Alexander Walker (critic)

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Alexander Walker (23 March 1930 – 15 July 2003) was a film critic, born in Portadown, Northern Ireland. He was educated at Queen's University, Belfast, the College of Europe in Bruges, Belgium and the University of Michigan,[1] and worked for the Birmingham Post in the 1950s, before becoming film critic of the London Evening Standard in 1960, a role he retained until his death in 2003. He was a highly influential figure within the film industry, and also wrote a number of books including one on Stanley Kubrick, a history of the impact made on Hollywood by the rise of the talkies (The Shattered Silents) and a biography of Elizabeth Taylor. His most extensive work is a history of British cinema, spread over three books: Hollywood England, National Heroes and Icons in the Fire.

Relationship with Ken Russell[edit]

Walker had a close relationship with Kubrick but was a fierce critic of the British director Ken Russell, referring to the director's visceral masterpiece The Devils (1971) as "A garish glossary of sado-masochism … a taste for visual sensation that makes scene after scene look like the masturbatory fantasies of a Roman Catholic boyhood.[2]". Having previously been a defender of Russell's early work for the BBC he was increasingly critical of Russell major films of the 1970s, reviewing the The Music Lovers (1970) he wrote "This man must be stopped: bring me an elephant gun."[3] In a television showdown between the two in response to Walker's assessment of The Devils as "monstrously indecent", Russell reached over and hit him around the head with a rolled up newspaper copy of his own review. In later life, when asked about incident and if he regretted it, Russell responded that he did regret it, "I wish it had been an iron bar."[4]

He assembled a collection of more than 200 drawings and prints by modern artists, which were bequeathed to the British Museum upon his death in 2003. In 1968, he was a member of the jury at the 18th Berlin International Film Festival.[5]


  • Double Takes - notes and afterthoughts on the movies 1956-1976, Elm Tree Books 1977
  • His history of British Film:
    • Hollywood UK – The British Film Industry in the 1960s, New York, Stein and Day 1974
    • National Heroes – British Cinema in the 70s and 80s, London: Harrap 1985
    • Icons in the Fire – the rise and fall of almost everybody in the British film industry 1984-2000, London, Orion Books 2004
  • Stanley Kubrick - Director, Norton 1999
  • Audrey - her real story, St. Martin's Press 1995
  • Bette Davis – a celebration, New York: Applause Theatre Books, 1998
  • Dietrich, New York: Harper and Row 1984
  • The Celluloid Sacrifice – aspects of sex in the movies, London: Joseph 1966
  • Elizabeth - The Life of Elizabeth Taylor, Weidenfeld 1991
  • Garbo - A portrait, Macmillan 1980
  • Fatal Charm – The Life of Rex Harrison, St. Martin's Press 1993
  • Joan Crawford - the ultimate star, Harper and Row 1983
  • It's only a movie, Ingrid – encounters on and off the screen, London, Headline 1988
  • Peter Sellers - the authorized biography, Weidenfeld and Nicolson 1981
  • Vivien - The life of Vivien Leigh, Weidenfeld and Nicolson 1987
  • Rudolph Valentino, Stein and Day 1976
  • Shattered Silents - how the talkies came to stay, London: Elm Tree Books 1978, New York: Morrow Quill Paperbacks, 1980
  • Stanley Kubrick directs, New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich 1972
  • Stardom - the Hollywood phenomenon, Stein and Day 1970
  • No Bells on Sunday: the Journals of Rachel Roberts (editor), London: Pavilion Books, 1984; New York, Harper & Row 1984


  1. ^ Obituary:Alexander Walker The Guardian, 16 July 2003. Retrieved 15 March 2012.
  2. ^ "Walker, Alexander, (22 March 1930–15 July 2003), Film Critic, London Evening Standard, since 1960", Who Was Who, Oxford University Press, 1 December 2007, retrieved 13 July 2019
  3. ^ "Farewell to the wild man of cinema". The Independent. 29 November 2011. Retrieved 13 July 2019.
  4. ^ Jeffries, Stuart (28 April 2011). "Ken Russell interview: The last fires of film's old devil". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 13 July 2019.
  5. ^ "Berlinale 1968: Juries". Archived from the original on 29 March 2010. Retrieved 1 March 2010.