The public illusion and private reality of renaissance man Sir Noel Coward is explored Jan. 13, 1999 on the PBS "Great Performances" documentary, "The Noel Coward Story."
The prolific Coward, who was an actor, director, poet, songwriter and playwright, was one of the most famous men in England in the first half of the 20th century. His songs, such as "Mad Dogs and Englishmen" and "If Love Were All," and his plays, such as Private Lives and Present Laughter, are still heard today.
Yet behind the brittle dialog of his comedies and the sentiment of such plays as Cavalcade and the film, "In Which We Serve," Coward was a man, the documentary shows, who manipulated publicity and never publicly revealed his true nature, including his homosexuality.
Coward's life was a "paradox between what he presented to the world and what he was like," biographer Philip Hoare, an interviewee, says.
The documentary airs 8-10 PM (EST). Check local listings to confirm broadcast. Among those recalling Sir Noel Coward in the two-hour program are Sir John Gielgud, Sir John Mills, Lynn Redgrave, Elaine Stritch and biographers Hoare, John Lahr and Sheridan Morley. Coward's companion of many years, actor-singer Graham Payne, who still lives in Chalet Coward in Switzerland, is also represented.
Coward died alone in Jamaica in 1973 after living in tax exile for many years. He was knighted three years before his death.
-- By Kenneth Jones