|About this Recording
8.120600 - NOVELLO, Ivor: Shine Through My Dreams (1917-1950)
IVOR NOVELLO “Shine
Through My Dreams”
Ivor Novello was, by his own reckoning, no purist highbrow. An entertainer, he was a man of the theatre with a keen commercial sense to whom “empty seats and good opinions” meant nothing. With its glittering, no-expense-spared sets and costumes and unabashed air of sheer romance, a Novello show was fantasy theatre of the highest calibre, the last British manifestation of Viennese-style operetta. A typical Novello number has a seductive and haunting simplicity and its unashamedly lush melody and highly sentimental lyrics conceal the music’s inner strength and commercial durability.
Songwriter, playwright, actor, matinee-idol, pianist and producer, Ivor was born David Ivor Davies in Cardiff on 15th January, 1893, the son of a local government accountant. His mother, Clara Novello Davies (1861-1943), a scion of the noted London Novello family and a leading figure in the British musical scene and pioneer choral trainer (in the 1890s she had founded the renowned Welsh Ladies Choir), nurtured both his precocious musical talent and his latent theatrical inclinations. As a lad Ivor accompanied her singing pupils; later, he also taught piano and from an early age his life revolved around music and the theatre. He met the great Patti and was a page-boy at Clara Butt’s wedding (an occasion he marked with the “Page’s Road Song” penned for, and subsequently recorded by, that great Dame).
After attending school first in Cardiff, then in Gloucester (where he was a pupil of Sir Herbert Brewer, of Three Choirs’ Festival fame), in 1903, at the age of ten, he won a scholarship to Magdalen College School, Oxford. At first for amusement, he dabbled in one act plays and ballads, until one of the earliest, “Spring Of The Year” (1910), dedicated to the soprano Evan Florence, was published by Boosey. Further moderate commercial successes followed, some with words supplied by the doyen of drawing-room ballad lyricists, the Somerset-born barrister Fred E. Weatherly (1848-1929).
In 1911, at eighteen, Ivor travelled first to Canada then to New York, hoping to find fame and fortune as composer with his full-length musical, The Fickle Jade. The attempt basically proved a failure and, after various vicissitudes, the struggling Novello returned to London in 1913. By this time, however, he had acquired a lucrative song-writing contract with the publishers Ascherberg and at the outset of World War 1 was ideally placed to pen a string of jingoistic morale-boosters, including “Keep The Home Fires Burning”, which made his name, in 1915. With words by his friend, the resident British American Lena Guilbert Ford, this song assumed a more international profile after the US entry into the war in 1917 when, along with “Laddie In Khaki” (featured and recorded by the New Zealand born Metropolitan Opera star soprano Frances Alda, 1883-1952) it was interwoven with American war-effort rallying propaganda. More than twenty years later, as this later recording indicates, it was chosen to play a similar role in World War II Britain.
In 1916, Ivor was appointed a Royal Naval Air Service sub-lieutenant aboard HMS Crystal Palace, but as in First World War London theatre was flourishing (there were no closures), he soon found himself commissioned to write material for Nat D. Ayer’s The Bing Boys Are Here and George Grossmith’s Theodore & Co., and in December of that year also wrote numbers for Charlot’s See - Saw and, in 1917, for Cochran’s Arlette. In 1918, he penned various items for Harry Grattan’s revue Tabs and in 1919 shared the credits with Howard Talbot for the Clifford Grey revue Who’s Hooper?
1919 also saw Novello’s first flowering as a straight-actor in Paris, where his good looks and charming demeanour in Louis Mercanton’s screen adaptation of the Robert Hichens novel The Call Of The Blood soon established his reputation as a silent matinee-idol. Already typecast as a Rudolph Valentino clone, in 1921 he made his Hollywood screen debut (for United Artists, in Matheson Lang’s Carnival) and, in London, played in Harley Granville- Barker’s adaptation of Sacha Guitry’s Debureau, keeping his hand in meanwhile as a songwriter with the witty “And Her Mother Came Too”, featured by Jack Buchanan in the revue A - to - Z.
When, in 1923, Novello again set foot on American soil, he had two strings to his bow: balladeer and screen Adonis. He now had many popular songs to his credit, most recently “Thoughts Of You”, Bless You” and “Every Bit Of Loving In The World” (all recorded by Alda). No one would pretend that these, or “The Radiance In Your Eyes” (1916; a clear plagiarism of Lillian Ray’s more famous 1915 ballad “The Sunshine Of Your Smile” here forthrightly delivered by the Brooklyn-born concert and opera baritone Reinald Werrenrath, 1883-1953) are great songs, but they are consistently melodious and lyrical in character.
In Hollywood, in 1923, Novello played a romantic lead in The Bohemian Girl (with Gladys Cooper and Ellen Terry, for the Knowles studio) and was singled out by D.W.Griffith who, pairing him with Mae Marsh in The White Rose, viewed him as a likely stand-in for Richard Barthelmess or Ramon Novarro. Among his other silent-screen appearances were The Man Without Desire (1923), The Rat (1925), The Constant Nymph and The Vortex (1928), all of which secured his reputation as the leading British romantic male star of his day. Ivor made the transition to talkies (with Once A Lady, for Paramount, in 1931) after several seasons as a straight-actor on the London stage. However, following the disaster of Coward’s Sirocco (1927), he turned actor-manager for various shows and revues, including Symphony In Two Flats (1929; filmed in 1930 by Michael Balcon, this included the unaccountably forgotten Give Me Back My Heart, delightfully sung here by the Brooklyn-born singing actress Peggy Wood, 1892-1978) and Murder In Mayfair (1934; this mercifully preserved Act 1 scene amply illustrates both Novello’s playful lampooning of the Love Scene from his friend Noël Coward’s Private Lives (1930) and his skill as an improviser at the piano).
Glamorous Night (1935), however, his first full-scale musical for fourteen years, proved the real turning-point for Novello. First conceived (he claimed during a lunch-time meeting) with the songwriter-manager H. M. Tennent (1879-1941) to restore the Drury Lane Theatre’s dwindling fortunes, it was grandiose and scenic in conception (it included a shipwreck scenario), had a book of high calibre – the first of a series – by the London-born actor and lyricist Christopher Hassall (1912-1963) and enjoyed a record initial run of 243 performances. Over-brimming with Novello show-stoppers (namely “Deep In My Heart”, “Fold Your Wings”, “Shine Through My Dreams”, “When The Gypsy Played” and “The Girl I Knew” (created by Elisabeth Welch, b.1904), its cast was headed by the New York-born ex-Metropolitan Opera soprano Mary Ellis (1897-2001), the star of the subsequent ABP/Walter Mycroft film-version (1936) and was essentially operatic (i.e. it needed trained singers to do it justice) in conception.
No less lavish, its successor Careless Rapture (1936) ran for 296 Drury Lane performances before touring Britain during 1937-1938. Both this show and its sequel Crest Of The Wave (1937) starred the Kansas-born singing-actress Dorothy Dickson (b.1896) who here leads the chorus in the tuneful if rather less well-known “If You Only Knew”. Mary Ellis returned to the fold in 1939 for The Dancing Years and some legendary exchanges with Novello at the piano (notably in “My Dearest Dear”). Among the last great pre-War Drury Lane shows, it closed in late September 1939 after 187 performances following the outbreak of World War 2, thus marking the end of Novello’s association with that great theatre. After a British tour it returned in 1942 to the Adelphi for a further 969 performances and was filmed in England during 1949 (ABP/Warwick Ward) with a cast headed by Dennis Price and Gisèle Préville (who here offers two of the show’s best-loved songs: “I Can Give You The Starlight” and “Waltz Of My Heart”.
Following Arc De Triomphe (Phoenix Theatre, 1943; the penultimate Hassall-Novello collaboration in which Ellis’s numbers again reflected her opera-singer casting, but were upstaged by Elisabeth Welch’s hauntingly atmospheric “Dark Music”) Novello wrote his own libretto for Perchance To Dream (Hippodrome, 1945). Set in Regency England, with a cast which featured contralto Olive Gilbert (1896-1981), soprano Muriel Barron (b.1906), actress Margaret Rutherford (1892-1972) and Novello himself, this musical, which included the monumental “We’ll Gather Lilacs”, was the longest-running - at 1022 performances - of all his shows.
Ivor Novello died in London, on 6th March, 1951.
Peter Dempsey, 2002
IN MY HEART (Christopher Hassall, from Glamorous Night)
YOUR WINGS (Christopher Hassall, from Glamorous Night)
RADIANCE IN YOUR EYES (lyricist unknown)
BIT OF LOVING IN THE WORLD (Douglas Furber)
THOUGHT NEVER ENTERED MY HEAD (lyricist unknown, from the revue, TheHouse
That Jack Built)
ME BACK MY HEART (Douglas Furber, from Symphony In Two Flats)
from Act 1 of Murder In Mayfair (Clemence Dane)
THE GYPSY PLAYED (Christopher Hassall, from Glamorous Night)
GIRL I KNEW (Christopher Hassall, from Glamorous Night)
THROUGH MY DREAMS (Christopher Hassall, from Glamorous Night)
YOU ONLY KNEW (Christopher Hassall, from Crest Of The Wave)
DEAREST DEAR (Christopher Hassall, arr. Prentice, from The Dancing Years)
LEAP YEAR WALTZ (Christopher Hassall, from Glamorous Night)
MUSIC (Christopher Hassall, from Arc de Triomphe)
GATHER LILACS (Ivor Novello, from Perchance To Dream)
16. I CAN
GIVE YOU THE STARLIGHT (Christopher Hassall, from The Dancing Years)
OF MY HEART (Christopher Hassall, from The Dancing Years)
THE HOME FIRES BURNING (Lena Guilbert Ford)
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