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Noel Coward Murder Mysteries by Marcy Kahan – #3 – A Bullet At Balmain

13/10/2021

Malcolm Sinclair stars as Noel Coward; Eleanor Bron as Lorne Lorraine his devoted secretary; with Tam Williams as Cole Lesley as his valet, in Marcy Kahan’s quintet of biographical comedies for radio.

A Bullet at Balmain

Coward is in the post-liberation Paris of 1948 to play the lead in his own play, Present Laughter, in French. But the murder of a promiscuous mannequin provides a stylish distraction. Director/Producer Ned Chaillet Ginette: Linda Marlowe Monique: Susy Kane Beatrice: Jaimi Barbakoff Chester Everal: A Walsh Jean-Marc: William Hootkins Vendeuse: Frances Jeater

Set in 1948, this haute couture mystery was set in Paris, at a time when Noel Coward (Malcolm Sinclair) was about to perform his hit play Present Laughter in French. The plot itself involved a murdered mannequin, a harassed fashion house maitresse – Coward’s devoted friend Ginette Spanier (Linda Marlowe) – and a psychopathic French murdeer and sugar-daddy (William Hootkins) who ended up holding Coward at gun-point just as the Master was about to perform the third act of Present Laughter to an audience almost entirely comprised of Parisian high society. Needless to say Coward escaped, due in no small part to a deux ex machina who ensured that the killer was safely despatched before he could caused the Master any harm. A Bullet at Balmain’s offered some incidental pleasures, centred chiefly on dramatist Marcy Kahan’s analysis of Coward’s character. While determined to pursue experiments, even if they involved a hair-raising amount of work – such as learning Present Laughter in French, Sinclair’s Coward betrayed certain insecurities. He could not do without the regular company of Cole Lesley (Tam Williams) and Lorne Lorraine (Eleanor Bron), both of whom were devoted to him. Neither of them could be described as his lovers; they were just his permanent companions. Coward’s true lover, the actor Graham Payn, was back in London performing on the stage, leaving Coward bereft of true affection. However, as a basically resourceful person, Coward amused himself by becoming involved in the murder mystery; it provided a pleasant diversion, even if it involed a certain degree of danger. Although a patriotic Englishman, Coward was also genuinely cosmopolitan; he could make himself at home in any part of the world he chose. Hence his fondness for visiting and performing in Paris. In later years he would make his permanent home as a tax-exile in Jamaica, preferring the sunshine and sea to the grey conformity of early 1960s England. This entertaining drama, punctuated with nostalgic extracts from Coward’s original song recordings, was directed by Ned Chaillet.

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