Barry Norman

Last updated

Barry Norman

Barry Norman 2012.jpg
Norman in 2012
Barry Leslie Norman

(1933-08-21)21 August 1933
London, England
Died30 June 2017(2017-06-30) (aged 83)
London, England
Education Hurstpierpoint College
Highgate School
OccupationFilm critic, television presenter, journalist
Years active1960–2001
Television Film...
Diana Narracott
(m. 1957;died 2011)

Barry Leslie Norman CBE (21 August 1933 – 30 June 2017) was a 20th century British television critic, presenter and journalist. He presented the BBC's cinema review programme, Film... , from 1972 to 1998.


Early life

Born in London on 21 August 1933, [1] Norman was the eldest of three children of film director Leslie Norman, and Elizabeth Norman (née Crafford). [2] [3] [4] He was brother of script editor and director Valerie Norman [5] (making him the former brother-in-law of Bernard Williams). Norman 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 from January 1946 until July 1951. [7] He did not go to university, opting instead to study shipping management at Islington Technical College.


Norman began his career in journalism with the West London newspaper The Kensington News. He later spent a period in South Africa working for The Star in Johannesburg, then moving to Salisbury, Rhodesia (now known as Harare, Zimbabwe) 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]

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]

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]

In 1982 Norman presented Omnibus.

Norman was, together with Elton Welsby, the main anchorman for Channel 4's coverage of the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul. [19]

Norman presented part of Comic Relief in 1990 and 1991. [20] [21]

He 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]

He 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]

Norman had a family recipe for pickle that has been passed down through generations, and which was used for his own brand of pickled onions. [26]

Personal life

He married author Diana Narracott in 1957; the couple lived in Datchworth, Hertfordshire, for many years, [27] [28] and both of their daughters (Samantha and Emma) were born there. [29] [2] Diana Norman died on 27 January 2011 at the age of 77. [30] Norman's 2013 book See You in the Morning was written as a celebration of their life together. [31] [32]

Norman had a passion for cricket and wrote a book on the subject. [33] He was a member of the MCC and enjoyed spending time at Lord's watching cricket. [34]

He was a supporter of the Liberal Democrats, [35] 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. [36]


Norman died in his sleep, aged 83, on 30 June 2017, [1] having been afflicted with lung cancer in his later years. [37] His body was buried in the graveyard of All Saints' Church, in Datchworth, Hertfordshire. [38] A memorial service was held to his memory at St Paul's, Covent Garden in April 2018. [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]

Awards and honours


Related Research Articles

Tim Westwood British DJ and television host

Timothy William Westwood is a British DJ and presenter of radio and television. He is often referred to by other DJs and artists appearing on his shows simply as Westwood. He presented the MTV UK show Pimp My Ride UK. In 2013, Westwood left BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 1Xtra after nearly twenty years and returned to Capital Radio.

Jonathan Ross English television and radio presenter

Jonathan Stephen Ross is an English television and radio presenter, film critic, actor and comedian best known for presenting the BBC One chat show Friday Night with Jonathan Ross during the 2000s. Ross also hosted his own radio show on BBC Radio 2, and acted as a film critic and presenter of the Film programme. After leaving the BBC, Ross then began hosting a new chat show on ITV, The Jonathan Ross Show. Other regular roles have included being a regular panellist on the comedy sports quiz They Think It's All Over and being a regular presenter of the British Comedy Awards.

Alan Partridge Comedic character

Alan Gordon Partridge is a comedic character portrayed by English actor Steve Coogan. A parody of British television personalities, Partridge is an inept broadcaster whose inflated sense of celebrity drives him to treachery and shameless self-promotion. Coogan described Partridge as a Little Englander, with right-wing values and poor taste.

Zoe Ball British television and radio personality

Zoe Louise Ball is an English television and radio personality. She was the first female host of both The Radio 1 Breakfast Show and The Radio 2 Breakfast Show for the BBC, and presented the 1990s children's show Live & Kicking.

Vanessa Feltz British radio presenter

Vanessa Jane Feltz is an English television personality, broadcaster, and journalist. She has appeared in various television shows, including Vanessa (1994-1998), The Big Breakfast (1996-1998), The Vanessa Show (1999), Celebrity Big Brother (2001), The Wright Stuff (2003-2005), This Morning (2006-present), and Strictly Come Dancing (2013). Feltz currently presents an early morning radio show on BBC Radio 2 and the Breakfast Show on BBC Radio London. She also regularly sits in for Sara Cox and for Jeremy Vine on BBC Radio 2.

Armando Iannucci British comedian, film director and producer

Armando Giovanni Iannucci is a Scottish satirist, writer, director, and radio producer. Born in Glasgow to Italian parents, Iannucci studied at the University of Glasgow followed by the University of Oxford, leaving graduate work on a D.Phil. about John Milton to pursue a career in comedy. Starting on BBC Scotland and BBC Radio 4, his early work with Chris Morris on the radio series On the Hour transferred to television as The Day Today. A character from this series, Alan Partridge, co-created by Iannucci, went on to feature in a number of Iannucci's television and radio programmes, including Knowing Me Knowing You with Alan Partridge and I'm Alan Partridge. Iannucci also fronted the satirical Armistice review shows and in 2001 created his most personal work, The Armando Iannucci Shows, for Channel 4.

Julian Clary English comedian, actor, presenter and novelist

Julian Peter McDonald Clary is an English comedian, actor, presenter and novelist. Clary began appearing on television in the mid-1980s. Since then he has also acted in films, television and stage productions, and was the winner of Celebrity Big Brother 10 in 2012.

Bob Holness British television presenter and personality, game show host, radio DJ and actor

Robert Wentworth John Holness was a British radio and television presenter and occasional actor. He presented the British version of Blockbusters.

Frank Joseph Bough is a retired English television presenter. He is best known as the former host of BBC sports and current affairs shows including Grandstand, Nationwide and Breakfast Time, which he launched alongside Selina Scott and Nick Ross.

Nicholas Parsons British actor and presenter

Christopher Nicholas Parsons was an English actor, straight man and radio and television presenter. He was the long-running presenter of the comedy radio show Just a Minute and hosted the game show Sale of the Century during the 1970s and early 1980s.

Keith Chegwin English television presenter and actor

Keith Chegwin was an English television presenter and actor, appearing in several children's entertainment shows in the 1970s and 1980s, including Multi-Coloured Swap Shop and Cheggers Plays Pop.

Rob Brydon Welsh comedian, actor, writer

Robert Brydon Jones, is a Welsh comedian, actor, radio and television presenter, singer and impressionist. He played Dr Paul Hamilton in the Australian/British comedy series Supernova, Bryn West in the sitcom Gavin & Stacey and Keith Barret in the BBC comedy series Marion and Geoff and its spin-off The Keith Barret Show.

Jeremy Vine English journalist and radio presenter

Jeremy Guy Vine is an English presenter, broadcaster and journalist. He is best known as the host of his BBC Radio 2 lunchtime programme which presents news, views, interviews with live guests and popular music, taking over from long time host Sir Jimmy Young in 2003. He is known for his direct interview style and exclusive reporting from war-torn areas throughout Africa.

Film 2018 or The Film Show was a British film review television programme, which was usually broadcast on BBC One. The title of the show changed each year to incorporate the year of broadcast.

Mark Kermode British film critic

Mark James Patrick Kermode is an English film critic and musician. He is the chief film critic for The Observer, contributes to the magazine Sight & Sound, presents the BBC Four documentary series Mark Kermode's Secrets of Cinema, co-presents the BBC Radio 5 Live show Kermode and Mayo's Film Review, and previously co-presented the BBC Two arts programme The Culture Show. Kermode is a member of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Kermode is a founding member of the skiffle band the Dodge Brothers, for which he plays double bass.

Brian Cant English actor, television presenter and writer

Brian Cant was an English actor of stage, television and film, television presenter, voice artist and writer. He was best known for his work in BBC television programmes for children from 1964 onward, most notably Play School and in later years Dappledown Farm.

Stevenage (UK Parliament constituency) Parliamentary constituency in the United Kingdom, 1983 onwards

Stevenage is a constituency represented in the House of Commons of the UK Parliament since 2010 by Stephen McPartland, a Conservative.

Reggie Yates British actor, television presenter and radio DJ

Reginald "Reggie" Yates is a British actor, television presenter and radio DJ. He was the voice actor for Rastamouse and played Leo Jones in Doctor Who. Yates has worked at the BBC in radio and television–presenting various shows for BBC Radio 1 with Fearne Cotton–as well as hosting the ITV2 reality show Release the Hounds from 2013 until 2017.

Datchworth Human settlement in England

Datchworth is a village and civil parish between the towns of Hertford, Stevenage and Welwyn Garden City in the county of Hertfordshire, England. Sited on the Roman road from St Albans to Puckeridge, the village has examples of Saxon clearings in several locations. Datchworth has a village green where there are two pubs and a sports club. There are three other pubs in the parish: The Horns at Bulls Green, The White Horse at Burnham Green and Three Horse Shoes at Hooks Cross. In the 2001 Census the population was 1,065, increasing to 1,524 at the 2011 Census.

Bidisha SK Mamata, known professionally as Bidisha, is a British broadcaster, film-maker, and journalist specialising in international affairs, social justice issues, arts and culture, and international human rights.


  1. 1 2 "Film critic Barry Norman dies". BBC News. 1 July 2017. Retrieved 1 July 2017.
  2. 1 2 Who's Who 2013
  3. "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.
  4. Nick McGrath (12 November 2011). "Barry Norman: My family values". The broadcaster talks about his family. The Guardian, London. Retrieved 1 July 2017.
  5. McGrath, Nick (11 November 2011). "Barry Norman: My family values". The Guardian . 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. 1 2 3 4 5 "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". The Daily 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". The 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. 1 2 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. 1 2 3 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. 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.
  27. Nick Willoughby. "Business is 'fantastic': Hertfordshire couple relaunch village pub". The Comet. Retrieved 1 July 2017.
  28. Dave Burke. "Hertfordshire film critic Barry Norman in storm over Robin Williams tribute". Welwyn Hatfield Times. Retrieved 1 July 2017.
  29. Nick McGrath. "Barry Norman: My family values". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 July 2017.
  30. Wilson, Laura (4 February 2011). "Diana Norman obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 July 2017.
  31. "Barry Norman on bereavement". Retrieved 1 July 2017.
  32. Claire Black (12 October 2013). "Barry Norman on dealing with the loss of his wife". The Scotsman . Retrieved 1 July 2017.
  33. 1 2 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.
  34. Clark, Pete (15 November 2002). "Who goes to... The MCC". London Evening Standard. Retrieved 1 July 2017.
  35. "Culture jobs show Labour bias". BBC News. 5 November 1998. Retrieved 25 March 2014.
  36. Barry Norman. And Why Not?: Memoirs of a Film Lover. ISBN   978-0743449700
  38. Entry for Norman in Findagrave website (2020).
  39. Barry Norman: 'Best of film critics' remembered at memorial, BBC News, 12 April 2018.
  40. Barker, Dennis; Malcolm, Derek (1 July 2017). "A delightful and intelligent critic: Barry Norman obituary". The Guardian . Retrieved 1 July 2017.
  41. "Richard Dimbleby Award in 1981". BAFTA. Retrieved 1 July 2017.
  42. Quercus, ISBN   978-1847248442, 336pp
  43. Chapmans Publishers, ISBN   978-1855925779, 276pp
  44. Orion Publishing Co, ISBN   978-0752801896, 320pp
  45. Simon & Schuster, ISBN   978-0743449700 Norman, Barry (1 October 2003). "And Why Not?: Memoirs of a Film Lover". Simon and Schuster. Retrieved 1 July 2017 via Google Books.
  46. Doubleday, ISBN   978-0857521644