READ ALL ABOUT IT -- Sept. 1996
COWARD FOR ALL SEASONS: Many excellent biographies of Noël Coward have been written (some by himself), but the best one by far on the noted British playwright, actor, composer, lyricist, director and night-club star is a new one by Philip Hoare simply called Noël Coward.
Diligently researched and lavishly illustrated, the book traces his genius to distinguished ancestryhigh-ranking naval officers, public servants, literary and musical noteworthies, even royal and aristocratic connections. This gilded lineage spurred his meteoric rise in the theatre with such dazzling plays as The Vortex, Private Lives, Design for Living, Cavalcade, Blithe Spirit, countless revues and musicals and such memorable films as In Which We Serve and Brief Encounter.
The biography glitters with Coward's wit and social achievements, and deals openly with his homosexuality and the bizarre entourage that surrounded him through thick and thin (Simon & Schuster, $30).
MAGNIFICENT MANHATTAN: A stunning book, Elegant New YorkThe Builders and Buildings 1885-1915, with text by John Tauranac and superb photographs by Christopher Little, lavishly recaptures turn-of-the century New York when brownstone, limestone and marble were the preferred materials for public buildings and the stately mansions of the Astors and Vanderbilts.
The book is also a social history of a golden age when the original Waldorf-Astoria Hotel was on the site of the current Empire State and Mrs. Astor's famous mansion was on the site of the later Temple Emanu-El. Of interest to theatregoers are striking photographs of the Lyceum Theatre, Daniel Frohman's study above it (now the Shubert Archives), the Lyric Theatre, The Players Club on Gramercy Park and other landmark buildings. The book's photographs call attention to what is left of New York's Age of Elegance (Abbeville Press Inc., U.S., $65).
-- By Louis Botto