English/Nat COWARD COMES BACK INTO FASHION IN NEW FILM
Story: Relative Values
Location: Isle of Man
Date: August 3Oth 1999
NOEL COWARD, the quintessential stiff upper lip Brit, has been out of fashion in recent years. If people remember him it is for his screenplay for DAVID LEAN's classic BRIEF ENCOUNTER, a much charicatured story of deep passions restrained by etiquette and good manners which seems a million years away from today's screen romances.
Or else they remember a dandy character actor who appeared in movies like THE ITALIAN JOB or perhaps singing his little ditty MAD DOGS AND ENGLISHMEN.
But behind the image of the smoking jacket and cigarette holder, Coward was actually an extremely good writer whose witty drawing room comedies about the snobbish and the rich were far deeper and more intelligent than casual critics gave them credit for.
And like another playwright who fell out of fashion until recently OSCAR WILDE Coward is only now being rediscovered and relished by a new cinematic audience.
An all star international cast are currently in the Isle of Man off the British coast working on a big screen production of one of his lesser known and later play RELATIVE VALUES.
JULIE ANDREWS (SOUND OF MUSIC), JEANNE TRIPPLEHORN (MICKEY BLUE EYES, BASIC INSTINCT), COLIN FIRTH (FEVER PITCH) and ALEC BALDWIN (MARRIED TO THE MOB, GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS) star in the comedy directed by ERIC STYLES (DREAMING OF JOSEPH LEES).
The story is a comical look at changing and conflicting social values in aristocratic England in 1951. Nigel, Earl of Marshwood (EDWARD ATTERTON) is about to marry beneath himself, to an American actress. Further complicating the matter, his mother (Andrews) the Countess has a personal maid, Moxie (SOPHIE THOMPSON) , who is the long lost sister of the actress Miranda Frayle.
Baldwin plays the actresses American screen lover.
Moxie is hysterical and preparing to leave, when a plot is worked out to make her an heiress living with the family. It goes well until Miranda starts telling of how she was raised in a London slum by a drunken mother and mean sister who has since died, after spending all the money Miranda has sent her over the years on booze. Moxie explodes and tells everyone she is Miranda's sister and sets the record straight about her mother and the "obstacles" that Miranda has overcome.
After that things get complicated...
Coward, who died in 1973, was born exactly one hundred years ago. Perfect timing perhaps for a new generation to discover and reassess this talented playwright, actor, composer and director.
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