NOËL COWARD AND THE AVUNCULAR SHAW A child actor since he was eleven, Noël Coward spent nine months in the British army in 1918, after which roles like Slightly in Peter Pan and the schoolboy Charley in Charley's Aunt were no longer credible. As a juvenile, he had often played opposite Esmé Wynne, already known for the children's musical Where the Rainbow Ends, which included Coward, Hermione Gingold, and Jack Hawkins. Prematurely political, Esmé fueled Coward's rebellious nature. "We were rooted and grounded in Bernard Shaw who said the majority were always wrong," and like G.B.S. they were wartime pacifists; yet as Coward reached draft age, he was called up, proved medically fragile and was invalided out before the Armistice. Seeking parts he could play himself once he became twenty on 16 December 1919, he wrote a comedy, I'll Leave It to You, which, despite good notices, closed in five weeks. It was his fourth attempt, the earlier three written and wisely discarded by the time he was seventeen. Trying his hand at fiction at eighteen, before his army call-up, he had written a novel, Cats and Dogs, after Shaw's comedy You Never Can Tell, with a pert
SHAW The Annual of Bernard Shaw Studies – Penn State University Press
Published: Sep 11, 2011
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