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Ivor Novello

(David Ivor Davies)

Novello - portrait by Angus McBean

(1893 - 1951) Welsh actor, composer, songwriter and dramatist. Born in Cardiff and educated at Magdalen College School, Oxford where he was a chorister. His song, "Keep the Home Fires Burning" was one of the most successful of World War I. Many other songs, among them "Dreamboat" and "We'll Gather Lilacs" followed, making him one of the most successful songwriters of his day. By 1921 he was appearing on stage in London enjoying great popularity.

Ivor NovelloHis first play, The Rat, (1924) was written in collaboration with Constance Collier. His other work, predominantly melodramatic, romantic musicals, were generally successful with Novello often taking the leading role. They include Symphony in Two Flats (1930), The Truth Game (1934), Proscenieum (1934), Glamorous Nights (1935), Careless Rapture (1936), Full House (1936), Comedienne (1938), The Dancing Years (1939), Perchance To Dream (1945), We Proudly Present (1947) and King's Rhapsody (1949)

It was with these shows that Novello found and profitably mined a market for lushly sentimental music and stories of monumental banality.

By customarily taking the non-singing lead in his own shows, he built a great following with the female audience, despite, in his private life, he was homosexual, often very openly. Novello's shows helped fill London's theatre during World War II whilst he continued to produce new ones, among them Arc de Triomphe and Gay's the Word.

Further reading:

Perchance To Dream The World of Ivor Novello - R. Rose

Ivor Novello - S. Wilson

Ivor Novello: Man of the Theatre -Peter Noble


Portrait by Angus McBean