1893 – 1951
One of the great entertainers of the early 20th Century, his house in Maidenhead became a theatre school after his death.
Ivor Novello, whose real name was David Ivor Davies, was born in Cardiff in 1893. His mother was a successful conductor and singing teacher, and as a child Novello sang in the Eisteddfod.
Novello first found success as a songwriter, with his ‘Keep the home fires burning’ a huge success during the first world war. Throughout his career he was a prolific writer of songs for film and stage musicals.
He also turned to acting, and was one of the most popular stars of the 1920s. He starred in two Hitchcock films, ‘Downhill’ and ‘The Lodger’, in which he played the lead. Other films included ‘The Vortex’ and ‘A South Sea Bubble’.
When Gainsborough Pictures gave him a contract, he was able to buy a country house in Littlewick Green, which he named Redroofs. It became notorious for the parties Novello held there, with a social circle that included the likes of Laurence Olivier and Noel Coward.
Novello joined the RAF during the Second World War, and survived two crashes. However, he also served time in prison for the misuse of petrol coupons. After the war, Novello continued performing right up to his death in 1951.
After Novello’s death, Redroofs was sold and became the Redroofs Theatre School, where there is a blue plaque in his name. The Ivor Novello Awards, awarded for songwriting, were established in his memory.
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