VenueWalter Reade Theater
Noël Coward’s first film role was as a boy pushing a barrow in D.W. Griffith’s Hearts of the World in 1917. Griffith had him pushing the barrow away from camera; the teenage Coward persuaded him to let him push it towards camera, thus giving the viewing public their first glimpse of Coward the film actor. He went on to leading roles in a few films (including his own In Which We Serve), before, in the 1950s, becoming a frequent cameo player. He had a scene with John Gielgud in Around the World in 80 Days (1956) for which he wrote his own dialogue; played an insensitive civil servant in Our Man in Havana (1959), a European king in exile in Stanley Donen’s Surprise Package (1960), and an Alexander Korda-esque film tycoon in Paris When It Sizzles (1963); acted opposite Liz and Dick in the feverish Tennessee Williams adaptation Boom! (1968); and was a scrofulous queer landlord in Otto Preminger’s Bunny Lake Is Missing (1967). Told he “stole” every film he appeared in, Coward happily agreed, insisting “it was only petty larceny.” Finally, he was the jailed master criminal who organizes the central heist in The Italian Job (1969), of which his co-star Michael Caine, sharing the feeling of many, remarked, “Playing with Noël is a lot like working with God.” In this special illustrated talk, Coward scholar and series programmer Barry Day will screen a selection of clips spotlighting Coward’s work in front of the film camera, followed by a complete screening of Our Man in Havana.