Noël Coward and the Avuncular Shaw

Stanley Weintraub

in Who's Afraid of Bernard Shaw?

Published by University Press of Florida

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780813037264
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780813041544 | DOI:
Noël Coward and the Avuncular Shaw

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Young Noël Coward's first produced play, The Young Idea (1921), was drawn from Shaw's late-1890s comedy You Never Can Tell. Sent the text by producer John Vedrenne, Shaw recognized its origins, but rather than berate Coward (who was terrified by how Shaw might react), he kindly recommended improvements and suggested that Coward neither read nor see more Shaw so that he could develop on his own. Although Coward continued to read and see Shaw's plays and used ideas from them, he did develop a distinctive style and the most successful box-office reputation among English playwrights of his time. Shaw only intruded into Coward's life when Coward was faced with legal problems. Coward never intruded into Shaw's domain, even turning down an agent's suggestion that he musicalize Pygmalion. He acted in two Shaw plays only after Shaw's death in 1950, playing in Androcles and the Lion and in a celebrated production of The Apple Cart, in which—after some trepidation—he played King Magnus so brilliantly that Shaw's lines seemed to echo Coward, although the opposite had always been more true.

Keywords: Noel Coward; George Bernard Shaw; Young Idea; Private Lives; Apple Cart; King Magnus; Adultery

Chapter.  5912 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)

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