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Noel Coward pp 17-47 | Cite as

Society’s Hero

  • Frances Gray
Chapter
Part of the Macmillan Modern Dramatists book series

Abstract

The image of the newly successful Noel Coward — one he was not above fostering — is enshrined in a photograph in the Sketch published during the run of The Vortex. He languishes in an elaborate bed wearing silk pyjamas, all the props required by any drawing-room comedy — telephone, cigarettes — at his side, over the caption ‘Noel the Fortunate.’ The reviews of The Vortex were guaranteed box office: ‘A study of rottenness, of extravagant misery among extravagant pleasures’ said The Times.1a For part of society at least the play was the twenties as they saw them. The second act curtain, in which the ageing actress explodes into hysteria as her lover leaves for a younger woman while her son plays a mounting jazz crescendo on the piano, was one of those moments that both shocked and satisfied the audience as Nora’s slamming of the door in The Doll’s House had done for a previous generation. It seemed a product of its time thrown up as naturally and as spontaneously as a champagne bubble, and Coward was confident enough of its reception to set a new theatrical precedent: the cast did not take the customary end-of-act curtain call but allowed the tension to remain unbroken till the end of the play, when, of course, the applause was tremendous.

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2 Society’s Hero

  1. 1.
    The Oxford Book of 20th Century Verse, Ed. Larkin, OUP 1973, p. 320. la. The Times, 27 November 1924.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
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  3. 3.
    Foreword, Mander and Mitchenson, Musical Comedy, Davies, 1969.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
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Copyright information

© Frances Gray 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Frances Gray
    • 1
  1. 1.University of SheffieldUK

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