The Life of Noel Coward

The Life of Noel Coward - Cole Lesley [These notes were made in 1985:]. This is a lot of fun to read, and it gives the impression that nothing is being held back of any importance. In fact, it is only when I compared a couple of details with recountings of the same events in Olivier's (in many ways, far more guarded) autobiography, that I realized Lesley is quite capable of skimming lightly over the facts. In fact, now that I come to think of it, we are left to assume a great deal about what exactly the relationship was between "the Master" (as they called him), the actor Graham Payn, and Cole Lesley himself. Since he mentions the possibility of jealousy and the lack of it between himself and Graham, we may assume it was more than just friendship in the way of business (Lesley was Coward's secretary/valet for about 40 years). The book is compiled from both Coward's and Lesley's journals (the Coward diaries have been published separately), and from other sources like Mrs. Coward's collection of clippings about her son. Hence, there is a slight flattening effect - the long, dreary years when Coward had flop after flop really are long and dreary. But there's always enough - some account of a personal happiness, an amusing letter, or even just a Coward witticism - to keep us reading. NC himself emerges (through the eyes of the devoted Lesley, let us remember) as fundamentally good and kind, even to the point of philanthropy, highly nervous and unthinkingly demanding on everyone around him, but extremely magnetic, and able to sustain warm, long-term relationships with people of both sexes.