Alas passing today at the age of 83:
Barry Norman: “His enthusiasm and love for film always shone through” (theguardian.com).
“The face of the BBC’s Film programme [e.g. Film ’72 to Film ’98] for almost three decades was an accessible, unpretentious surveyor of cinema. … I grew up watching Barry Norman: in fact, he was the only film critic that anyone could name … and he became the model of a certain type of mainstream, friendly, consumerist reviewing, giving you a reliable, friendly guide to what was likely to be on at your local fleapit. He was accessible, unpretentious, if unadventurous and shy of swimming against the tide, and even at the time some of the show’s placid tics and mannerisms were a bit exasperating. … Barry had an enjoyably leisurely style, exactly right for the screen, and he came from that more leisurely era before the internet and a million bloggers and opinionators on social media, thousands of films on VOD, even before the home entertainment revolution on VHS.”
And, despite his placid, very English politeness, his tongue could indeed be rather acerbic when expected to lick, which gave some memorable fallouts:
“Norman became known for his diplomatic approach and friendly demeanour as an onscreen critic, always dressed in a trusty jumper, and refused to be awed by the glamour of Hollywood and the A-listers he interviewed. Robert De Niro famously stormed out of an interview when Norman mentioned in passing that the actor had lobbied hard for the Tom Hanks role in Big.
“‘I almost came to blows with De Niro,’ Norman said later. ‘He got up my nose, I got up his nose, he stormed out of the room and I chased after him. We both snarled at each other and I thought I’d better let it go. He was a lot younger than me and a lot fitter than me. I could have been in deep trouble. Norman also had spats with Mel Gibson and John Wayne, the latter of whom, he said, had ‘lurched out of his chair with the obvious intention of thumping me’ after the pair disagreed on the subject of the Vietnam war.’”
He was also often cynical, but often very right too, such as with his appraisal of 1977’s Star Wars: A New Hope:
So there you go, Alex Guinness “as a sort of elderly space-age Sir Galahad” with those “juvenile leads being played by Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, and Eddie Fisher’s daughter Carrie as the kidnapped princess.” and the merchandising franchise Leviathan that would arise, although rather unexpectedly for studio, producer and director (at 1:20).
And of course, the music, “and why not”: