Graham Payn, Actor Who Was Noel Coward's Partner, Chronicler and Literary Executor, Dead at 87

Obituaries   Graham Payn, Actor Who Was Noel Coward's Partner, Chronicler and Literary Executor, Dead at 87
Graham Payn, Noel Coward's partner, literary executor and chronicler in biographical books, died Nov. 4 at the age of 87, according to the Times of London.

Mr. Payn died in Switzerland. His first association with the late Coward, the celebrated playwright, actor and songwriter, was as a teen, when he auditioned for the revuer. Later, Mr. Payn was an actor and singer who appeared in works by the master, including 1945's Sigh No More, in which he sang "Matelot" and "Wait a Bit, Joe."

Mr. Payn was mostly known for his chorus work until Coward spotlighted him. He played Curly in Peter Pan at the Palladium at age 13 and appeared in Coward's Words and Music, a 1932 revue, a year later. The sweet-voiced Mr. Payn appeared in pantomimes, plays and musicals in the 20th century and appeared in the 1948 Broadway run of Coward's Tonight at 8:30. Coward wrote roles for Mr. Payn in the West End musicals Pacific 1860 and Ace of Clubs.

Mr. Payn appeared in Coward plays as well, and became a director or co-director of works by Coward.

In 1954 Mr. Payn appeared in Coward's musical version of Oscar Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan, called After the Ball. He sang a song called "Faraway Land."

With Sheridan Morley, Mr. Payn edited "The Noel Coward Diaries" and ran Coward's estate from Switzerland. Graham Payn was born at Pietermaritzburg, in Natal, South Africa. He was educated in South Africa and England.

In the 1960s, Coward made Mr. Payn assistant director for the New York and London musical High Spirits, a version of Blithe Spirit but not written by Coward.

Coward cast him in a revival of Present Laughter, but according to the Times, Coward viewed Mr. Payn as "a born drifter."

"He sleeps and sleeps, and the days go by," Coward remarked. "I love him dearly and for ever, but this lack of drive in any direction is a bad augury for the future. I am willing and happy to look after him for the rest of my life, but he must do something. If only he would take up some occupation and stick to it. I know that he is unhappy inside but, alas, with his natural resilience these moments of self-revelation dissipate and on go the years, and he will be an elderly man who has achieved nothing at all."

After Coward's 1973 death, Mr. Payn, Cole Lesley and Sheridan Morley wrote "Noel Coward and His Friends" (1979). "The Noel Coward Diaries" were published in 1982, and Payn retired at Coward's last home in Switzerland, Les Avants.

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