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Barry Norman Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (3) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (1) | Trivia (21) | Personal Quotes (33)

Overview (3)

Date of Birth 21 August 1933London, England, UK
Birth NameBarry Leslie Norman
Height 6' (1.83 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Barry Norman is the son of film director Leslie and Elizabeth Norman. He was educated at a state primary school and at Highgate School, then an all-boys independent school in North London. He did not go to university, but instead began his career in journalism at the Kensington News, later spending a period in South Africa where he developed a hostility to the situation created there by the emergence of apartheid.

By the 1960s, Norman was a prominent journalist, and show business editor of the Daily Mail until 1971, when he was made redundant. Subsequently, he wrote a column each Wednesday for The Guardian, also contributing leader columns to the newspaper.

He presented BBC1's Film programme from 1972, becoming the sole presenter the following year. Norman's involvement was broken in 1982 by a brief spell presenting Omnibus. After having returned to the Film series in 1983, Norman became increasingly irritated by the BBC's reluctance to screen the programme at a regular time, and in 1998 he finally accepted an offer to work for BSkyB, where he remained for three years. Jonathan Ross took his place as the BBC programme's presenter.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Charlie Barnes

Spouse (1)

Diana Narracott (1957 - 27 January 2011) (her death) (2 children)

Trivia (21)

Son of director/producer Leslie Norman.
Awarded CBE for services to broadcasting.
One-time writer of "Flook" strip cartoon in 'The Daily Mail'.
The best known film critic in Britain for over 25 years until he was replaced by Jonathan Ross as host of the BBC series Film '72 (1971).
He is a staunch supporter of the British monarchy over the possibility of a republican alternative. He once stated a reason for this was that he would have hated to have seen President Margaret Thatcher.
Cricket fan
Father of Samantha Norman and Emma Norman.
He was a supporter of the British Labour Party until the formation of the Social Democratic Party in 1981. The SDP later merged with the Liberal Party to become the Liberal Democrats.
His top ten films of all time are: Battleship Potemkin (1925), Bringing Up Baby (1938), The Rules of the Game (1939), Citizen Kane (1941), Rashômon (1950), Singin' in the Rain (1952), The Searchers (1956), Paths of Glory (1957), The Seventh Seal (1957) and Some Like It Hot (1959).
He considers Shivers (1975) to be the worst film he has ever seen.
His late wife Diana was an author of several historical thrillers. She wrote these novels using the pseudonym of Ariana Franklin.
He compiled a list of his "Top 100 films" for the "Radio Times" magazine in January of 2012, which quickly became notorious among film buffs for including only three films--Shoah (1985), Seven Samurai (1954) and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)--that were not either British or American. He excluded any films directed by Jean Renoir, Charles Chaplin, Federico Fellini, Ingmar Bergman, Sergei M. Eisenstein, D.W. Griffith, Michelangelo Antonioni, Yasujirô Ozu, François Truffaut, John Huston, Preston Sturges, Fritz Lang, Claude Chabrol, Alexander Mackendrick, Luis Buñuel, Vittorio De Sica, F.W. Murnau, Josef von Sternberg, Nicolas Roeg, Jean-Luc Godard, Kenji Mizoguchi, Erich von Stroheim or Alain Resnais.
When reviewing David Fincher's Se7en (1995) on his TV program "Film '96", he singled out for high praise the acting of Kevin Pollak. Unfortunately, Kevin Pollak is not in this film--presumably Norman meant Kevin Spacey, who is. However, he did not correct or apologize for this mistake.
In February 2013, he compiled a list of his "50 Greatest British films" for the "Radio Times" magazine. These were Barry Lyndon (1975), Black Narcissus (1947), The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), Brief Encounter (1945), Chariots of Fire (1981), A Clockwork Orange (1971), The Cruel Sea (1953), The Dam Busters (1955), Dr. No (1962), Don't Look Now (1973), Horror of Dracula (1958), Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994), The Full Monty (1997), Gandhi (1982), Get Carter (1971), Gladiator (2000), Great Expectations (1946), Gregory's Girl (1980), Henry V (1944), 'I Know Where I'm Going!' (1945), If.... (1968), The Ipcress File (1965), Kes (1969), Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949), The King's Speech (2010), The Lady Vanishes (1938), The Ladykillers (1955), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943), Local Hero (1983), The Long Good Friday (1980), Stairway to Heaven (1946), Life of Brian (1979), Naked (1993), The Railway Children (1970), The Red Shoes (1948), The Remains of the Day (1993), Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960), Secrets & Lies (1996), Sense and Sensibility (1995), The Servant (1963), Shakespeare in Love (1998), Skyfall (2012), The Third Man (1949), The 39 Steps (1935), This Sporting Life (1963), Trainspotting (1996), Whisky Galore (1949), and Zulu (1964) (with the 50th to be submitted by the readers).
Reviewing The Glass Menagerie (1987) on his BBC film program in 1987, he remarked that it was amazing that no-one had filmed this famous play before, especially as it had been first staged as long ago as 1954. In fact, the play had been first staged in 1945 and there had been two previous film versions, a Warner Brothers picture of 1950 starring Jane Wyman and a television movie of 1973 starring Katharine Hepburn. The latter film had been shown at the London Film Festival in the winter of 1973 (there were plans, eventually abandoned, to give it a cinema release in Britain), at which time it had been enthusiastically reviewed by many critics - including Barry Norman.
Brother of Valerie E. Norman and former brother-in-law of Bernard Williams.
He is associated with the phrase "and why not?", which originated not as his catchphrase - though he did say it occasionally on his programmes - but as that of his puppet likeness on the satirical show Spitting Image (1984). Norman has since adopted the phrase himself, and it is the title of his autobiography.
In a recent ITV documentary on Spitting Image (1984), Norman admitted initially hating the way his puppet looked on the programme (mostly because it had a large inexplicable wart on its forehead, which he doesn't have), but later somewhat moderated his attitude and felt flattered that the series found him famous enough to include him in its sketches.
Norman has a passion for cricket; he is in the process of writing a book on the subject. He is a member of the MCC and likes spending time at Lord's watching cricket.
Norman has 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.
Politically, Norman is a supporter of the Liberal Democrats. He was a supporter of the Labour Party until the formation of the Social Democratic Party in 1981. He has named Shirley Williams as the politician he most admires.

Personal Quotes (33)

[speaking in 2004] I believe the best films today are as good as, and technically far better than, any that have gone before, but generally speaking it's no good looking to Hollywood for such films, because it does not want the new and daring but the tried and trusted - revamped versions of what has proved popular before and might therefore appeal to a current, younger audience that never saw the originals.
Schwarzenegger (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is not an actor, he's a human special effect.
[on Buster (1988)] It doesn't exactly glorify crime but it certainly romanticizes it. There are moments when you get the impression that were it not for their trifling oversight in omitting to distribute their ill-gotten gains among the deserving poor, the train robbers were just like Robin Hood and his Merry Men, and Buster and June emerge ever so sweet and touching, only a pair of tarnished innocents really. But fair do's, though the film itself may be amoral and even deplorable in its neglect of the act of violence, the performances are very good. In particular, Phil Collins and Julie Walters are so good that with a better script they might have made you wonder what all the fuss was about. As it is, I think the fuss was really justified.
[on Mona Lisa (1986)] I've never understood why Cathy Tyson didn't have a much better movie career. Here on her screen debut in Neil Jordan's scarily tense thriller she gives a terrific performance as a high-priced call girl to whom gang boss Michael Caine appoints ex-con Bob Hoskins as driver and minder ... Hoskins and the coldly sinister Caine are on top form. Tyson is just as good. In Hollywood, she'd have become a star. Here, sadly, she didn't.
[on The Lavender Hill Mob (1951)] Of all the Ealing comedies, this is among the best. The Oscar-winning screenplay by T.E.B. Clarke does what all good farces must do - it takes the possible and stretches it, with seeming logic, into the wildly improbable and we, the audience, are swept along, desperately wanting the mob to get away with it. At the heart of it all is the funny, oddly touching relationship between Guinness (Alec Guinness) and Holloway (Stanley Holloway) - two mild, courteous, inoffensive middle-aged men dreaming a wild and naughty dream and having the initiative to seize the day and make it happen. When it finishes back in Rio, you may well decide that comedy crime capers don't come much better than this.
[on Shivers (1975)] I think what really depresses me about that film is that it's so utterly unhealthy. It's not going to corrupt anybody but equally it's not going to do anybody any good. Its after-effect is to leave you with a memory of obscene and ugly images - and who needs that?
Ridley Scott released five versions of Blade Runner (1982) before he was finally satisfied with it. But all the tinkering was justified. It was a fine film to begin with; now it's a classic of the sci-fi genre ... A visually stunning movie whose interesting storyline and overwhelming special effects combine to make it a remarkable cinematic experience.
[on The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)] Ford (John Ford) was the master of the western, much as Hitchcock (Alfred Hitchcock) was the master of the thriller, and this was one of his best. The flamboyant Marvin (Lee Marvin) takes the acting honours, but there's unusual subtlety in the development of Wayne's (John Wayne) character and his actions that effectively counterbalances the director's familiar sentimentality about the time when the west was still unconquered and his regret at its passing.
[on Life Is Sweet (1990)] The lack of a strong narrative is quite unimportant because it's so well played and made that the events unfold, fascinatingly, like life itself. A beautifully unconventional movie, which is alternately very funny and touchingly poignant.
[on Wonder Boys (2000)] The pace is fast but never breakneck, which provides the characters and the scenes with ample time to develop, while Douglas (Michael Douglas) gives one of his best performances.
[on Se7en (1995)] This is film noir in spades, so darkly shot that electricity might not have been invented yet. But the pervading gloom, internal and external, cleverly accentuates the darkness at the heart of David Fincher's basically formulaic thriller and turns it into something truly, memorably shocking ... The relationship between the cops - initially antagonistic, eventually trusting - is predictable. Far less so are the way the killer's identity is revealed and one particularly horrifying murder that comes so far out of left field that you can't possibly foresee it. As for the ending, well, I doubt if you'll see that coming, either.
[on A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)] Krueger is a superb creation and teenage Nancy a spirited and worthy heroine. Wes Craven's film is comparatively low on gore but high on frightening anticipation. A very scary movie, especially because you're never quite sure whether what you're watching is truly a murder or just another dream, it's darkly funny at times with a splendidly creepy score by Charles Bernstein.
[on Psycho (1960)] A thriller? A horror movie? Alfred Hitchcock's classic is both. Nothing supernatural here, just moments of unbearable tension leading to three of the cinema's most memorable scenes - in the shower, on the staircase and in the basement of the house of motel proprietor Norman Bates. The heroine is disposed of early, so is the man who comes looking for her. This is a masterclass in keeping the viewer eternally on the wrong foot or, as Hitchcock put it, "playing the audience like an orchestra". No good trying to second-guess, either, because Hitch is always way ahead of us.
[on The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)] This was the first film in director David Lean's Oscar-winning epic period and is an unusual war movie in that it shows very little warfare, except at the end. There is plenty of tension and suspense but what is particularly involving is Lean's gift, which he had shown earlier with Brief Encounter (1945) and Great Expectations (1946), for revealing human character in small details - Guinness's smug pride in what he had created and Hayakawa's fear that if the bridge is not completed on time, he will be obliged to commit suicide. And there's a tragic inevitability throughout that is summed up at the end in Guinness's anguished cry of: "What have I done?"
[on The Manchurian Candidate (2004)] A clever reworking of a very good plot but not as powerful as the 1962 film. Big business as a threat to a nation's security? Possible but less alarming than communism.
[on Elizabeth Taylor] She never seemed to take herself seriously and there was an engaging sense of mischief about her. For instance, she was always urging me to call Burton "Walter" because that was his middle name and she knew he hated it. But she was also, let it be said, a much better actress than most people gave her credit for - not a great actress but a very good one, who had the rare distinction of moving from child star to grown-up movie queen with never a false step.
[on Road to Perdition (2002)] Make no mistake, Mendes (Sam Mendes) provides much to admire - from his own tight handling of the action to the casting against type of Paul Newman, Tom Hanks and Jude Law, excellent performances and the dark, cold, ominous look of the film ... Yet, cleverly though it's made, good as the acting is (especially by Newman and Craig (Daniel Craig) and superbly photographed though it is by Conrad Hall (Conrad L. Hall), the film doesn't quite hack it. Something vital is missing - soul, if you like; it's just too bleak. Even the normally engaging Hanks is so grimly emotionless that it's hard to empathise with him. Ultimately this is a movie that won my respect but not my affection.
The 1980s were by no means a golden era of film-making - although a handful of great films were made then, such as Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull (1980) and the wonderful Tootsie (1982), starring Dustin Hoffman.
What, apart from excellent performances by Winslet (Kate Winslet), DiCaprio (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Zane (Billy Zane) keeps our attention during the lengthy first part, is our knowledge that however the romance is resolved, it isn't over even when it's over because disaster is about to strike. And when that happens, the film moves into another gear and one with which Cameron (James Cameron) is much more comfortable. The sinking of the ship is truly spectacular, and full of stunning special effects, which grips your attention and won't let go. Even so, I think Roy Baker's (Roy Ward Baker) modestly understated British movie, A Night to Remember (1958), shown recently on TV, was more moving; of course, far less visually breathtaking than Cameron's. But with that proviso, Titanic (1997) is certainly a film to see. It's just a pity that with his wretched little budget, Cameron obviously couldn't afford a decent script doctor to do something about the love story and the dialogue.
If you said of Lawrence of Arabia (1962) "they don't make 'em like that any more" you would, for once, be right. Nobody makes films like this any more - a four-hour epic without women or sex in which one of the most memorable stars is not an actor but the desert - because nobody has the imagination or the guts. Think of Lawrence and it's not so much the plot you dwell on - a comparatively simple matter telling how TE Lawrence (Peter O'Toole) united the Arab tribes against the Turks in the First World War. It's a succession of indelible images, superbly captured by cinematographer Freddie Young, that fills the mind: the long, long shot of Omar Sharif approaching the camera from far away, the sexually ambivalent, even somehow androgynous, figure of O'Toole in his flowing white robes, a bloodthirsty massacre and the cruel beauty of the desert itself. David Lean's bold film is a masterpiece, one whose like you won't see again.
[on Gosford Park (2001)] It's a sharp, subtle study of the English class system, smartly directed by Robert Altman, and studded with outstanding performances by the likes of Michael Gambon, Helen Mirren, Clive Owen, Kelly Macdonald and, of course, Maggie Smith. At the centre of it is a murder mystery with nearly everyone having a plausible motive but that's merely the MacGuffin because the true pleasure of the film lies in its dissection of greed, snobbery and the inequities of the class system.
[on Steven Spielberg] His work either as producer or director, with its powerful appeal to the young and the young at heart, has been blamed by many distinguished film makers for what they call "the juvenilisation of the movies": the plethora of inferior pictures aimed cynically at teenage audiences. But that's not his fault. The blame lies with his imitators, whose gross and often witless horror and space flicks and tedious tales of adolescent growing pains have been one of the biggest blights on the Eighties. Spielberg [Steven Spielberg] himself is a fine and I believe an honest film maker and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) was easily the best of 1989's adventure capers.
I'm hooked on Il commissario Montalbano (1999) on BBC4. And the second series of Homeland (2011) on Channel 4 is shaping up to be as good as the first.
Everyone's opinions matters to him or herself. It doesn't necessarily matter to anybody else. The point is you tune into the net and there are a million people there purporting to be critics. You don't know who they are, you don't know how old they are, you don't know how many films they've seen. They're all putting out these forthright opinions and I take no notice of them. They're not to be trusted, I think.
The two kinds of critics that I really have no time for are those that use a film to show, "Gosh, aren't I funny? Aren't I witty?", as a sort of advertisement for themselves. The second kind is the one that looks at what all the other critics are saying and says, "I'm going to take the opposite point of view to show that I'm more intelligent than everybody else". Both of these attitudes are total bullshit and should be ignored.
A lot of US newspapers are dropping their film critics so that people can read about movies on the internet. I don't think that's a good substitute because the difference between a professional critic and the amateurs who write on Twitter and Facebook is that the professional critic should have seen a hell of a lot more films than the amateur, so he or she has therefore got more yardsticks to judge the last movie they saw. I think that's very important.
[on The Hunt for Red October (1990)] A richly complex plot unwinds...this is a good, intelligent Cold War thriller with a strong supporting cast including Scott Glenn, Joss Ackland and Sam Neill.
To that noble list of Scottish heroes brought to the screen by Sean Connery - King Arthur, Richard the Lionheart, Robin Hood and Agamemnon among them - we must add the distinguished Russian submarine commander Marko Ramius. In John McTiernan's Cold War thriller, based on Tom Clancy's novel, Connery makes no concession to the fact that Ramius has probably never even been to Edinburgh. But then why should he? His success owes much to that distinctive Scottish accent with its shushing esses. If he had attempted to change his persona by adopting different voices for different characters, he would have been just as good an actor but he might never have become a superstar.
[on The Hunt for Red October (1990)] Connery makes an impressive submarine commander, if not necessarily a Russian one, and Baldwin, as the first of four movie Jack Ryans, is pretty good too.
Cold War thrillers might seem a bit archaic nowadays, although the way Putin carries on who knows whether the good old days might not be coming back.
[on Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995)] The riddles are fun and the action spectacular; a bulked-up Irons [Jeremy Irons] makes a convincing heavy and the always-excellent Jackson [Samuel L. Jackson], sneaking in from left field, pretty well steals the whole film.
There's little to complain about in writer Richard Curtis's old-fashioned but likeable romantic comedy. (Well, there is that clunking line from Roberts - "I'm just a girl standing in front of a boy asking him to love her" - but let's forgive that.) In the tradition of romantic comedy, the question here is not whether two people from disparate worlds will end up together, but how, and with warmth, wit and a few spiky sideswipes at stardom and the movie business, Notting Hill (1999) reaches this desirable conclusion in style.
[on Judi Dench at the Academy Awards] The only thing that excited her, she said, was that she would meet the likes of Jack Nicholson, Clint Eastwood and Harrison Ford and I realised the woman was starstruck by people she could have acted off stage or screen without breaking sweat.

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