Noel Coward is well-known for writing vastly entertaining plays, acting, directing and exuding an extraordinary sense of style. However, many people may not realize the circumstances under which he wrote the popular Blithe Spirit:
Imagine London during World War II. Germany’s Blitzkrieg assaults the city with an arsenal of bombs. Buildings collapse. Lives are lost. People flee to the English countryside.
Now imagine a 40 year old playwright living in England during this time. He spends five days writing a play (in between his covert operations as a member of Britain’s Secret Service). What might that play be about? War? Survival? Politics? Pride? Despair?
No. The playwright is Noel Coward. And the play he created during England’s battle-scarred year of 1941 is Blithe Spirit, a delightfully satirical comedy about ghosts…..
Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit playfully mocks the traditions of love and marriage. It also thumbs its nose at the Grim Reaper. What a perfect defense mechanism against the harsh realities England faced during World War II. West End audiences embraced this darkly amusing comedy. Blithe Spirit became a resounding success that continues to haunt the British and American stage. (by Wade Bradford, excerpted from http://plays.about.com/od/reviews/fr/blithespirit.htm)
Yes, at the outset, Coward was a member of the Secret Service, working both in the British Propaganda Office and in America. In fact, the British playwright and entertainer was on the Nazi’s Black List. He struck a nerve with Churchill, which is why he returned to his creative roots, writing and performing for the remainder of the war, in lieu of having official military duties. This contribution was an asset in itself, boosting the morale of the troops and adding to a theatrical legacy that lasts to this day.