Partner Bobbie Andrews

Queer Places:
Llwyn yr Eos, 95 Cowbridge Rd E, Cardiff CF11 9AG, Regno Unito
55 New Bond St, Mayfair, London W1S 1DG, Regno Unito
143 Sutherland Ave, Maida Vale, London W9, Regno Unito
Novello Theatre, Aldwych, London WC2B 4LD, Regno Unito
University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 2JD, Regno Unito
Redroofs, Redroofs/School La, Littlewick Green, Maidenhead SL6 3QY, Regno Unito
Golders Green Crematorium, 62 Hoop Ln, London NW11 7NL, Regno Unito
St Paul Covent Garden, Bedford St, London WC2E 9ED, Regno Unito

Ivor Novello (15 January 1893 – 6 March 1951), born David Ivor Davies, was a Welsh composer and actor who became one of the most popular British entertainers of the first half of the 20th century.

He was born into a musical family, and his first successes were as a songwriter. His first big hit was "Keep the Home Fires Burning" (1914), which was enormously popular during the First World War. His 1917 show, Theodore & Co, was a wartime hit. After the war, Novello contributed numbers to several successful musical comedies and was eventually commissioned to write the scores of complete shows. He wrote his musicals in the style of operetta and often composed his music to the librettos of Christopher Hassall.

In the 1920s, he turned to acting, first in British films and then on stage, with considerable success in both. He starred in two silent films directed by Alfred Hitchcock, The Lodger and Downhill (both 1927). On stage, he played the title character in the first London production of Liliom (1926). Novello briefly went to Hollywood, but he soon returned to Britain, where he had more successes, especially on stage, appearing in his own lavish West End productions of musicals. The best known of these were Glamorous Night (1935) and The Dancing Years (1939). From the 1930s, he often performed with Zena Dare, writing parts for her in his works. He continued to write for film, but he had his biggest late successes with stage musicals: Perchance to Dream (1945), King's Rhapsody (1949) and Gay's the Word (1951).

The Ivor Novello Awards were named after him in 1955.

Novello had his first stage success with Theodore & Co in 1916, a production by George Grossmith, Jr. and Edward Laurillard with a score composed by Novello and the young Jerome Kern.[12] In the same year, Novello contributed to André Charlot's revue See-Saw.[2] In 1917 he wrote for another Grossmith and Laurillard production, the operette Arlette, for which he contributed additional numbers to an existing French score by Jane Vieu and Guy le Feuvre.[13] In the same year, Marsh introduced him to the actor Bobbie Andrews, who became Novello's life partner.[2] Andrews introduced Novello to the young Noël Coward. Coward, six years Novello's junior, was deeply envious of Novello's effortless glamour.[6] He wrote, "I just felt suddenly conscious of the long way I had to go before I could break into the magic atmosphere in which he moved and breathed with such nonchalance".[14]

Novello made his stage debut in 1921 in Deburau by Sacha Guitry with Robert Loraine, Madge Titheradge and Bobbie Andrews,[18] and, among other stage engagements, in the next years he played Bingley in an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice with Ben Webster as Darcy and Mary Jerrold as Elizabeth, in a cast that included Ellen Terry, May Whitty and Joyce Carey.[19] At about this time, Novello had an affair with the writer Siegfried Sassoon; it was short lived, but in the words of Sassoon's biographer John Stuart Roberts, Novello "was a consummate flirt who collected lovers as he gathered lilacs".[20]

external image II_Novello%20Theatre,%20London,%20UK.JPG
Novello Theatre, London

Novello's last full-scale production in this style, King's Rhapsody (1949), was, in Webb's words, "a selfconsciously romantic counter-blast to the modern musical: crown princes, ballrooms, royal yachts, beautiful princesses and a full-scale coronation".[3] After the rigours of war, this escapist entertainment had strong box-office appeal, and ran for 841 performances.[35] The show starred Novello and the cast included Phyllis Dare, Zena Dare, Olive Gilbert and Bobbie Andrews. It was still running, at the Palace Theatre, when Novello's last show opened. This was Gay's the Word (1951). Novello had written no role for himself; the show starred the comedy actress Cicely Courtneidge and was a departure from his established pattern, balancing the contrasting styles of European operetta and post-war American musicals.[2] The Times commented that the show "cheerfully parodied the very Ruritanian romances to which he owed his most triumphant successes".[7]

Novello died suddenly from a coronary thrombosis at the age of 58, a few hours after completing a performance in the run of King's Rhapsody.[7] He was cremated at the Golders Green Crematorium, and his ashes are buried beneath a lilac bush and marked with a plaque that reads "Ivor Novello 6th March 1951 'Till you are home once more'."[36] He left an estate worth £160,000[37] (£4.61 million when adjusted for inflation).

Only a few weeks before Novello's death, Coward had written of him: "Theatre – good, bad and indifferent – is the love of his life. For him, other human endeavours are mere shadows. ... The reward of his work lies in the indisputable fact that whenever and wherever he appears the vast majority of the British public flock to see him."[5] Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians writes of Novello that he was "until the advent of Andrew Lloyd Webber, the 20th-century's most consistently successful composer of British musicals".[3]

The Ivor Novello Awards for songwriting, established in 1955 in Novello's memory, are awarded each year by the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA) to British songwriters and composers as well as to an outstanding international music writer.[38] A scholarship in memory of Novello was established at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and in 1952 a bronze bust of him by Clemence Dane was unveiled at Drury Lane. In St. Paul's, Covent Garden, known as the actors' church, a panel was installed to commemorate Novello, and in 1972, to mark the 21st anniversary of his death, a memorial stone was unveiled in St. Paul's Cathedral.[2]

In 1993, the centenary of Novello's birth was marked by several celebratory shows around the UK, including one at the Players Theatre in London.[17] In 2005, the Strand Theatre, above which Novello lived for many years, was renamed the Novello Theatre, with a plaque in his honour set at the entrance.[39] On 27 June 2009, a statue of Novello was unveiled outside the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay. Plaques detailing some of his best-known songs are fitted to the pedestal, along with a dedication to Novello.[40] Novello's memory is promoted by The Ivor Novello Appreciation Bureau, which holds annual events around Britain, including an annual pilgrimage to Redroofs each June. Redroofs was sold after Novello's death and is now a theatre training school.[41]


St. Paul's Cathedral, London


St. Paul's Church, London

Novello was portrayed in Robert Altman's 2001 film, Gosford Park, by Jeremy Northam, and several of his songs were used for the film's soundtrack, including "Waltz of My Heart", "And Her Mother Came Too", "I Can Give You the Starlight", "What a Duke Should Be", "Why Isn't It You?" and "The Land of Might-Have-Been".


  1. "Statue honours composer Novello", BBC News, 27 June 2009, accessed 26 September 2014
  2. Snelson, John. "Novello, Ivor (1893–1951)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edition, January 2011, accessed 17 March 2011 ((subscription required)
  3. Webb, Paul. "Novello, Ivor", Grove Music Online, Oxford Music Online, accessed 17 March 2011 ((subscription required)
  4. MacQueen-Pope, p. 29
  5. Trewin, J. C. "Popular Idol", i> The Times Literary Supplement,, 18 May 1951, p. 304
  6. Callow, Simon/a>. "Ivor Novello, master of the musical", The Guardian,, 3 August 2012
  7. Obituary, i> The Times,, 7 March 1951, p. 6
  8. Ibell, P. (2010) Theatreland: A Journey Through the Heart of London's Theatre, p. 89, London: Bloomsbury Continuum, ISBN 9978-1847250032
  9. MacQueen-Pope, p. 120
  10. Grove Music Online/a> states that the song dates from 1915, but the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography gives the date as 1914, a fact confirmed by the British Library ccatalogue
  11. MacQueen-Pope, pp. 57–62
  12. "Theodore & Co", The Play Pictorial,, September 1916, p. 50
  13. Findon, B.W. "'Arlette' – An Operette in Three Acts", i>TThe Play Pictorial, November 1917, p. 82
  14. Hoare (1995), p.55
  15. Findon, B. W. "Who's Hooper?", i>The Play Pictorial,, July 1919, p. 35
  16. "The Golden Moth", i>The Times,, 6 October 1921, p. 8
  17. "Ivor Novello",/a> Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Oxford Music Online, accessed 16 March 2011 ((subscription required)
  18. "The Theatres", The Times,, 20 October 1921, p. 8
  19. "Plays of the Year", i>The Play Pictorial,, October 1922, p. 111
  20. Roberts, p. 195
  21. Duguid, Mark. "The Man Without Desire (1923)",, BFI Screen Online, accessed 14 June 2017
  22. It was credited to the pseudonymous David L'Estrange, but was the work of Novello and his friend, the actress Constance Collier:: see ODNB
  23. "Duke of York's Theatre", i>The Times,, 24 December 1926, p. 8
  24. Hoare (1995), p.123
  25. Hoare (1995), pp.187–88
  26. "The Theatres. i> Sirocco to be Withdrawn", The Times,, 12 December 1927, p. 12
  27. Davies, John/a>; Jenkins, Nigel; Menna, Baines; et al., eds. (2008). The Welsh Academy Encyclopaedia of Wales. Cardiff: University of Wales Press. p. 626. ISBN 978-0-7083-1953-6..
  28. According to the ODNB, "he reputedly originated the line that gave rise to the now mythical if inaccurate 'Me Tarzan. You Jane' (originally – with appropriate pointing – 'Tarzan. Jane.')"
  29. Letter from Novello to Coward, undated, in Day, p. 156
  30. Theatres",/i> The Times,, 2 May 1935, p. 12; and 18 July 1936, p. 12
  31. "Drury Lane", i> The Times,, 12 September 1936, p. 10; and Gaye, p. 1529
  32. Gaye, p. 1530
  33. MacQueen-Pope, p. 234. The offending fan, Dora Grace Constable, escaped with a £50 fine: see ODNB
  34. Hoare (1995), p.349; Coward's modified sympathy was later echoed in Ewan MacColl's song "Ivor": see MacColl, Ewan. Bad Lads and Hard Cases,, Riverside LP 1957
  35. Gaye, p. 1533
  36. Wilson, Scott. i> Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed.: 2. McFarland & Company (2016) ISBN 00786479922
  37. "Composer Left £160,000 Estate"/a>. The Mercury. Hobart, Tas. 9 June 1951. p. 8. Retrieved 10 July 2012 – via National Library of Australia.
  38. Pegler, Martin. Soldiers' Songs and Slang of the Great War, Osprey Publishing, 2014, p. 248 ISBN 99781427804150
  39. "Ivor Novello plaque, Aldwych"/a>,, Geograph.org, accessed 26 September 2014
  40. "Statue honours composer Novello"/a>,, BBC News, 27 June 2009
  41. "About us"/a> Archived 10 March 2011 at the Wayback Machine., Redroofs Associates, accessed 16 March 2011
  42. 1917 mp3 recording of "Keep the home fires burning" sung by John McCormack, firstworldwar.com, accessed 20 November 2009