A Tribute to a Great Critic, Interviewer and Writer on All Things Movie…
Writing on the film critic whose reviews were often more entertaining than the movie.
Barry Norman “Film” Theme tune, tompo010101
I was upset to hear of the passing away of Barry Norman, who was one of my favourite film critics from my teenage years onwards. Barry Norman was not just a film critic as the main writer and presenter for Film… (1972-98) but also a famous journalist and author too. However, it was as a presenter on his film show, that he became a great inspiration for my writing of this blog. This along with other entertainment critics, namely Clive James and Charlie Brooker (as discussed in my post HERE).
For some inexplicable reason, his BBC film review show was on at some silly time of the night in Scotland, and well after the watershed. But the timing for Norman’s show may well have been due to some of the content and the age bracket of the films he reviewed, even if the clips didn’t reflect this. But 11pm til after midnight.. really?
But possibly this was due to most good TV appearing later on in the Scottish BBC schedule (especially for a then-teenage girl). Meanwhile, English viewers would have probably had the chance got to see the show earlier in the form of “English viewers have their own programme”.. while we got an exciting documentary of something Scottish as “For viewers in Scotland only”. And probably never shown in England ever and a BBC Scotland production. And 9/10 times, extremely dull.
As a kid, I envied Norman’s film critic lifestyle. This consisting of watching films all day, going on location, going to the Oscars and other festivals. Also as met and talked the stars. He was my favourite of the Film… (insert any year between…. 1972 and 1998) presenters, with a certain natural charm, humour and ease about him, that the later presenters after him didn’t have.
Norman’s approach was possibly reflected in his collection of cosy 80s jumpers, which he was famous for (and often seen in even more garish fashion by his Spitting Image puppet). He also had a great knowledge of the movies. This was easily seen in his review and interviews on the television show. He also presented and penned a number of film documentaries with a series about specific genres and decades and a number of his books.
Here are a few of his reviews, interviews and more.
Star Wars Film Review
BBC Star Wars on Film 77 with Barry Norman, Dec Cart
Film Review TV Programmes
BBC1 Barry Norman Trail & The Laughter Show – 1985, Neil Miles
The above gives you an idea of the BBC Christmas Day schedule in the 1980s. This as I found a trailer for Barry Norman’s Guide to American Soaps (1985) presented by Norman. This TV special was shown at 10.25pm (I assume in England). Fair dos, but first there was The Laughter Show (1984-86) with Les Dennis and Dustin Gee and possibly a reshow of the Agatha Christie whodunnit Death on the Nile (1978).
On reading more, Norman’s show had Dallas guest stars including Larry Hagman and Linda Gray and Emma Samms from Dynasty (1981). The Laughter Show had British comics Les Dennis and Dustin Gee, both of whom were unfunny at so many levels. I’m sure you can guess how upsetting this scheduling would have been for a 16-year-old obsessed Dallas fan. As I’m sure at 10.25pm there would have been a TV scheduling clash with ITV… if I’d not been sent to bed / crashed out by then.
Interviews With the Stars
Barry Norman Interviews, VHS Video vault
Barry Norman’s easy rapport with the big names of Hollywood can be seen in this video. I loved his interviews as his lovely informative banter with these famous names was always there, as well as Norman’s dry humour and relaxed demeanour.
I loved it when he talked with the stars of the big screen including Warren Beatty, Julie Walters and Harrison Ford and those behind the camera such as Steven Spielberg. He treated Hollywood stars as an equal despite their possible legendary status.
This was refreshing and made for more interesting interviews. He was lucky to meet many of the big names again and again over the years, and there are a number of his interviews with Roger Moore from his days filming Moonraker in 1979 to as recently as five years ago.
Books on Entertainment Reviews
Although I still haven’t read many of his film books, I do remember buying the Radio Times film review book he wrote for my mum one Christmas. Chiefly as I knew Norman could be trusted for an honest, informative review. He also wrote two autobiographies And Why Not?: Memoirs of a Film Lover (2003) and See You in the Morning (2013).
So I think I know just what my birthday money is going on this year…
Like most stars of the eighties, he was immortalised by Spitting image and with parodies of his reviews from impersonators particularly Rory Bremner. And like a certain blue-eyed film star with his own brand of salad dressing, Norman was famous for his own brand of pickled onions.
He wrote books about other passions such as cricket and some non-fiction novels. Which to those only familiar with his TV show might think of as totally obscure themes and products. But as he might say with that iconic phrase much associated with him “and why not”.