Tony Palmer

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Tony Palmer in the Círculo de Bellas Artes

Tony Palmer (born 29 August 1941)[1] is a British film director and author.[2] His work includes over 100 films, ranging from early works with The Beatles, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, Rory Gallagher (Irish Tour '74) and Frank Zappa (200 Motels), to his classical portraits which include profiles of Maria Callas, Margot Fonteyn, John Osborne, Igor Stravinsky, Richard Wagner, Yehudi Menuhin, Julian Lloyd Webber, Carl Orff, Benjamin Britten and Ralph Vaughan Williams. He is also a stage director of theatre and opera.

Among over 40 international prizes for his work are 12 Gold Medals from the New York Film Festival as well as numerous BAFTAs and Emmy Awards. Palmer has won the Prix Italia twice,[3] for A Time There Was in 1980 and At the Haunted End of the Day in 1981. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, and an honorary citizen of both New Orleans and Athens.


Tony Palmer was born in London, England. He was educated at Lowestoft Grammar School, Cambridgeshire High School for Boys and Trinity Hall, Cambridge, where he read History and Moral Sciences.[4][5][6] From Cambridge (where he was also President of the Marlowe Society), he joined the BBC. Following an apprenticeship with Ken Russell and Jonathan Miller, Palmer's first major film, Benjamin Britten & his Festival, became the first BBC film to be networked in the United States. With his second film, All My Loving, an examination of rock and roll and politics in the late 1960s, he achieved considerable notoriety.

In 1989, he was awarded a retrospective of his work at the National Film Theatre in London, the first maker of arts films to be so honoured.

Tony Palmer at Sofia international Film Festival, March 2017.

Opera, theatre and rock music[edit]

In addition to films, Tony Palmer has also directed in the theatre and in the opera house. After a debut at the Zurich Opera House with Peter Grimes ("the high point of the season", Neue Zürcher Zeitung), he had a double triumph in Karlsruhe, War and Peace, and again in Zurich with Berlioz's opera, The Trojans ("marvellous" – London Daily Express). In Saint Petersburg, he directed the Russian premiere of Parsifal ("world class" – The Times), conducted by Valery Gergiev, with Plácido Domingo. He has also directed in Hamburg, Munich, Augsburg, Savonlinna, Berlin and Helsinki and recently became the first Western director ever to work at the Bolshoi in Moscow.

Parsifal won Best Theatre Production ('Casta Diva') in Moscow, 1997, as well as a 'Golden Mask'. On the West End stage he has directed the world premiere of John Osborne's Look Back in Anger Part Two, Déjà Vu. Mr Palmer also presented the BBC Radio 3 Arts magazine 'Night Waves', for which he won a Sony Award for best arts programme.

Tony Palmer is also well known for his rock music documentaries, several of them the among the first of the genre and covering everyone from the Beatles to Cream.[7] All My Loving (1968) was Palmer's groundbreaking BBC series on pop music (which John Lennon personally requested he make) featuring Eric Clapton, Eric Burdon, Jimi Hendrix and others against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, and other explosive political events rocking the 1960s. Palmer went on to make 200 Motels, a documentary about America avant-garde rock musician Frank Zappa.[7] It is considered a rock classic but, in a 2017 interview with Toronto arts reporter and critic Deirdre Kelly, Palmer called it one of the worst films he ever did.[8]


Tony Palmer has published several books, and has written for The New York Times, The Times, Punch, Life magazine etc. From 1967 to 1974 he was a regular music critic for The Observer. From 1969 to 1974 he had a weekly column in The Spectator entitled 'Notes from the Underground'.


List of opera and theatre works[edit]


  • Born Under a Bad Sign (1970)
  • The Trials of Oz (1971)
  • Electric Revolution (1971)
  • The Things I Love – Liberace (1976)
  • All You Need Is Love (1976)
  • Charles II: Portrait of an Age (1979)
  • Julian Bream: A Life on the Road. London: Macdonald, 1982. ISBN 0-356-07880-9. Text by Palmer, photographs by Daniel Meadows.
  • Menuhin: A Family Story (1991)


  1. ^ IMDb: Tony Palmer Retrieved 24 September 2011
  2. ^ The Telegraph UK 13 September 2009 South Bank Show review, The Last Bastion of Civilization on ITV. S. Heffer.
  3. ^ Winners 1949–2010 "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 October 2013. Retrieved 21 January 2013.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) accessed 20 November 2010
  4. ^ John C. Tibbetts, Composers in the Movies: Studies in Musical Biography (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2005), p. 220.
  5. ^ 'University News', Times, 28 June 1962.
  6. ^ 'Cambridge Tripos Examinations', Times, 23 June 1964
  7. ^ a b Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 1895. ISBN 0-85112-939-0.
  8. ^ "Real to Reel: In Conversation with Documentarian Tony Palmer". Retrieved 3 October 2021.

External links[edit]