Barry Norman

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Barry Norman
Barry Norman 2012.jpg
Norman in 2012
Born Barry Leslie Norman
(1933-08-21)21 August 1933
London, England
Died 30 June 2017(2017-06-30) (aged 83)
London, England
Occupation Film critic, television presenter, journalist
Nationality British
Period 1960–2001
Genre Television
Notable works Film...
Spouse Diana Narracott (1957–2011, her death)

Barry Leslie Norman, CBE (21 August 1933 – 30 June 2017) was a British film critic, journalist and television presenter. He presented Film... on BBC One from 1972 to 1998 and was the programme's longest-running host.

He was the brother of script editor and director Valerie Norman.[1]

Early life[edit]

Born in London on 21 August 1933,[2] Barry Norman was the son of film director Leslie and Elizabeth Norman,[3] the eldest of his parents' three recorded children.[4][5] He was educated at a state primary school and then at Hurstpierpoint College - 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 [6]. At age 12 he went to Highgate School, then an all-boys independent school in north London, which he attended from January 1946 until July 1951.[7] He did not go to university, opting instead to study shipping management at Islington Technical College, and began his career in journalism at the Kensington News. He later spent a period in South Africa working for The Star in Johannesburg, then moving to Harare where he wrote for The Rhodesia Herald.[8] In Africa he developed a hostility to the effects of apartheid.[9]


When he returned to the UK, he became a gossip columnist for the Daily Sketch,[8] 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.[10] He was one of the collaborators with Wally Fawkes on the long-running cartoon strip Flook.[11] He contributed a column to the Radio Times for many years, and wrote several novels.[12][8]

Film critic[edit]

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.[13] Jonathan Ross took his place as the BBC programme's presenter.[14]

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."[15]

Television and radio work[edit]

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),[16] Talking Pictures (1987)[17] and Soaps Down Under in 1991.[18] He was, together with Elton Welsby, the main anchorman for Channel 4's coverage of the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul.[19] He presented part of Comic Relief in 1990 and 1991.[20][21]

Norman 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.[8] 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.[22] In 1996, he presented an interview series for BBC Radio 5 Live.[8]


Norman 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.[23] Norman explained to Empire magazine in 2014, however, that it had originated from a Rory Bremner sketch show on Channel 4.[24] Norman later adopted the phrase himself, and it is the title of his 2003 autobiography.[23][25]

Personal life[edit]

Norman married author Diana Narracott in 1957; the couple lived in Datchworth, Hertfordshire, for many years,[26][27] and both of their daughters were born in the house.[28][3] Diana Norman died on 27 January 2011 at the age of 77.[29] His 2013 book See You in the Morning was written as a celebration of their life together.[30][31]

Norman had a passion for cricket and wrote a book on the subject.[32] He was a member of the MCC and enjoyed spending time at Lord's watching cricket.[33] Norman had a family recipe for pickle that has been passed down through generations, and which was used as the recipe for his own brand of pickled onions, which went on sale in September 2007.[34][35]

Politically, Norman was a supporter of the Liberal Democrats,[36] 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.[37]

He received the BAFTA's Richard Dimbleby Award in 1981,[38] Magazine Columnist of the Year in 1991 and a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1998.[25][32]

Norman died in his sleep, aged 83, on 30 June 2017.[2] His agent said Norman had lung cancer for several years.[39]

Writing in The Guardian, Dennis Barker and 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.[40]

BBC film critic Mark Kermode described Norman as "the master". He Tweeted

Watching Barry Norman review films was a pleasure, an education, and an inspiration. Wit, knowledge & wry enthusiasm. He was the Master.[41]

Jonathan Ross, who took over "Film..." in 1999 tweeted:

Very sad to hear that Barry Norman has left us. A great critic and a lovely, lovely man.[42]



  1. ^ McGrath, Nick (11 November 2011). "Barry Norman: My family values". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 July 2017. 
  2. ^ a b "Film critic Barry Norman dies". BBC News. 1 July 2017. Retrieved 1 July 2017. 
  3. ^ a b Who's Who 2013
  4. ^ "Index entry: Norman, Barry L., mother's maiden name: Crafford, registration district: Lambeth, volume/page nbrs.: 1d/240". "FreeBMD" transcription of England and Wales births and deaths 1835-1983. ONS. Retrieved 1 July 2017. 
  5. ^ Nick McGrath (12 November 2011). "Barry Norman: My family values". The broadcaster talks about his family. The Guardian, London. Retrieved 1 July 2017. 
  6. ^ The Times obituary 3 July 2017
  7. ^ Hughes, Patrick; Davies, Ian F. Highgate School Register 1833-1964 (6th ed.). p. 361. 
  8. ^ a b c d e "My Life in Media: Barry Norman". The Independent. 10 December 2007. Retrieved 1 July 2017. 
  9. ^ Barry Norman (13 March 2014). See You in the Morning. Transworld Publishers Limited. p. 36. ISBN 978-0-552-77928-9. 
  10. ^ "Barry Norman". Penguin Books. Retrieved 1 July 2017. 
  11. ^ Brooks, Libby (29 August 2002). "'So I said to Liz Taylor...'". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 July 2017. 
  12. ^ Gill, James (1 July 2017). "Legendary Radio Times film critic Barry Norman dies aged 83". Radio Times. Retrieved 1 July 2017. 
  13. ^ "Barry Norman defects to Sky". BBC News. 9 June 1998. Retrieved 9 June 2012. 
  14. ^ "Claudia Winkleman to replace Jonathan Ross on Film 2010". The Daily Telegraph. 29 March 2010. Retrieved 1 July 2017. 
  15. ^ "'The defining voice of film criticism' – Barry Norman dies aged 83". Telegraph. 1 July 2017. 
  16. ^ "Barry Norman's Guide to American Soaps (1985)". BFI. Retrieved 1 July 2017. 
  17. ^ "Film critic Barry Norman dies aged 83". Daily Telegraph. 1 July 2017. Retrieved 1 July 2017. 
  18. ^ "Soap down Under (1991)". BFI. Retrieved 1 July 2017. 
  19. ^ Spanner, Huw (December 1993). "A Nice Judge of Film". Third Way. Vol. 16 no. 9. Hymns Ancient & Modern Ltd. p. 19. Retrieved 1 July 2017. 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. 
  20. ^ "A Night of Comic Relief 2 (1990)". Retrieved 1 July 2017. 
  21. ^ "Comic Relief 1991". Retrieved 1 July 2017. 
  22. ^ "The Chip Shop". BBC Genome. Retrieved 1 July 2017. 
  23. ^ a b Westbrook, Caroline (1 July 2017). "Film critic and TV presenter Barry Norman has died aged 83". Metro. Retrieved 1 July 2017. 
  24. ^ "The Best Barry Norman Anecdotes From His Empire Podcast Interview". Empire. 22 April 2014. Retrieved 1 July 2017. 
  25. ^ a b International Who's Who of Authors and Writers 2004 (19th ed.). London; New York: Europa Publications. 2004. p. 413. ISBN 978-1-857431-797. 
  26. ^ Nick Willoughby. "Business is 'fantastic': Hertfordshire couple relaunch village pub". The Comet. Retrieved 1 July 2017. 
  27. ^ Dave Burke. "Hertfordshire film critic Barry Norman in storm over Robin Williams tribute". Welwyn Hatfield Times. Retrieved 1 July 2017. 
  28. ^ Nick McGrath. "Barry Norman: My family values". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 July 2017. 
  29. ^ Wilson, Laura (4 February 2011). "Diana Norman obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 July 2017. 
  30. ^ "Barry Norman on bereavement". Retrieved 1 July 2017. 
  31. ^ a b Claire Black (12 October 2013). "Barry Norman on dealing with the loss of his wife". The Scotsman. Retrieved 1 July 2017. 
  32. ^ a b Dearden, Lizzie (1 July 2017). "Barry Norman dead: 'Remarkable' former film critic, BBC presenter and writer dies aged 83". The Independent. Retrieved 1 July 2017. 
  33. ^ Clark, Pete (15 November 2002). "Who goes to... The MCC". Evening Standard. Retrieved 1 July 2017. 
  34. ^ Siburn, Jonathan (31 May 2011). "Barry Norman moves into pickled onions". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 14 June 2008. Retrieved 9 June 2012. 
  35. ^ "Welcome to Pickleodeon – the Home of Barry Norman's Hot and Spicy Pickles – made by Bennett Opie Ltd, Sittingbourne, Kent". 
  36. ^ "Culture jobs show Labour bias". BBC News. 5 November 1998. Retrieved 25 March 2014. 
  37. ^ Barry Norman. And Why Not?: Memoirs of a Film Lover. ISBN 978-0743449700
  38. ^ "Richard Dimbleby Award in 1981". BAFTA. Retrieved 1 July 2017. 
  39. ^
  40. ^ Barker, Dennis; Malcolm, Derek (1 July 2017). "A delightful and intelligent critic: Barry Norman obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 July 2017. 
  41. ^
  42. ^
  43. ^ Norman, Barry (1 October 2003). "And Why Not?: Memoirs of a Film Lover". Simon and Schuster. Retrieved 1 July 2017 – via Google Books. 

External links[edit]