continuing to produce plays, some of which were respectable commercial successes.

He also played a couple of cameo film roles, such as in Our Man in Havana and, (hopelessly miscast) as the East End gang leader in the cult movie The Italian Job with Michael Caine. This shows how versatile (or desperate) he was.

His plays seem very old fashioned by today's standards, apart perhaps from the Vortex and Private Lives. A patriotic work like Cavalcade would be laughed off the stage and songs like The Stately Homes of England and Mad Dogs and Englishmen would barely raise a smile. Coward's work has none of the staying power of Somerset Maugham whose novels, short stories and plays are still widely read and performed.

This is a good, long book - almost 800 pages - which gives the reader a chance to get to know Coward over half a century. It also contains some letters from his correspondents which helps put the correspondence in context and makes it fuller and rounder.

It is not to be rushed but sipped to prolong the flavour.

Although Coward's tone is often nauseatingly sweet and phoney, there are other times when he lets rip and puts actors (such as Olivier) and actresses (Margaret Leighton) in their place and shows a tough character behind the white dinner jacket and carnation.

My main criticism is that the letters do not appear in chronological order. This leads to occasions in which letters written decades apart appear on the same page. I also feel the editor could have given a better continuity between chapters and been more open about Coward's personal life.

*Some examples: "Love and kisses darling Acky Weezie, Noelie Poelie", "All Love Darlingest" and "All my love to all and Oh Dear, I do wish they would invent something to make Transatlantic Hugs possible."
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The Letters of Noel Coward (Diaries, Letters and Essays)
The Letters of Noel Coward (Diaries, Letters and Essays) by Noel Coward (Paperback - 19 Sep 2008)
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