Norman in 2012
Barry Leslie Norman
21 August 1933
Lambeth, London, England
|Died||30 June 2017 (aged 83)|
|Occupation||Film critic, television presenter, journalist|
(m. 1957; died 2011)
Born in Lambeth, London on 21 August 1933, Norman was the eldest of three children of film director Leslie Norman, and Elizabeth Norman (née Crafford). He was brother of script editor and director Valerie Norman (making him the former brother-in-law of Bernard Williams). Norman was educated at a state primary school and then at Hurstpierpoint College in West Sussex - the college then did not admit the sons of tradespeople and there was a lengthy debate as to whether his father's occupation as a film editor was a trade or not. At age 12 he went to Highgate School, then an all-boys independent school in North London from January 1946 until July 1951. He did not go to university, opting instead to study shipping management at Islington Technical College.
Norman began his career in journalism with the West London newspaper The Kensington News. He later spent a period in South Africa working for The Star in Johannesburg, then moving to Salisbury, Rhodesia (now known as Harare, Zimbabwe) where he wrote for The Rhodesia Herald. In Africa he developed a hostility to the effects of apartheid.
When he returned to the UK, he became a gossip columnist for the Daily Sketch, and then show business editor of the Daily Mail until 1971, when he was made redundant. Subsequently, he wrote a column for The Observer and each Wednesday for The Guardian, also contributing leader columns to the newspaper. He was one of the collaborators with Wally Fawkes on the long-running cartoon strip Flook. He contributed a column to the Radio Times for many years, and wrote several novels.
He presented BBC1's Film... programme from 1972, becoming the sole presenter the following year. Norman's involvement was interrupted in 1982 by a brief spell presenting Omnibus. After returning to the Film series in 1983, Norman became increasingly irritated by the BBC's reluctance to screen it at a regular time, and in 1998 finally accepted an offer to work for BSkyB, where he remained for three years.Jonathan Ross took his place as the BBC programme's presenter.
In a 2013 article for the Radio Times, Norman listed what he considered to be the 49 best British films of all time. The list included The Cruel Sea (1953), Chariots of Fire (1981) and Skyfall (2012). Norman explained: "In most cases the criteria I used was whether these films were going to last; whether new generations of cinema goers would want to watch them in 20 years time [...] Most are quite old films, but they all appeal to this generation of film-goers as much as they did when they were first made."
Norman wrote and presented a number of documentary series for the BBC and ITV, including The Hollywood Greats (1977-1983), Barry Norman's Guide to American Soaps (1985),Talking Pictures (1987) and Soaps Down Under in 1991.
In 1982 Norman presented Omnibus.
He was for some years a regular radio broadcaster on BBC Radio 4. In 1974, he presented Today, and was the first chairman of The News Quiz. He was the original presenter of the BBC Radio 4 transport and travel show Going Places and of its sister travel magazine, Breakaway. Other shows included The Chip Shop, an early 1980s series dedicated to the emerging home computer industry. In 1996, he presented an interview series for BBC Radio 5 Live.
He was associated with the phrase "and why not?", which was often attributed to that of his puppet likeness on the satirical ITV show Spitting Image. Norman explained to Empire magazine in 2014, however, that it had originated from a Rory Bremner sketch show on Channel 4. Norman later adopted the phrase himself, and it is the title of his 2003 autobiography.
He married author Diana Narracott in 1957; the couple lived in Datchworth, Hertfordshire, for many years, and both of their daughters (Samantha and Emma) were born there. Diana Norman died on 27 January 2011 at the age of 77. Norman's 2013 book See You in the Morning was written as a celebration of their life together.
He was a supporter of the Liberal Democrats, having been a supporter of the Labour Party until the formation of the Social Democratic Party in 1981. He named Shirley Williams as the politician he most admired.
Norman died in his sleep, aged 83, on 30 June 2017, having been afflicted with lung cancer in his later years. His body was buried in the graveyard of All Saints' Church, in Datchworth, Hertfordshire. A memorial service was held to his memory at St Paul's, Covent Garden in April 2018.
Writing in The Guardian, journalist Dennis Barker and film critic Derek Malcolm said that Norman "perfected a flair for talking beguilingly about cinema to a mass television audience but in a way that did not make true aficionados wince. As the presenter and critic of BBC TV's original Film 72 through to Film 98, he was knowledgeable without affectation, and he did not seem overawed by the industry's leading lights." Chief Guardian film critic Peter Bradshaw wrote that Norman's "enthusiasm and love for film always shone through" and he was "an accessible, unpretentious surveyor of cinema".Mark Kermode wrote that "watching Barry Norman review films was a pleasure, an education, and an inspiration. Wit, knowledge and wry enthusiasm. He was the Master", and Jonathan Ross, who replaced him as presenter of the BBC's Film... series, described him as "a great critic and a lovely, lovely man".
Barry Norman presented Channel 4's coverage of the Seoul Olympics, and over the years has contributed to The Guardian as a columnist, the Observer as a sports writer and the Times as a television critic.