1 September 1913|
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
24 May 2004 (aged 90)|
Milton Shulman (1 September 1913 – 24 May 2004) was a Canadian author, film and theatre critic who was based in the United Kingdom for the last six decades of his life.
Shulman was born in Toronto, Ontario, the son of a successful shopkeeper. His parents were born in Ukraine and were driven out of the Russian Empire by poverty and anti-Jewish pogroms. Shulman's father was only 26 when he died of the flu epidemic but had already acquired three millinery shops as well as a men's haberdashery.
Shulman was educated at Harbord Collegiate, then spent four years at the University of Toronto. Although he wished to pursue a writing career, he was articled to a law firm, attending lectures at Osgoode Hall Law School for a further three years before being called to the Ontario bar just before war broke out in 1939.
After the phoney war period Shulman signed up for the Canadian army, was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Canadian Armoured Corps and posted to England in June 1943. Stationed in London as a captain he was assigned to the secret operational intelligence unit MI 14b, dealing with the order of battle of the Wehrmacht's formations.
He joined Canadian Army HQ three months before D-Day as a major and by the war's end he was an intelligence officer with the First Canadian Army. While still in uniform, he interviewed many of the captured German generals in the following months and years including Gerd von Rundstedt and Kurt Meyer. As a result of these interviews he wrote the classic Second World War military history Defeat in the West, published in London by Secker & Warburg in April 1947, and by Dutton in New York in January 1948. The book remains in print in paperback.
Shulman joined the staff of the London Evening Standard in 1948 and, for over forty years, wrote about theatre, film, television and politics with sharp humour and irreverence. He was theatre critic for the Standard from 1953 until the end of 1991, and remained a weekly columnist until February 1996. He had initially become the Standard's film critic in 1948 and later became film critic for Vogue, and for 18 years he was a regular participant in BBC Radio 4's witty talk show Stop The Week.
During this time he also wrote two novels, The Victors (Dell 1963) and Kill Three (Collins 1967); the Preep series of children’s books; and two serious books on the impact of television, The Ravenous Eye (Cassel 1973) and The Least Worst Television in the World (Barrie and Jenkins 1973), as well as a 90-minute play for BBC 2 also called Kill Three from which the novel was adapted.
He and his fellow critic Herbert Kretzmer co-wrote the screenplay for the film comedy Every Home Should Have One (1970) and a paperback, successfully published by Hodder & Stoughton, to coincide with the film's release.
Shulman received the IPA Award as Critic of the Year 1966. In 1956, he wrote a scathing review of a musical Wild Grows the Heather based on a J. M. Barrie play, The Little Minister. Directed by Ralph Reader who also wrote the lyrics, it received an ovation on its first night but Shulman and other critics knew that this was because Reader had given out first night tickets to the boys taking part in one of his Boy Scout productions and told them to go along and give the piece a good reception. Among other things, Shulman said that the plot "moved at the pace of cold porridge going uphill."
In 1980 he was instrumental in setting up the London Theatre Associate awards for new and revived works undertaken by fringe, community based and touring companies.
In 1994, three years after Milton Shulman had retired from theatre reviewing, The Observer critic Michael Coveney published The Aisle is Full of Noises, a spirited "vivisection of the live theatre" which he arranged in the form of a diary, including some witty if not entirely flattering references to Shulman, while bracketing him with "the kosher butchers — Herbert Kretzmer, Bernard Levin and David Nathan".
Shulman took great offence, as reported in The Times newspaper diary of 21 September 1994: "Solicitors are trying to hammer out a deal to prevent court action against Nick Hern, the small publisher of the offending work. "I thought the comments were in the spirit of the book,' pleads Coveney. 'I rather regret that Milton, of whom I am actually rather fond, didn't take them in that spirit.' Shulman is tight-lipped, 'There are negotiations going on at the moment. I have not issued a writ for libel.'" The final outcome was that the book was withdrawn from circulation but, according to Coveney speaking in October 2007, by then most of the copies had been sold.
Shulman married his first wife Joyce in Toronto in 1943, two months before he embarked on a troopship for England, and never saw her again. They were divorced in 1948.
He first met journalist Drusilla Beyfus in 1951: "I had for months been meeting Drusilla in cocktail bars and restaurants. She was the most decorative aspect of the Daily Express, where her elegant figure, piquant face and ever-smiling personality were in constant demand by feature writers and columnists." After a long courtship, interrupted by her sojourn in America as an author and freelance writer, they married at Caxton Hall on 6 June 1956. There are three children of the marriage: Alexandra Shulman, Nicola Shulman and Jason Shulman. The family moved to Belgravia for some years after the birth of the children. He described his family as less a journalistic dynasty than "an epidemic".
He died in London, aged 90. His son Jason used some of his ashes in an artwork of stratified, magnetized, color-coded layers; this was shown in 2006 at the Madder Rose gallery near London's Old Street.
- Marilyn, Hitler and Me: The Memoirs of Milton Shulman, André Deutsch, London (1998) ISBN 0-233-88408-4
- Herbert, Ian (1981). Who's who in the Theatre A Biographical Record of the Contemporary Stage. Gale / Cengage Learning. ISBN 978-0-8103-0235-8.
- Stevens, Christopher (2010). Born Brilliant The Life Of Kenneth Williams. John Murray. p. 368. ISBN 1-84854-195-3.
- Day, Elizabeth (1 April 2012), Never out of Vogue: Alexandra Shulman, The Guardian, retrieved 12 May 2016
- David Sexton (31 March 2011). "Nicola Shulman is a modern marchioness among the Tudors". London: Evening Standard. Retrieved 11 June 2013.
- The Sunday Times Magazine 15 March 1992
- Honderich, John (9 September 2006), No pain, no gain..., The Guardian, retrieved 12 May 2016
- Defeat in the West, (1947)
- How to be a Celebrity with caractures by Vicky, (1950)