Friday, September 4, 2009

Noel Coward and 'Nina'

Never been particularly keen on Noel Coward - I'd seen a few of his plays ('Private Lives', 'Design for Living' and 'Blithe Spirit') and, if I thought anything, I guess it would've been he was second rate Oscar Wilde.

And it wasn't him not being hairy-chested and 'blokey' (like me) - just an aversion to the exaggerated and bitchy thing, all the worse for being dressed up in a certain class elitism.

But yesterday I had a new respect for Coward as a writer and performer after seeing and hearing his 1955 performance of 'Nina' - the wickedly clever lyrics and their delivery pithy sparkle and explode like noisy fireworks, for example ...

She said with most refreshing candour
That she thought Carmen Miranda

Was subversive propaganda

... and ...
She said that love should be impulsive
But not convulsive

Still chuckling ... how bout you?


  1. I've long been a fan of his songs. If you check them out I think you have a treat in store. Some are frankly sentimental, but many are equally witty.

    A good start is the CD of Noel Coward in Las Vegas. You'll hear some of his standards like "Marvelous Party", "Mad Dogs and Englishmen", and "In a Bar on the Piccola Marina".

    "Just for fun, three young sailors from Messina

    "Bowed low to Mrs. Wentworth Brewster,

    "Said 'Scusi', and abruptly goosed her."


  2. Huge fan. My dad loved the "Noel Coward in Las Vegas" album, 1955 -- what was THAT about? -- but I discovered him then and loved the songs since. ARound that time, latin dancing was a craze, so there this was a witty push-back. But I have never, ever cursed Cole Porter and I have begun a few beguines. Hope you're well!!

  3. hey stan

    you are right - the wit is deliciously sharp - really glad to have re-assessed coward

    thanks for the pointer to th las vagas CD - i'm off to the CBD tue so i'll hunt it down

    i remember his intro to marlene deitrich's stage show at the Cafe de Paris - an intro is usually only just an intro - but his really adds something to the show

    do you know it

    and thanks for the lyrics!



  4. hey jason_m

    ! stan just mentioned the Las Vagas album !

    as i told him, i'm off to the CBD tue - so now must track it down!

    actually cole porter is another writer of superlative and surprising lyrics - still stand up beautifully!

    think a new post's coming up!

    interesting what you said about the 'witty push-back' and latin dancing - yes, that's it



  5. ...then there was quite a scene-a."

    And don't miss missionary Uncle Harry and wife Aunt Mary who, well, went native.

  6. hey jason_m

    yeah there are lots of curious little rhyming patterns in the lyrics that you miss the first few times round - and then they just pop out at you

  7. From his fairly early days he lived in a private suite at the Savoy Hotel in London (as Elaine Stritch has done for many years), and when money was tight he would simply move into a cheaper room at the hotel, even if it meant a glorified broom closet in the basement. He said it was important that no matter what, one's address should always be 'The Savoy, London'.

  8. hey iain

    thanks for that lovely insight - the sort that really reveals character!

    remember the first time i went to dine at the savoy with a wealthy boy whose father had made his fortune in toys in the 1930's - he was an engineer and designed those little tin toys with a motor inside, you know, little bicycles and people that walked

    he took me to Claridges another time - first time for me to have venison

    so i have great memories of both of these institutions - and can understand coward - for him it was also the cache of the address for home

  9. delightfully witty lyrics - what a change from the banal repetition that passes for music these days - love the blog, thanks for all the work you put into it

  10. hey anon

    thank you forthe appreciatio

    yes, the lyrics really sparkle and fizz like fireworks don't they - not out-of-date in the same way that vole porter lyrics still work so well - sounds like a new post!