Born at Teddington, Middlesex, he began performing in the West End at an early age. He wrote and starred in his first full-length play I Leave It To You in 1920. The controversy surrounding his play The Vortex (1924) made him an overnight sensation.
Throughout the next thirty years, he enjoyed enormous popularity, turning out comedies and musicals such as Hay Fever (1925), Bitter Sweet (1929), Private Lives (1930) and Blithe Spirit (1941), several of which were made into films. He also appeared in and produced films such as In Which We Serve, Brief Encounter and The Italian Job.
Parodies of him and his style include: