A much-loved composer, lyricist, librettist and actor, Novello (born David Ivor Novello) was born into a musical family, and was encouraged by his mother, a singing teacher. He soon became musically proficient, and quickly established a local reputation. That reputation spread throughout the UK with the publication of a song that encapsulated the feelings of many families torn apart by World War I. Setting to music a poem by the American Lena Guilbert-Ford, Novello's 'Keep The Home Fires Burning' (1915) was a huge popular success. He continued to write songs while serving in the Naval Air Service, but in 1919 turned mainly to acting and appeared in a number of silent films. With a classic profile that gained him matinee idol status amongst the film-going public, his screen career continued into the 30s, although he persisted in his desire to write for the stage. He contributed material to Theodore & Co. (1916) and Arlette (1917), before writing the music for Tabs (1918) and Who's Hooper" (1919). These were followed during the 20s by The Golden Moth, Puppets, Our Nell, and The House That Jack Built (1929), but real success eluded him until 1935 when he teamed up with lyricist Christopher Hassall for the hugely popular Glamorous Night ('Shine Through My Dreams', 'Fold Your Wings'), which was followed by equally lush and romantic productions such as Careless Rapture ('Love Made The Song', 'Why Is There Ever Goodbye"', 1936), Crest Of The Wave ('Rose Of England', 'The Haven Of Your Heart', 1937), The Dancing Years ('I Can Give You The Starlight', 'Primrose', 'Waltz Of My Heart', 'My Dearest Dear', 'My Life Belongs To You', 1939), Arc De Triomphe, ('Man Of My Heart', 'Waking Or Sleeping', 1943), Perchance To Dream ('We'll Gather Lilacs', 'Love Is My Reason', 1945), and King's Rhapsody ('Someday My Heart Will Awake', 'Take Your Girl', 1949). His last show, Gay's The Word (lyrics by Alan Melville), in which Cicely Courtneidge introduced 'It's Bound To Be Right On The Night' and 'Vitality', opened in London in 1951, three weeks before Novello died. In a way, it lampooned the kind of lavish, brilliantly staged productions with which Novello had captured the imagination of London theatre audiences, and successfully challenged the ever-present American invasion.
By customarily taking the non-singing romantic lead in several of his own productions, Novello also built an immense following with the female audience, despite the fact that in his private life he was homosexual. Apart from Hassall, who was the lyricist for six of his shows, Novello's other collaborators included P.G. Wodehouse, Clifford Grey, Harry Graham, Ronald Jeans, Howard Talbot, Dion Titheradge (especially for the song 'And Her Mother Came Too'), Adrian Ross, and Douglas Furber. In 1993, the centenary of his birth was marked by several celebratory shows around the UK, including one at the Players Theatre in London, and the tribute album, Marilyn Hill Smith Sings Ivor Novello, which contained 20 of his loveliest melodies.
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