A musical / comedy screenplay
based on the true story of Noel Coward's first visit to New York in 1920.

Script and Original Songs by Colin M Jarman

A biographical comic drama with a musical twist. 

Logline: On their way back to England from New York, two of the greatest characters of the twentieth century meet aboard the Titanic’s sister ship ... and change each other's life forever.


   Nine years after the Titanic and that iceberg crossed paths in the North Atlantic there was another cataclysmic collision in those same turbulent waters. This time the two bodies in question were uncommonly human …
Unlike that luckless liner, she would prove unsinkable in her steadfast direction. 
She is MARIE STOPES, a controversial, battle-hardened women’s rights pioneer, ground-breaking professor of palaeobotany, and self-taught sex educator - despite being a self-confessed virgin at the ripe age of 41. 


Like that indestructible iceberg, he was the very epitome of unflappable cool. 

He is NOEL COWARD, a penniless playwright, songwriter, cabaret entertainer, showman and inveterate mother’s boy effortlessly making the transition from precocious prepubescent actor to freeloading social butterfly at the unripe age of 21. 


   Set in 1920 during the turbulent post-War period of Women's Suffrage, the League of Nations, Irish Home Rule, Palestine, Transatlantic Flight, and Prohibition...

“What was old Woodrow thinking,
When he banished all our drinking?
What was the White House thinking,
With no champagne glasses clinking?
He didn’t ask for our views
We have the right to choose ...
Now we’ve got Prohibition Blues!” *


   WHEN STARS COLLIDE relives Noel Coward’s disastrously decadent first visit to New York in 1921. Carousing off the generosity of wealthy Manhattan benefactors, he swans from glitzy gala to ritzy cocktail party drinking in the high life. 

   Having lost the inspiration to write, Noel spectacularly fails to make his literary mark or impress the impresarios on the Great White Way…


“Tracking down Lunt was a futile hunt.
Never once beheld the great Ziegfeld,
And as for Belasco. What a total fiasco!
Had more chance of seeing the Mona Lisa
Kissing the Kaiser on that Tower in Pisa.” **


Snubbed by New York's Theatre directors, a despondent and penniless Noel ekes out a living singing for his supper at swanky speakeasies and high society soirées.
   Unable to afford passage back home to his over-protective mother in England, he begs a ticket off the benevolent wife of a shipping magnate. She makes Noel promise to forgo the high life, focus on his writing and to never to sing for his supper again.

   Onboard the SS Cedric - the Titanic’s sister ship - second-class Noel gatecrashes the snobbish first-class decks with a bravura entrance. He gallantly rescues Marie Stopes from the wrath of her fellow first-class passengers incensed by her extreme views on eugenics and birth control.

   Britain's youngest doctor of science and outspoken feminine activist also left New York under a cloud: unable to persuade financiers to fund her social campaigns or speaking engagements. Four years after her best-selling sex education book 'Married Love' was banned in the USA, Marie finds herself persona non grata, as well as virgo intacta…


“After writing Married Love, I discovered my first husband was utterly impotent. Seven years in a clumsy, fumbling, unhappy marriage I was still as much a virgin as the day I was born.”


Insufferably inseparable, Noel and Marie run the first class passengers ragged with their drunken debates, rowdy recitals and sexually charged high jinks. Marie sees in Noel her lost youth and abandoned literary aspirations. Noel initially sees Marie as the latest in a long line of wealthy, surrogate mother figures.
   She pampers him rotten with praise and attention, fuelling his mother-fixation while over-stimulating her own long dormant maternal and creative juices. With Marie blissfully happy in her second marriage and Noel clinging to his closet homosexuality like a belligerent barnacle on the ship’s hull, their intellectual relationship remains platonically Oedipal… 

“Sweet Marie, you’ve hooked me.
While critics overlooked me.
Cynics scared and spooked me.
Your passion by hook or crooked me,
Your presence gobbledy-gooked me.
Marie, you’ve double-hooked me.
Blow me over, you’ve chinooked me,
Nail me down, you’ve gadzooked me.” ***

While Marie steadfastly refuses to mix with the other passengers, Noel’s youthful exuberance and raging ego compel him to freely socialize all the time. Spending less and less time together Marie becomes more and more jealous. From regaling fawning debutantes with his boyhood experiences working with D.W. Griffith and the Gish sisters, to giving private singing lessons to a tone-deaf dowager duchess with designs on his body, Noel creates a stir wherever he lays his empty martini glass. 


   Noel’s free-rolling gravy train is cruelly derailed when Marie refuses to pay his excessive bar bill. Incensed by his languid lifestyle, she orders him to sing at her onboard Charity Gala in the first class lounge. Keeping an earlier promise, Noel steadfastly refuses…

“I may be lower and you lot are all upper.
Which is why my dreams you clearly wish to scupper.
I may be lower and you lot are all upper.
Just because I refuse to act and talk too prupper.
I may be lower and you lot are all upper.
Drop another penny in the poor boy's cuppa.
I may be lower and you lot are all upper.
Which is why I won't be singing for my supper.” ****

   Unceremoniously barred from first class luxury, Noel reluctantly returns to second-class frugality. He shuns the attentions of fellow working class passengers and Marie’s besotted maid Poppy.
   Marie realizes she needs Noel to perform at her self-promoting, charity fund-raising ball. Noel refuses her repeated pleas, but later relents. 

   The go-between in bringing Noel and Marie back together is Poppy; herself in love with the dashingly debonair Noel, who is more interested in a cheeky cabin boy.
   On his return to the first-class decks - at Marie’s charity ball - Noel brings down the house with a virtuoso one-man show. Finally realizing his true vocation is to entertain, a chastened Noel agrees to perform each night to pay off his bar bill. 


   By the time the Cedric docks in Liverpool, Noel has rediscovered his lost muse and finished a new play [When Stars Collide] dedicated to Marie’s campaign.
   For her part, and under Noel’s youthful influence, Marie realizes she desperately wants to have a baby of her own, despite her stoical stance on birth control - to Noel’s garrulous glee,

“How delightfully delicious! The Queen of Birth Control... The Countess of Contraception... The Duchess of the Dutch Cap wants to be a mother.”

   Docked in Liverpool, Noel’s mother and Marie’s husband join them onboard.

   Noel explains that his new play mirrors his less-than-happy experiences in New York and on the stormy voyage home.

   A large curtain opens to reveal Noel and the whole cast [from New York and the Cedric] on stage in London’s West End, in front of a packed first night house.
   Backed by a full orchestra, Noel leads the cast in a rousing finale, singing the show-stopping title song 'When Stars Collide…' 


Guess what happens When Stars Collide?
Newton’s Laws can’t be applied
Gordian’s Knot becomes untied
Suffragettes win a landslide
That’s what happens When Stars Collide.

Marie Stopes won’t be denied
Married Love will be our guide
Her crusade will grow worldwide
That’s what happens When Stars Collide.

Great White Way's electrified
Critics drink formaldehyde
Sir Noel Coward's gentrified
That’s what happens When Stars Collide.
” *****

   At the conclusion of the song, the curtain comes down. Noel steps out front to address the wildly-appreciative audience…


“Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. I am sure you all enjoyed my perfect little masterpiece and sang along in tune to my delightful little ditties. As for the perfectly crafted storyline, you may well ask, did it really occur? ... Some events may, some events may not. Who is to say what is real and what is not. Anything can happen ... when stars collide!”


: Written in the style of Coward's early plays that became the toast of Broadway and the West End, When Stars Collide is a fictionalized account of a true story from the giddy days of the Roaring Twenties.
   Examining complex relationships between the classes and sexes, the story touches taboo subjects from the period: homosexuality, feminism, birth control, sex education, drug addiction and prohibition. 
   As with all early Coward plays, the central character is a strong and forceful, yet fatally-flawed, mother-figure - in this case Marie Stopes.   

   The leading man in his early plays is pure Coward, but with the added heroically masculine, yet debonair qualities he dreamed of possessing as an impressionable, young mother's boy. 
   This original script is sprinkled with allusions to Coward’s most famous sayings... 


Mrs. Stopes! You are an evil woman. The sort of woman who deserves ... to be ...   

To be struck ... regularly perhaps?

Waiter walks by. Softly bangs a dinner gong.  

... like a dinner gong? 

Do you take me for a mad dog or an Englishman? Who the devil are you? 

Noel Coward. I would enquire who the devil you are ... if you were not such a perfect picture of piqued pomposity.


   With Coward regarded as one of the greatest songwriters of the twentieth century, ten new songs have been written in his inimitable style, evoking this exciting and turbulent period in his life and career.
   Including these five with extracts above: 
         * "Prohibition Blues" - Noel's tale of a 'dry' New York (sung in a speakeasy)

       ** "The Talk of New York" - Noel's experiences of failing to impress the Theatre gods
     *** "Sweet Marie" - Noel's ode extolling the virtues and achievements of his new-found friend
   **** "Sing for my Supper" - Noel's refusal to kow-tow to the first class snobs and sing at Marie's Gala
 ***** "When Stars Collide" - Noel and Cast rousing curtain call on kismet and bumping into the right person

Lyrics & Music by Colin M Jarman 


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please contact Colin via the form below.

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