Ivor Novello

Great Lives, Series 31 Episode 1 of 9

Astrologer and performer Russell Grant chooses one of the greatest screen legends of cinema's early years - Ivor Novello. Born in 1893 in Cardiff, he was also a talented writer and composer, and would dominate both screen and stage with his epic romantic fantasies, until his death in 1951.
The son of a Cardiff rent collector and an internationally renowned singing tutor, Novello, born David Ivor Davies, had a musical childhood. He was a gifted choirboy, and composer, but when his voice broke, he did not sing again. His ambitious mother saw his future in classical composition and moved with him to London before the First World War, to pursue his fame. He would live near to London's theatrical heartland, Drury Lane, all of his life.
Novello did not have to wait long for recognition. After a brief stint in the Royal Naval Air Service, he burst onto the musical scene in the First World War with the song Keep the Home Fires Burning. This success led to a number of commissions to write for the London stage, with his style more operetta, than musical theatre.
In the 1920s, he began his film career, and he starred in both silent films and the first 'talkies', becoming a favourite of Alfred Hitchcock in the film 'The Lodger'. Novello had a magnetic screen presence, and was a box office favourite with men and women a like. His friend Noel Coward said that the two most perfect things in the world were his own wit, and Novello's profile.
After a brief spell in Hollywood, where he scripted dialogue for 'Tarzan', Novello returned to Britain and wrote a string of successful numbers for Drury Lane. Theatre-land in the 1930s, was struggling, but each of Novello's romantic operettas proved a huge success. However, his fortunes turned during the Second World War, when he was briefly jailed for the misuse of petrol coupons. The month he spent in Wormwood Scrubs would have a lowering effect on him for the rest of his life. His last West End production was the lavish King's Rhapsody, and he performed up until the night of his death of coronary thrombosis, in 1951.
Astrologer and entertainer Russell Grant first came to know Novello's work when he too performed in a version of King's Rhapsody in the 1970s, and he has loved his music ever since. He joins Richard Stirling, author of the stage biography of Novello, 'Love From Ivor', and the adaptor of one of Novello's last productions, Gay's the Word.
Produced by Lizz Pearson.

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30 minutes

Last on

Fri 9 Aug 2013 23:00

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Role Contributor
PresenterMatthew Parris
Interviewed GuestRussell Grant
ProducerLizz Pearson

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