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Film Forum Launches One-Week Noel Coward Festival Today

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NOËL COWARD, a one week festival devoted to the English playwright, actor, singer, composer, lyricist, director, screenwriter, and wit, will run at Film Forum from today, May 13 through Thursday, May 19.

The festival kicks off on Friday, May 13 with the rarely-screened The Scoundrel, Coward's film debut (apart from a brief appearance, at age 17, in D.W. Griffith's Hearts of the World), as a stiletto-tongued New York publisher returning to Earth after perishing in a fatal shipwreck. Made independently at Paramount's Astoria studios by writers/directors Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur (authors of The Front Page), it won the Academy Award for Best Original Story.

Friday's 7:30 show of The Scoundrel will be introduced by Barry Day, editor and author of a dozen books on Coward, including The Letters of Noël Coward, Noël Coward's Screenplays, and Coward on Film. Following the screening of the feature, Mr. Day will show rare clips from Coward's films.

Coward also appears as an actor in In Which We Serve; The Astonished Heart (based on a short play by Coward); Otto Preminger's Bunny Lake is Missing; and Joseph Losey's Boom!, co-starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.

Screen adaptations of Coward plays in the series include Cavalcade, winner of the 1933 Academy Award for Best Picture; Private Lives, with Norma Shearer and Robert Montgomery as the sparring divorced couple originally played onstage by Coward and Gertrude Lawrence; Design for Living, directed by Ernst Lubitsch and adapted by Ben Hecht (Coward liked the screenplay, though Hecht chortled that he left in only one line of the original play); Tonight is Ours, based on Coward's The Queen Was in the Parlour, starring Claudette Colbert and Fredric March; Hitchcock's silent Easy Virtue; and the Technicolor Blithe Spirit, directed by David Lean, who owed his directing career to Coward.

Coward recruited ace editor Lean to co-direct In Which We Serve: Lean persuaded Coward to see Citizen Kane, and from it came the structure of Coward & Lean's famed example of British wartime realism. The team's three other collaborations are Blithe Spirit; This Happy Breed, the story of a typical English family between the wars; and the Coward-Lean masterpiece, Brief Encounter, based on the one-act play "Still Life" from the Coward omnibus Tonight at 8:30 (which also included the play from which The Astonished Heart was adapted). One of the most romantic of all movies, Brief Encounter stars Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson as two middle-aged people caught up in a doomed love affair. (Brief Encounter was named the Most Romantic Film of All Time in a poll conducted by the U.K.'s Guardian newspaper. Numbers 2 and 3 were Casablanca and Gone With the Wind, respectively.)

The author of over fifty plays, Noël Coward (1899 -1973) first achieved theatrical notoriety with the succès de scandale The Vortex in 1924. He went on to write classic comedies famous for their high society settings and brittle wit, including Hay Fever, Private Lives, Design For Living, and Blithe Spirit. Coward was a prolific composer of popular hits like "Mad Dogs and Englishmen," "A Room with a View," "Poor Little Rich Girl," and "Mad About the Boy," and enjoyed a successful career as a cabaret performer. Alongside his work in the theater, he was also a frequent screenwriter, director, and film actor. He was knighted in 1970.

For complete schedule, see below.


Public Screening Schedule:

MAY 13 FRI
THE SCOUNDREL (1935, Ben Hecht & Charles MacArthur) 35mm
Noël Coward, Julie Haydon, Alexander Woollcott
Screenplay by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur
12:30, 4:00, 7:30*
*7:30 PM show introduced by Barry Day, editor and author of three books on Coward (The Letters of Noël Coward, Noël Coward Screenplays, and Coward on Film, etc. )

DESIGN FOR LIVING (1933, Ernst Lubitsch) 35mm
Gary Cooper, Miriam Hopkins, Fredric March
Based on the play by Noël Coward
Screenplay by Ben Hecht
2:10, 5:40, 9:40

MAY 14 SAT
IN WHICH WE SERVE (1942, Noël Coward & David Lean) 35mm
Noël Coward, Celia Johnson, John Mills, Bernard Miles
Screenplay by Noël Coward
12:30

DESIGN FOR LIVING (1933, Ernst Lubitsch) 35mm
2:45, 6:40

BLITHE SPIRIT (1945, David Lean) DCP
Rex Harrison, Margaret Rutherford, Kay Hammond, Constance Cummings
Based on the play by Noël Coward
4:35

BUNNY LAKE IS MISSING (1965, Otto Preminger) DCP restoration
Laurence Olivier, Carol Lynley, Keir Dullea, Noël Coward
8:30

MAY 15 SUN
CAVALCADE (1933, Frank Lloyd) 35mm (Twentieth Century FOX studio vault copy)
Diana Wynyard, Clive Brook, Una O'Connor
Based on the play by Noël Coward
1:20

BRIEF ENCOUNTER (1945, David Lean) 35mm
Celia Johnson, Trevor Howard
Based on the one-act play "Still Life" by Noël Coward
3:30

MAY 16 MON
BRIEF ENCOUNTER (1945, David Lean) 35mm
12:30

CAVALCADE (1933, Frank Lloyd) 35mm (Twentieth Century FOX studio vault copy)
1:20

BLITHE SPIRIT (1945, David Lean) DCP
4:30
Based on the play by Noël Coward

EASY VIRTUE (1928, Alfred Hitchcock) DCP
Isabel Jeans, Robin Irvine, Benita Hume
Based on the play by Noël Coward
6:30
* Live piano accompaniment by Steve Sterner

MAY 17 TUE
PRIVATE LIVES (1931, Sidney Franklin) 35mm
Norma Shearer, Robert Montgomery, Una Merkel, Reginald Denny
Based on the play by Noël Coward
12:40, 4:10, 7:35

TONIGHT IS OURS (1933, Stuart Walker) 35mm
Fredric March, Claudette Colbert
Based on the play "The Queen Was in the Parlour" by Noël Coward
2:30, 6:00

BOOM! (1968, Joseph Losey) 35mm
Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Noël Coward
9:25

MAY 18 WED
BUNNY LAKE IS MISSING (1965, Otto Preminger) DCP restoration
12:30

THE ASTONISHED HEART (1950, Terence Fisher) 35mm (print imported from U.K. especially for series)
Noël Coward, Celia Johnson, Margaret Leighton
Based on the one-act play by Noël Coward
2:40, 6:40

THIS HAPPY BREED (1944, David Lean) DCP
Based on the play by Noël Coward
Robert Newton, Celia Johnson, John Mills
4:30, 8:30

MAY 19 THU
THE SCOUNDREL (1935, Ben Hecht & Charles MacArthur) 35mm
12:30

BRIEF ENCOUNTER (1945, David Lean) 35mm
6:25

IN WHICH WE SERVE (1942, Noël Coward & David Lean) 35mm
2:10

BLITHE SPIRIT (1945, David Lean) DCP
4:25, 8:15

BOOM! (1968, Joseph Losey) 35mm
10:15


Repertory calendar programmed by Bruce Goldstein.

For more information, links and showtimes, visit www.filmforum.org.


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