Ivor Novello Stage and Film Collection

Scope and Content

This collection consists of production photographs, photograph albums, scrapbooks and cuttings, publicity materials, sheet music, autograph books, designs, artwork and personal correspondence relating to the career and personal life of Ivor Novello.

Administrative / Biographical History

David Ivor Davies, better known as Ivor Novello became one of Britain's most popular entertainers of the early 20th century. Having first achieved success as a songwriter, he went on to become a successful actor, playwright and composer.

Born in Cardiff in 1893 to Clara Novello Davies, an internationally known singer and choral conductor and David Davies, a tax collector. Having shown early musical promise, Novello won a scholarship to Magdalen College, Oxford, where he sang in the choir and began writing songs. His first song was published at the age of 15.

He moved to London in 1913 and took a flat above the Strand Theatre, which was to be his home for the rest of his life. The following year Novello wrote Keep the Home Fires Burning, a song which became a huge success, being particularly poignant in a time of war. From here he started to write lyrics and scores for musical comedies and revues.

Fame soon followed after the war, and Novello began a career as an actor. His first lead role was in the 1919 silent movie The Call of the Blood. He was to star in many more silent films, and eventually moved on to have success in 'talkies'. With his classic profile he gained matinee idol status amongst the film-going public and scored successes with films such as The Lodger, Downhill, The Vortex and A South Sea Bubble, his last silent movie. During his film career he worked with such luminaries as D.W. Griffith and Alfred Hitchcock.

Novello made his stage debut in 1921 with Deburau at London's Ambassadors Theatre. His theatrical career saw him composing as well as writing for a variety of stage productions. In 1924 he wrote his first play, a collaboration with actor Constance Collier titled The Rat (later made into a movie, as well as inspiring two sequels). He starred in the play and the film adaptation that followed. Clearly fond of appearing in his own productions, he also wrote and starred in, amongst others; Symphony in Two Flats (1929), Proscenium (1933) and Glamorous Night (1935), the first of several Novello-penned plays which were staged at the Drury Lane Theatre, London.

In 1949, and only hours after finishing a performance of King's Rhapsody, Novello died suddenly from a coronary thrombosis. He was 58. Having dominated British music theatre in the 1930s and 1940s, Novello left behind a vast legacy of film performances, plays and musical works. His Maidenhead home later became the Redroofs Theatre School and since the 1950s the annual Ivor Novello Awards have honoured the best of British musical songwriting talent.


This collection has been organised into the following series:

  • THM/36/1 - Stage productions
  • THM/36/2 - Film productions
  • THM/36/3 - Publicity materials
  • THM/36/4 - Ivor Novello photographs and portraits
  • THM/36/5 - Autograph and visitor books
  • THM/36/6 - Designs and artwork
  • THM/36/7 - Correspondence

Access Information

This archive collection is available for consultation in the V&A Blythe House Archive and Library Study Room by appointment only. Full details of access arrangements may be found here: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/a/archives/.

Access to some of the material may be restricted. These are noted in the catalogue where relevant.

Access to some of these files may be restricted. These are identified at file level.

Separated Material

The following items have been removed from the collection, but copies of each may be found in the V&A Theatre and Performance's core and periodical collections.

  • Two copies of The Play Pictorial, No.175, Vol. XXIX: feature on Theodore & Co.
  • The Play Pictorial, No.333, Vol. LV: feature on Symphony in Two Flats.
  • The Play Pictorial, No.362, Vol. LX: feature on I Lived With You.
  • Theatre World, No.88, Vol. XVII: feature on I Lived With You.
  • The Play Pictorial, No.377, Vol. LXIII: feature on Proscenium.
  • Theatre World, No.103, Vol. XX: feature on Proscenium.
  • Two copies of Theatre World, No.153, Vol. XXVIII: feature on Crest of the Wave.
  • Two copies of programme for Theodore & Co at the Gaiety Theatre, London.
  • Copy of programme for Theodore & Co at the Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool.
  • Copy of programme for Glamorous Night at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London.

Conditions Governing Use

Information on copying and commercial reproduction may be found here: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/a/archives/.

Appraisal Information

This collection was appraised in line with the collection management policy.


No further accruals are expected.

Related Material

See also the core collections of the V&A Theatre and Performance Department. Material relating to Ivor Novello may be found in several collections, including the biographical, productions and photographs files as well as the library collection.

Please ask for details.