The Way We Were by Colin Ella - Part 70: The Theatre

Ivor Novello in The Rat
Ivor Novello in The Rat

DURING the first year of World War I a Welsh mother suggested to her musically talented son that he should compose a patriotic song.

The young lad composed a tune very quickly and even wrote the first line of the lyrics. When an American friend added the rest the greatest song of WWI was born. It was officially entitled Til The Boys Come Home, but we know it better as Keep The Home Fires Burning.

By 1918 it was a worldwide hit and its writer, David Ivor Davis, received £15,000 in royalties.

This musically gifted Welshman developed a passion for the theatre and especially the colourful musicals of the silent screen.

In 1927 he changed his name by to Ivor Novello. When the Theatre Royal in London faced bankruptcy in 1934 Novello’s production of Glamorous Night saved it. More great shows quickly followed such as Careless Rapture, Crest of the Wave and Dancing Years. The last of these three faced all the difficulties of the WWII years - blackout, transport troubles, shortages, call up and cast changes, and yet it ran in London and the provinces for ten years.

Novello enojyed a good lifestyle and his Redroofs’ home in Maidenhead often saw lavish parties, yet Novello remained a bachelor.

In 1944 he actually spent a month in Wormwood Scrubs prison after he had been sentenced for using his Rolls Royce for private journeys at a time when petrol rationing prohibited this. Novello found this hard to live down and had it not been for the encouragement of friends he would likely have given up his interest in the theatre. Happily he decided to carry on.

For many he became the best loved personality of the showbusiness world and the name of Ivor Novello still pulls at the heartstrings and his lovely tunes live on.