Beverly Hills — from the diary of Noël Coward — 1957 Sunday 4 August

Tyrone-Power-Noel-Coward-Marlene-Dietrich-Charles-Laughton-Witness-ProsecutionThe Almighty has withdrawn his hitherto effusive regard for me and struck me down. My flight out here last Sunday was peaceful and uneventful. I read Nevil Shute’s new book On the Beach, a grisly description of a group of people left alive in Australia when the rest of the world has been annihilated by H-bombs. They are waiting for the spreading radioactivity to spread to them and wipe them out which, eventually, it does. It’s written with his usual fluency and is a good idea, but all the characters are so sickeningly decent and ‘ordinary’ and such good sorts that personally I longed for the slowly approaching ‘fall-out’ to get a move on. He is suffering from a sort of spiritual diabetes in which everything turns to sugar.

Marlene met me at the airport and we drove to Clifton’s. He was in bed with a cold. We dined quietly and went to bed early after I had rehearsed Marlene in some cockney speeches for Witness for the Prosecution. It is not easy to teach Cockney to a German glamour-puss who can’t pronounce her Rs but she did astonishingly well. On Monday I lay in the sun and bathed in the pool, and in the evening, just as I was dressing to go out to dine quietly with Leonard Spigelgass, I bent down to get some socks out of a drawer and was seized with a blazing pain across the small of my back. At first I thought I had slipped something but I suspected, and I was right, that it was my old friend ‘lumbago’…

The Noël Coward Diaries: Graham Payn, Sheridan Morley: 9780306809606: Books.


  1. George Kaplan

    “It is not easy to teach Cockney to a German glamour-puss who can’t pronounce her R’s…”, I should think not! An Englishman much more vulgar and given to bad puns than I might be tempted to say “Marlene couldn’t tell her “R’s” from her elbow”! Bwahahahaha! The other hilarious thing about the above – apart from his marvellously acid comments on On The Beach – is the thought of Coward *himself* speaking Cockney, he was hardly Michael Caine (with whom he appeared in The Italian Job, Fact Fans!) or Bob ‘oskins was he?! 😉

    • It’s a fun book when he’s anecdotal — but a good portion of it is: I ate with so-and-so, went to the theatre, gave a marvelous performance, then so-and-so flew all of us so-and-so’s to Cap Ferrat and I sat next to so-and-so…

      • It’s a great word. And was used more often in days gone by. Another word which always goes together in my mind with lumbago is plumbago. I think plumbago grows well in your area. By the way, I am very curious about the smell of sage in Palm Springs. Would you care to expand on that? The sage? What it looks like? Have you seen my widget? (wish that didn’t sound so rude!) I am having a lot of fun, and laugh out loud moments, with your book. Yikes, I know it’s not a comedy but I do like humour.

      • I just went looking at widgets… OH MY GOODNESS! Thank you! Desert sage is scrubby shrub with silver green leaves that covers the hillsides and smells like the first touch of sun in the morning — a little minty, a little earthy, and vital. As to the book, I can’t help but write the funny bits, sometimes. They just pop out! xox, V

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