A prolific British playwright, songwriter and actor whose work reflected both an acidic modern cynicism and a sentimental longing for his Edwardian childhood, Noël Coward became one of the most successful and influential performing artists of the 20th century. From his time as a childhood actor on the stage, Coward achieved great critical and financial success, particularly after coming into his own as a playwright in the early 1920s with risqué hits like "The Better Half" (1922), "The Vortex" (1924) and "Easy Virtue" (1926). Thriving during the Great Depression, Coward saw many of his plays adapted into successful films like "Cavalcade" (1933) and "Design for Living" (1933), as well wrote his best known work, "Private Lives" (1931). Though his career was sidetracked by World War II, where he began a fruitful collaboration with David Lean on the wartime propaganda film "In Which We Serve" (1942). Lean successfully adapted the play "Blithe Spirit" (1945) and commissioned Coward to write an original script for "Brief Encounter" (1945). But after the war, Coward struggled to regain his prewar success with his pen, though he appeared more frequently on the big screen in films like "Around the World in 80 Days" (1956) and "Our Man in Havana" (1959). Following his last onscreen performance in "The Italian Job" (1969), Coward retired from acting and died just a few years later. With his lisping speech, penchant for long cigarette holders, and elegant persona, Coward was a modern day Oscar Wilde whose charisma, talent and wit made him a major star both onstage and off.