"Personally it would make me jealous to sit in a bathroom surrounded by gods and goddesses with better figures than my own."
“It would encourage me."— Noel Coward, The Vortex (1924)
On this date in 1924, Noel Coward enjoyed an especially satisfying present for his 25th birthday: his first long-running hit in London’s West End. With its unblinking treatment of youthful drug addiction and coded references to the taboo topic of homosexuality, The Vortex had the kind of wit and whiff of decadence last associated with Oscar Wilde.
The play’s success made the playwright the toast of the town, giving him access to the most exclusive drawing rooms—an environment thoroughly enjoyed by Coward, who had been born in decidedly less privileged circumstances. The success was doubly gratifying because it ratified the wisdom of Coward’s strategy in urging the theater to stage this play rather than Hay Fever, which had no role that the playwright felt he could play. In time, he would assume multiple roles in the entertainment world: not just playwright and actor, but also composer-lyricist, film director, and, late in life, singer.