Saturday, January 15, 2011

Remembering... Ivor Novello

It's highly unlikely that when Ivor Novello was born - on this day in 1893 - he was the only gay in the village; even though the village in question was Cardiff and not Llanddewi Brefi, someone was always drilling a new shaft down the valleys in those days, so it's quite likely that by the time he got to Oxford's Magdalen College the handsome Welshman had likely already been well-fagged...

PhotobucketNovello attained his initial prominence during the First World War, when his song Keep The Home Fires Burning warmed many a parlour throughout the Empire. Then, even more than now, patriotism was the best defense against scandal; Novello's affair with Siegfried Sassoon had tongues wagging - occasionally even with gossip - and for 35 years Novello maintained a relationship with Bobbie Andrews both at home and at work.

Shortly after the end of hostilities, Novello embarked upon a movie career, appearing in two early films by Alfred Hitchcock, The Lodger (1927) and Downhill (1927). In the great British tradition, he thereafter alternated between movie and stage roles.

During World War II, when scandal finally caught up with him, it wasn't a rendezvous with a guardsman in Green Park that brought him low but an abuse of petrol coupons, for which he served four weeks in jail alongside the violent gangster Frankie Fraser. Accustomed to a life of luxury, after his release friends said Novello was never the same. He died of a coronary thrombosis in March 1951.

Novello's memory lives on; the annual Ivor Novello Awards honour songwriting in Britain, and as recently as Robert Altman's 2001 film Gosford Park Novello was portrayed by Jeremy Northam.
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1 comment:

Wynn Kozak said...

An intriguing story. I remember that song from my very early childhood. Must see Gosford Park.