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NOEL COWARD'S
1955 TV SPECIAL

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Noel Coward's 1955 TV Special
by Billy Ingram

I own a couple of NoŽl Coward's LPs and they are a scream, especially Live in Las Vegas, an LP recorded in the mid-fifties. The British cabaret performer and world renowned playwright so surprised CBS records with the strong sales of that album that the CBS television network signed Coward to three 90-minute specials for the 1955-56 season.

With his greatest successes behind him (or so it seemed at the time) Noël Coward took to the nightclub stage to perform an expanded version of the cabaret act he brought to the troops during World War II.

The reception to his act was overwhelming enthusiastic at London's Cafe de Paris so Coward rolled the dice and took his one-man musical revue to Las Vegas where again he triumphed. With the success of the soundtrack album, Noël Coward was entering a grand new phase of his career.

The first of the CBS specials was a live, color(!) musical variety program starring Noël Coward and Mary Martin; the subsequent broadcasts were Coward's plays Blithe Spirit (with Coward, Claudette Colbert, Lauren Bacall and Mildred Natwick) and This Happy Breed (with Edna Best and Roger Moore). These shows were met with resounding critical acclaim but ratings were not spectacular.

No doubt every queen with a TV set was glued to the screen (and there weren't that many back then - TVs not queens!) when Broadway star Mary Martin and Noël Coward took to the airwaves. The performers themselves must have been frantic - ninety minutes in a new medium with millions watching and it goes out live - mistakes and all?!? Only stage performers dared do that, the movie stars of the day were petrified of television period, live TV was out of the question!

Then there were those notoriously unreliable color cameras but somehow it all went off without a hitch.

The American viewing audience was introduced that night to the erudite musical maven with his bouncy, hilariously funny ditty, 'Uncle Harry' - I only wish there was video to share.

Coward's biggest hit (along with 'I'll See You Again') on this side of the pond and the other was probably 'Mad Dogs and Englishmen' here's the audio from the special:

Another funny tune, 'Nina', again from the 1955 TV special. They way he tears through these songs you really have to listen to get the humor but it sure is worth it. Pretty darn racy for TV in the fifties!

"There are probably greater painters than Noël, greater novelists than Noël, greater librettists, greater composers of music, greater singers, greater dancers, greater comedians, greater tragedians, greater stage producers, greater film directors, greater cabaret artists, greater TV stars. If there are, they are fourteen different people. Only one man combined all fourteen different labels – The Master." - Lord Mountbatten

Mary Martin sang Noël Coward's LONDON PRIDE from their 1955 TV special:

 

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