The Noel Coward Collection
Noel Coward is the definitive playwright of the early 20th century, contributing a robust repertoire of brilliant material. Coward charmed high society in both London and New York during his heyday, and his work continues to charm audiences today with its urbane wit, sly humor and distinctive style.

Noel Coward was a true Renaissance man, a celebrated, playwright, composer, author, and actor. To quote the title of one of his biographies, he had A Talent to Amuse. But in his most enduring works, he found "genuine emotion under the gloss." This gala, more than 19-hour, seven-disc box set (plus more than 12 hours of bonus audio interviews, musical performances, speeches, and radio plays) immerses viewers in Coward's vanished urbane world, where formidable and fascinating characters are often caught between their natural instincts and the laws of society.

7xDVD9 | NTSC 4:3 | ~1200 min. | 48.3 Gb + 3% rec
Language: English
Subtitles: English
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Take Gilda, Otto, and Leo, who, flout convention by living as three in the quintessential Coward play, Design for Living (1979). Or the bohemian Bliss family, whose members each, independently, invite a guest up for a very chaotic weekend in Hay Fever (1984). Or monstrously self-absorbed actor Garry Essendine, who frantically keeps dewy-eyed admirers, an ex-wife, and a persistent playwright at bay in Present Laughter (1981). Or Amanda and Elyot, a divorced couple reunited on their respective honeymoons in Private Lives (1976).

These farcical comedies of bad manners, all among Coward's most popular, are "jagged with sophistication" and effervescent with "easy, swift dialogue." But it's not all gay banter and cocktails. The Vortex (1969), the once-controversial play that put Coward on the map, is anything but a laughing matter. The Noel Coward Collection is rich with "small and large enchantments."

The productions, originally broadcast on the BBC, cannot be said to be definitive, but they are each tastefully mounted (only Present Laughter is marred by intrusive shots of a live theatre audience), and for the most part, superbly acted. Penelope Keith (To the Manor Born) is splendid as the tempestuous Amanda in Private Lives and the theatrical Judith Bliss in Hay Fever. Joan Collins acquits herself admirably in Tonight at 8:30 (1991), a series of eight one-act plays that range from light comedy to tragedy. Other casting coups include Paul Scofield and Deborah Kerr in A Song at Twilight (1982) about a successful writer, his former lover, and a secret she threatens to reveal, and Judi Dench and Ian Holm as Mr. and Mrs. Edgehill (1985), a wartime drama. This marvelously entertaining anthology is an embarrassment of riches and essential for theatre buffs or anyone looking for an oasis of smart and cultured entertainment in a Superbad world.

Disc 1.
-- The vortex (1984) / produced by Philip Graeme McDonald ; directed by Philip Dudley (72 min.)
-- Hay fever (1984) / produced by Cedric Messina ; directed by Cecilia Brereton (92 min.)
-- Hay fever (radio play, 1992), starring Judi Dench, Michael Williams, Geoffrey Palmer, Patricia Hayes (92 min.)
-- Omnibus: Noel Coward playwright (1969), interview by Patrick Garland (45 min.)

Disc 2.
-- Private lives (1976) / produced by Cedric Messina ; directed by John Gorrie (92 min.)
-- Private lives (radio play, 1995), starring Stephen Fry, Louise Lombard, Simon Ward, Imogen Stubbs (87 min.)
-- Post mortem (radio play, 1976), starring Christopher Cazenove, Derek Fowlds (55 min.)
-- Noel Coward on acting (1966): an interview with Coward (50 min.)
-- The songwriters: Noel Coward (1978): performances of Noel Coward songs (50 min.)

Disc 3.
-- Design for living (1979) / produced by Louis Marks ; directed by Philip Saville (101 min.)
-- Mrs. Capper's birthday (1985) / produced by Alan Shallcross ; directed by Mike Ockrent (58 min.)
-- What mad pursuit (1985) / produced by Alan Shallcross ; directed by Tony Smith (55 min.)
-- Sunday Play: Design for living (radio play, 1991), starring Cheryl Campbell, Alex Jennings, Michael Kitchen (123 min.)

Disc 4.
-- Tonight at 8:30 (Hands across the sea ; Red peppers ; The astonished heart ; Family album ; Fumed oak ; Ways and means ; Still life ; Shadow play) (1991) / produced by Bryan Izzard ; directed by Paul Annett, Sydney Lotterby, John Glenister (28 min. each)

Disc 5.
-- Present laughter (1981) / produced by Keith Williams ; directed by Rick Gardner, Alan Strachan (150 min.)
-- Star quality (1985) / produced by Alan Shallcross ; directed by Alan Dossor (76 min.)
-- Blithe spirit (radio play, 1983), starring Paul Eddington, Anna Massey, Peggy Mount, Richard Pearson (87 min.)
-- Noel Coward's opening night speech for "Blithe spirit" in Manchester (audio recording, 1941, 4 min.)
South Sea Bubble (radio play, 1983), starring Margaret Scott, Hugh Burden (87 min.)

Disc 6.
-- Me and the girls (1985) / produced by Alan Shallcross ; directed by Jack Gold (53 min.)
-- Bon voyage (1985) / produced by Alan Shallcross ; directed by Mike Vardy (58 min.)
-- Mr. and Mrs. Edgehill (1985) / produced by Alan Shallcross ; directed by Gavin Millar (82 min.)

Disc 7.
-- Come into the garden Maud (1982) / produced by Rosemary Hill ; directed by Cedric Messina (57 min.)
-- A song at twilight (1982) / produced by Rosemary Hill ; directed by Cedric Messina (83 min.)