Troubador The Importance of Happiness

Released: 28/10/2020

ISBN: 9781800460416

eISBN: 9781800465916

Format: Paperback/eBook

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The Importance of Happiness

Noël Coward and the Actors’ Orphanage


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. 

An interview with Talk Radio, Europe:

A feature in the Ham and High:

'Meticulously researched and written with flair, Elliot James explores a scant-known chapter of Noel Coward's life - his long and impassioned support for The Actors Orphange. Revealing the tireless, genuinely philanthropic man behind the smoking jacket and cigarette holder, this book is an absolute treat for fans of 'The Master'. - Zeb Soanes

'A wonderful revelation of a side of Noel's character that so few people know about.' - Michael Attenborough CBE

'We think this is a fascinating subject. Your style is accessible and interesting so I could imagine this having wide appeal.' - Mia Christou at ABR.

Ham and High

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Elliot James

Elliot James was born in England in 1978. After working on a Colorado dude ranch and a Cape Cod ferry, he graduated from Brunel University in London in 2000. After some further adventures in North America, he graduated from drama school in 2003. Alongside acting Elliot has consulted on a summer performing arts program for many years at UCLA, taught Shakespeare, English and drama across Europe, and published articles on the life and work of Noel Coward. The Importance of Happiness is his first book.

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Goldeneye, Jamaica
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