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David Ivor Davies (15 January 1893 – 6 March 1951), better known as Ivor Novello, was a Welshmarker composer, singer and actor who became one of the most popular British entertainers of the early 20th century.


Novello was born at Llwyn-yr-Eos (Grove of the Nightingale), Cowbridge Road East, Cardiffmarker, Wales, to Clara Novello Davies, a well-known singer and the teacher who founded the Welsh Ladies Choir, and David Davies, a tax collector. His adopted sister was Marie Novello. A blue plaque commemorating his birth can be seen on the side of the house. As a boy, Novello was a successful singer in Welsh Eisteddfod. He was educated at Magdalen College Schoolmarker in Oxfordmarker, where he sang in the choir. He legally changed his name to Ivor Novello in January 1927, although he was known by that name on stage from at least 1918.

In 1916 Novello received a commission as a Sub-Lieutenant and trained as a pilot in the Royal Naval Air Service. He completed dual flying instruction but crash landed on his first solo. His second solo flight ended in a more serious crash, in which he injured his ankle. The Royal Navy grounded him, and he was posted to clerical duties for the duration of the war.


Novello first became known as a result of the song "Keep the Home Fires Burning", which he composed during World War I. His 1917 show, Theodore & Co was a wartime hit, composed while Novello was in the Navy. Novello wrote his musicals in the style of operetta and was one of the last major composers in this form. While he generally wrote his own librettos (being an experienced playwright), Christopher Hassall wrote the lyrics for most of his shows.

After World War I, Novello pursued a film career until the 1930s. He starred in two silent films directed by Alfred Hitchcock, The Lodger and Downhill, both in 1927.

On stage, he occasionally played dramatic roles, such as the title character in the first London production of Ferenc Molnar's Liliom (1926). He also appeared in West Endmarker musicals of his own devising. His musicals in the 1930s were expensive, spectacular productions, with several scene changes and a large cast including many extras and dancers. The best known of these were Glamorous Night (1935) and The Dancing Years (1939). Novello later went to Hollywoodmarker and appeared in numerous successful films, but the stage remained his first love and the medium for his major successes.

In 1933, Novello coaxed the actress Zena Dare out of semi-retirement, and thereafter until his death, he often performed with her and wrote parts for her in his works. At the end of his career, he produced some of his most successful musicals, including Perchance to Dream (1945), King's Rhapsody (1949) and Gay's the Word (1951).

Personal life

was homosexual, well known for some of his more glamorous gay affairs. For 35 years, he was the lover of the British actor Bobbie Andrews, and he had an affair with the British poet and writer Siegfried Sassoon. For many years, he lived at Littlewick Greenmarker in East Berkshire.

During World War II, in May 1944, Novello was sentenced to eight weeks in prison (he served four) for misuse of petrol coupons, a serious offence in wartime Britain. An admiring female fan had purloined the fuel from her employer. Serving a sentence together with Novello was Frankie Fraser. For the UK tax year 1943-44, Novello had paid £19,948 income tax from his £35,400 earnings. After his release, he continued to appear successfully on stage and to write shows until the day before his death.

Novello died suddenly from a coronary thrombosis at age 58. He was cremated at the Golders Green Crematoriummarker.


The Ivor Novello Awards for songwriting are awarded each year by the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA) to British songwriters and composers as well as to an outstanding international music writer.

Novello was portrayed in Robert Altman's 2001 film, Gosford Park by Jeremy Northam, and several of his songs were used for the film's soundtrack, including "Waltz of My Heart", "And Her Mother Came Too", "I Can Give You the Starlight", "What a Duke Should Be", "Why Isn't It You?" and "The Land of Might-Have-Been".

His memory continues to be promoted by The Ivor Novello Appreciation Bureau, who hold annual events around Britainmarker, including an annual pilgrimage to Redroofs in Littlewick Greenmarker in June.

In 2005, the Strand Theatremarker in London, above which Novello lived for many years, was renamed the Novello Theatre. On 27 June 2009, a statue of Novello was unveiled outside the Wales Millennium Centremarker in Cardiff Baymarker. Plaques detailing some of his best-known songs are fitted to the pedestal, along with a dedication to Novello.

Principal shows

Notable songs

  • "Keep the Home Fires Burning"
  • "Fold Your Wings"
  • "Shine Through My Dreams"
  • "Rose of England"
  • "I Can Give You the Starlight"
  • " And Her Mother Came Too"
  • "My Dearest Dear"
  • "The Land of Might Have Been"
  • "When I Curtsied to the King"

  • "We'll Gather Lilacs"
  • "Someday My Heart Will Awake"
  • "Yesterday"
  • "Waltz of My Heart"
  • "Why Isn't It You"
  • "My Life Belongs to You"
  • "Fly Home Little Heart"
  • "Take Your Girl"
  • "Primrose"


  • The Call of the Blood (L'Appel du Sang) - 1919
  • Miarka: The Daughter of the Bear (Miarka, Fille de L'Ourse) - 1920
  • Carnival - 1922
  • The Bohemian Girl - 1922
  • The Man Without Desire - 1923
  • The White Rose - 1923
  • Bonnie Prince Charlie - 1923
  • The Rat - 1925
  • The Triumph of the Rat - 1926
  • The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog - (1927)
  • Downhill - 1927
  • The Vortex - 1928

  • The Constant Nymph - 1928
  • The Gallant Hussar - 1928
  • The South Sea Bubble - 1928
  • The Return of the Rat - 1928
  • Symphony in Two Flats - 1930
  • Once a Lady - 1931
  • The Phantom Fiend - 1932
  • Tarzan the Ape Man - 1932 (dialogue only)
  • I Lived With You - 1933
  • Sleeping Car - 1933
  • Autumn Crocus - 1934


  1. MacQueen-Pope, p. 29
  2. MacQueen-Pope, p. 120
  3. MacQueen-Pope, pp. 57-62
  4. MacQueen-Pope, p. 234
  5. MacQueen-Pope, p. 266
  6. "Statue honours composer Novello", BBC News, 27 June 2009
  7. Information about The Truth Game
  8. 1917 mp3 recording of "Keep the Home Fires Burning" sung by John McCormack,, accessed 20 November 2009


  • MacQueen-Pope, W. J. Ivor: The Story of an Achievement, London: Hutchinson (1954)
  • Harding, James. Ivor Novello, London: W. H. Allen (1987) ISBN 0491033850

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