C. A. Lejeune

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Caroline Alice Lejeune (1897–1973) was a British writer, best known for serving as the film critic for The Observer from 1928 to 1960.


C. A. Lejeune was born on March 27, 1897 at Didsbury, Manchester,[1] the youngest in a large family of 8 children that eventually resided at 10 Wilmslow Road, Withington, Manchester. Her father, Adam Edward Lejeune, born in Frankfurt in 1845 of Huguenot ancestry, was a cotton merchant who had come to England after doing business in Frankfurt. He died at Zurich, Switzerland on October 28, 1899[2] when Caroline was two years old. Her mother, Jane Louisa, who was the daughter of the Nonconformist minister Dr Alexander Maclaren, was a friend of C. P. Scott and of Caroline Herford, who was Caroline's godmother and Headmistress of Lady Barn House School, where Caroline received her elementary education. She and four of her sisters (Franziska, Marion, Juliet and Hélène) received their secondary education at Withington Girls' School, of which their mother, Scott, and Caroline Herford were among the founders.[3]

After leaving school she turned down the opportunity to go to the University of Oxford and went instead to the University of Manchester, where she studied English language and literature.

Journalism and other writing[edit]

Partly through her mother's friendship with Scott Caroline found work writing for the Manchester Guardian (now The Guardian), initially as a music critic. Her main interests were in Gilbert and Sullivan, Verdi, and Puccini. However, she was increasingly excited by the new medium of the cinema.

In 1921 she moved to London and in 1922 she began writing a column for the paper called "The Week on the Screen". In 1925 she married Edward Roffe Thompson, later editor of John Bull, and moved to Pinner Hill, Middlesex. In 1928 she left the Manchester Guardian for The Observer (which then had no connection with the Guardian group), where she remained for the next 32 years, although she also contributed to publications as diverse as The New York Times and Farmers' Weekly. She also wrote an early book on the subject of Cinema (1931), and her film reviews are anthologised in Chestnuts in her Lap (1947) and posthumously in The C. A. Lejeune Film Reader, edited by her son Anthony Lejeune (1991).

In the post-war years she was also a television critic for a time, and she also adapted books for the medium, writing scripts for the BBC's Sherlock Holmes television series (1951), Clementina and The Three Hostages

C. A. Lejeune's film reviews have long been compared to those of Dilys Powell, who wrote for The Sunday Times for much of the period when Lejeune was writing for The Observer. Unlike Powell, Lejeune became increasingly disillusioned by various trends in films and, shortly after she had expressed her disgust at Michael Powell's film Peeping Tom, she resigned from The Observer following the release of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho in 1960. Subsequently, she completed Angela Thirkell's unfinished last novel, Three Score Years and Ten (1961) and wrote an autobiography, Thank You for Having Me (1964).


C. A. Lejeune died at the age of 76 on March 31, 1973.[4] She had been a resident of Pinner for more than 40 years. Peter Sellers said of her that "her kindness, her complete integrity, and her qualities as an observer and a commentator have gained her the unqualified admiration of my profession. She respects integrity in others and has no harsh word for anyone whose honest efforts end in failure. Everything she has written, I am sure, has come as much from her heart as her head, and the high quality of her writing, and the standard of film-making she encourages, have made her work a part of cinema history."[5]


  1. ^ The Dictionary of National Biography
  2. ^ The Guardian, 1 November 1899
  3. ^ "The Founders of Withington Girls' School". Withington Girls' School. Archived from the original on 2011-09-30. Retrieved 2011-08-22.
  4. ^ The Observer, 8 April 1973
  5. ^ The Times Obituary, 2 April 1973
  • Lejeune, C. A. (1964) Thank You for Having Me. London: Hutchinson (autobiography)

External links[edit]