Noel Coward

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Noel Coward (December 16, 1899March 26, 1973) was an English actor, playwright, and composer of popular music.


Private Lives (1930)

  • Amanda: Whose yacht is that?
    Elyot: The Duke of Westminster's I expect. It always is.
    Amanda: I wish I were on it.
    Elyot: I wish you were too.
    Amanda: There's no need to be nasty.
    Elyot: Yes, there is every need. I've never in my life felt a greater urge to be nasty.

  • Elyot: I met her on a house party in Norfolk.
    Amanda: Very flat, Norfolk.
    Elyot: There's no need to be unpleasant.
    Amanda: That was no reflection on her, unless of course she made it flatter.

  • Elyot: Certain women should be struck regularly, like gongs.

"Mad Dogs and Englishmen" (1930)

  • In tropical climes
    There are certain times
    Of day
    When all the citizens retire
    To take their clothes off and perspire.
    It's one of those rules
    That the greatest fools
    Because the sun is far too sultry
    And one must avoid its ultra
    Violet ray.
  • The natives grieve
    When the white men leave
    Their huts.
    Because they're obviously,
  • Mad Dogs & Englishmen
    Go out in the midday sun.
    The Japanese don't care to,
    The Chinese wouldn't dare to,
    Hindus and Argentines
    Sleep firmly from twelve to one,
    But Englishmen
    Detest a
  • Such a surprise
    For the eastern eyes
    To see,
    That though the English are effete,
    They're quite impervious to heat.
  • It seems such a shame
    When the English claim
    The Earth,
    That they give rise
    To such hilarity
    And mirth.
  • In Rangoon
    The heat of noon
    Is just what the natives shun,
    They put their Scotch
    Or Rye down
    And lie down.
  • In a jungle town
    Where the sun beats down
    To the rage of man and beast,
    The English garb
    Of the English sahib
    Merely gets a bit more creased.
    In Bangkok
    At twelve'o'clock
    They foam at the mouth and run,
    But mad dogs and Englishmen
    Go out in the midday sun.
  • In Hong Kong
    They strike a gong
    And fire off a noonday gun
    To reprimand
    Each inmate
    Who's in late.
  • In Bengal,
    To move at all
    Is seldom if ever done.

"Mad About the Boy" (1932)

  • Mad about the boy
    I know it's stupid to be mad about the boy
    I'm so ashamed of it but must admit the sleepless nights I've had
    About the boy
  • On the silverscreen
    He melts my foolish heart in every single scene
    Although I'm quite aware that here and there are traces of the cad
    About the boy
  • Lord knows I'm not a fool girl
    I really shouldn't care
    Lord knows I'm not a school girl
    In the flurry of her first affair
  • Will it ever cloy
    This odd diversity of misery and joy
    I'm feeling quite insane and young again
    And all because I'm mad about the boy
  • So if I could employ
    A little magic that will finally destroy
    This dream that pains me and enchains me
    But I can't because I'm mad...
    I'm mad about the boy

"Mrs Worthington" (1933)

  • Don’t put your daughter on the stage, Mrs. Worthington
    Don’t put your daughter on the stage
    The profession is overcrowded
    And the struggle’s pretty tough
    And admitting the fact she’s burning to act
    That isn’t quite enough
    She’s a big girl and though her teeth are fairly good
    She’s not the type I ever would be eager to engage
    I repeat, Mrs. Worthington, sweet Mrs. Worthington
    Don’t put your daughter on the stage

"The Stately Homes of England" from Operette (1937)

  • The stately homes of England we proudly represent,
    We only keep them up for Americans to rent.
    Tho' the pipes that supply the bathroom burst
    And the lavat’ry makes you fear the worst
    It was used by Charles the First (quite informally),
    And later by George the Fourth on a journey north,
    The state apartments keep their historical reknown,
    It's wiser not to sleep there in case they tumble down;
    But still if they ever catch on fire
    Which with any luck they might,
    We'll fight for the stately homes of England.

Present Laughter (1939)

  • Gary: You ought never to have joined the Athenaeum Club, Henry: it was disastrous.
    Henry: I really don’t see why.
    Gary: It’s made you pompous.
    Henry: It can’t have. I’ve always been too frightened to go into it.

  • Gary: Beryl Willard is extremely competent. Beryl Willard has been extremely competent, man and boy, for forty years. In addition to her extreme competence, she has contrived, with uncanny skill, to sustain a spotless reputation for being the most paralysing, epoch-making, monumental, world-shattering, God-awful bore that ever drew breath...I will explain one thing further - it is this. No prayer, no bribe, no threat, no power, human or divine, would induce me to go to Africa with Beryl Willard. I wouldn't go as far as Wimbledon with Beryl Willard.
    Liz: What he's trying to say is that he doesn't care for Beryl Willard.

  • Morris: I'll never speak to you again until the day I die!
    Gary: Well, we can have a nice little chat then, can't we?

Blithe Spirit (1941)

  • Charles: Anything interesting in The Times?
    Ruth: Don't be silly, Charles.

"A Question of Values"

  • Christopher Marlowe or Francis Bacon
    The author of Lear remains unshaken
    Willie Herbert or Mary Fitton
    What does it matter? The Sonnets were written.

"The Noël Coward Song Book"

  • "Proceeding on the assumption that the reader of this preface is interested in the development of my musical talent, I will try to explain, as concisely as I can, how, in this respect, my personal wheels go round. To begin with, I have only had two music lessons in my life. These were the first steps of what was to have been a full course at the Guildhall School of Music, and they faltered and stopped when I was told by my instructor that I could not use consecutive fifths. He went on to explain that a gentleman called Ebenezer Prout had announced many years ago that consecutive fifths were wrong and must in no circumstances be employed. At that time Ebenezer Prout was merely a name to me (as a matter of fact he still is, and a very funny one at that) and I was unimpressed by his Victorian dicta. I argued back that Debussy and Ravel had used consecutive fifths like mad. My instructor waved aside this triviality with a pudgy hand, and I left his presence forever with the parting shot that what was good enough for Debussy and Ravel was good enough for me. This outburst of rugged individualism deprived me of much valuable knowledge, and I have never deeply regretted it for a moment."

—Preface, 'The Noël Coward Song Book', pp. 12–13


  • Having to read a footnote resembles having to go downstairs to answer the door while in the midst of making love.
  • Extraordinary how potent cheap music is.
  • I like long walks, especially when they are taken by people who annoy me.
  • I don't believe in astrology. The only stars I can blame for my failures are those that walk about the stage.
  • People are wrong when they say opera is not what it used to be. It is what it used to be. That is what's wrong with it.
  • Television is for appearing on, not looking at.
  • Wit ought to be a glorious treat like caviar; never spread it about like marmalade.

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