Noël Coward was among the most innovative and influential figures to emerge from the theatrical world during the 20th century. A playwright, director, and actor as well as a songwriter, filmmaker, and novelist, his witty, urbane stage productions forever altered the perceptions long inherent in theater dialogue by shifting away from declamatory tones to a more natural, conversational approach, making them ideal for later film adaptations. Born December 16, 1899, in Middlesex, England, Coward was the product of a musical family; his grandfather was the organist at the Crystal Palace, while his father was a piano tuner. He began his professional career as a child actor, and in 1913, while traveling with a production of Hannele, he met a girl named Gertrude Lawrence who would continue to exert a profound influence over his life and career, becoming both the inspiration behind and the star of many of his greatest works. After appearing in 1918 in the D.W. Griffith film Hearts of the World… read more
One of the most intriguing of Coward's films is The Astonished Heart based upon his one act play. It was filmed with Michael Redgrave in the leading part and then after it was completed, it was re-shot with Coward taking on the central role. I've always wondered if the Redgrave version exists anywhere. It's a rarely seen film and very brittle in a siff upper lip sort of way - but still it's Coward and Celia Johnson and very worthwhile.