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The following fifty lots comprise selected property from residences of Sir Noël Coward.
Sir Noël Coward (1899-1973), actor, playwright and composer, generally acknowledged by his contemporaries as "The Master", had a career which influenced a great many people, both in theatre and film. Virginia Woolf described his songs as...works of art...he is a miracle, a prodigy. His memorial stone in Poet's Corner, Westminster Abbey simply reads A Talent To Amuse, a line from a song in one of his biggest musical hits Bitter Sweet.
Coward's career truly blossomed in the mid 1920s with productions such as The Vortex and Hay Fever, which proved immensely popular both in Britain and America. At the same time the film industry in England was emerging and Coward made an early foray with Easy Virtue (1927), directed by the young Alfred Hitchcock and produced by Michael Balcon. Balcon said of Coward...the future of the cinema lies in the hands of the young writers...and Mr Coward, as one of the most brilliant of them all is a notable newcomer to British films.
With his professional success confirmed, Coward decided he needed a permanent base. Goldenhurst Farm near Aldington in Kent was purchased in 1927, followed by Gerald Road in Belgravia, London in 1930 and White Cliffs, St.Margaret's Bay in 1945. Goldenhurst was a much-needed country retreat and scene of many weekend gatherings. In his book My Life With Noël Coward, Graham Payn said...Noël considered Goldenhurst his true home in England and described the guest list for the famous weekend parties as ...a pre-war social, political and theatrical Who's Who, which included such luminaries of the world of theatre and film as Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh, Katharine Hepburn, Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich to name but a few. One such gathering was described by Douglas Fairbanks Jnr. as...a page out of Vanity Fair. Goldenhurst was also in all probability the inspiration for the setting of one of Coward's best-loved works Blithe Spirit, brought so memorably to the screen in 1945 by David Lean. After seeing Rex Harrison's performance as Charles Condomine, Coward reputedly told him...After me, you're the best light comedian in the world.
The furniture, paintings, decorative objects, silver, books and mememtos included here come from various residences. The majority from Goldenhurst Farm and Gerald Road, also from Coward's leased apartment in Paris, near Place Vendôme, and White Cliffs at St.Margaret's Bay in Kent where he lived intermittently between 1945-1951. During the Second World War, Goldenhurst had been requisitioned by the army and Coward spent much of the war travelling abroad entertaining the troops, his time in England was spent at Gerald Road.
Following the sale of Goldenhurst and Gerald Road, a large proportion of Coward's possessions were removed to storage in 1956. A few years later, a number of pieces were used, with Coward's blessing, by his friend, Graham Payn to furnish his London home. After the death of Sir Noël, Payn spent increasing amounts of time in Switzerland, and by the early 1970s, had moved permanently to Switzerland to assist in running the Coward Estate. The vendor, a friend of Coward and Payn, acquired Payn's London home and contents in 1973.
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See illustration p.p. 15 & 27