Out of the Wings

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Edgar Neville Romrée

Personal information
Surname: Neville Romrée
First name: Edgar
Other versions of the name: Count of Berlanga de Duero
Born: 28 December 1899, Madrid, Spain
Died: 23 April 1967

Edgar Neville was one of Spain’s most vivacious, well-travelled, and well-connected cultural figures. Born in Madrid in 1899, he came from an aristocratic background, and spent his childhood in his grandfather’s large mansion in Valencia, or holidaying in luxury resorts in Spain and beyond. His privileged childhood instilled in Neville a love of all things luxurious, including his renowned appetite for good food. Neville’s reputation as a bon vivant and his famed eye for women were established early on during his time as a young adult in Madrid, where he attended tertulias with artists and writers, including Federico García Lorca (Ríos Carratalá 2008). Here, he became interested in carnivals and in comic theatre, becoming part of what was often described as the ‘other Generation of 1927’, alongside other comic writers such as Miguel Mihura. These artists and playwrights were (sometimes unfairly) differentiated from the Generation of 1927 because of their interest in writing more humorous works that did not contain much criticism of the contemporary political regime (see Burguera Nadal and Fortuño Llorens 1998).

In his mid-twenties Neville joined the diplomatic service. Early on in his career, he travelled to the United States. Here, he was able to cultivate his interest in theatre and cinema, becoming good friends with Charlie Chaplin which opened doors of opportunity for him in Hollywood. He met many famous film stars and directed a number of films that were moderately successful both in Spain and the United States.

Neville’s activity during and just after the Spanish Civil War (1936-9) is open to some debate (Ríos Carratalá 2008). After a brief spell in London as a diplomat, Neville returned to Spain in 1937. He spent time on the frontline as a war reporter, making propagandist films that favoured Nationalist forces. Whether he felt forced into this role to save his life, or whether he simply was a ‘conservative bon vivant who knew life would be better under Franco than the Popular Front’ remains unknown (Navarro 2003). After the war, despite the poverty afflicting most of Spain, Neville enjoyed a great deal of success. His parties were renowned for their opulence, and his growing obesity became symbolic of his continuing success as a film director and playwright in the post-Civil War years. He wrote his most well-known plays in the 1950s, including El baile (The Dance) in 1952 and La vida en un hilo (Life Hanging by a Thread) in 1959. These plays were widely performed both in Spain and beyond.

Further information

A website containing essays about, and by, Edgar Neville is available at http://www.grancanariaweb.com/cine/edgar/edgar.htm [accessed October 2011].


Throughout Edgar Neville’s work, the themes of love and happiness dominate. His plays are populated with young people who live comfortable existences with few monetary or work concerns. They spend a lot of time contemplating love and leisure, going on exotic trips and entertaining. They are characters that lead some to criticise Neville’s theatre as being frivolous and lacking in social conscience. However, Neville deliberately sought to write ‘theatre of evasion’, or ‘happy dramas’ that did not necessarily reflect real life (although he himself did live a comfortable, cosmopolitan existence) but rather presented an idealised version that offered some light relief from daily struggles (Ríos Carratalá 2006). Despite this, his plays do represent the upper-middle classes from a slightly ironic perspective and contain gentle criticisms of aspects of society, such as the marginalisation of women.


Many of Neville’s plays take place in wealthy, cosmopolitan settings, with characters exchanging witty and comic dialogue. As with the work of many of the playwrights described as the ‘other Generation of 1927’, Neville’s theatre is humorous and light-hearted, with plots that are not so much realistic as escapist (Burguera Nadal and Fortuño Llorens 1998: 74).

  • Burguera Nadal, María Luisa and Fortuño Llorens, Santiago, eds. 1998. Vanguardia y humorismo: la otra generación del 27. Castellón de la Plana, Universitat Jaume I (in Spanish)

Plays in the database

Entry written by Gwynneth Dowling. Last updated on 28 October 2011.

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