The Actors’ Orphanage was a home for the abandoned children of struggling or incapacitated actors. In 1934 it was a harsh and brutal institution. Meanwhile however, the playwright and cultural phenomenon, Noël Coward, was looking for more meaning in his life. After success after success, he would always ask... “What now?” In The Importance of Happiness, this little known and inspiring true story shows how the legendary Noël Coward and his committee of famous actors transformed the austere Actors’ Orphanage into a place of love and laughter. The lives of many children were greatly improved, against many odds.
Using documents from the archives, many of these events have never been written of before. We see how Noël fixed serious, multifarious problems and ended a reign of terror within the orphanage. How he created a rural idyll and led the glamorous fundraisers, such as the Theatrical Garden Parties, midnight matinees at the London Palladium, cabaret at the Café de Paris and charity galas at West End theatres. Until, that is, World War II arrives and the Blitz. Now the entire orphanage is evacuated across the dangerous Atlantic Ocean to the United States. The New York years see a new level of happiness for the children, as they put on a Broadway show and meet stars such as Charlie Chaplin and Gertrude Lawrence. However as some grow up they are inevitably called back to Europe and the War. The difficult post-war years see Noël struggle to make the orphanage solvent and successful once again. There will be more problem children, monstrous staff and glamorous fundraisers before Noël can finally hand over the reins to his young protégé, Richard Attenborough.
This is a timeless story of altruism, family, love and home.