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July 3, 2017

Barry Norman: ‘The defining voice of film criticism’ and ‘cinema’s everyman’

By Zainab Mahmood

Tributes have been paid to film critic and journalist Barry Norman who died in his sleep on Friday aged 83.

Norman’s literary agency Curtis Brown said in a statement that he was “the defining voice of film criticism and insightful interviewing of screen legends from both sides of the camera”.

The Telegraph’s Patrick Sawer said Norman was “one of the most popular practitioners of his profession for his insightful yet approachable reviews”.

He added that Norman’s writing for publications such the Daily Mail and The Guardian “did much to promote an intelligent critique of film among a wider audience.”

Friend Ray Connolly writing in the Daily Mail said that Norman had not planned on being a film critic but ended up being “cinema’s everyman”.

Norman opted out of attending university and started his career in journalism writing at the Kensington News.

The Daily Mail reported that he worked on papers in South Africa and Rhodesia before returning to the UK in 1957.

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On his return Norman wrote a gossip column at the Daily Sketch, and film reviews as TV & Showbiz editor at the Daily Mail where he was made redundant in 1971.

The BBC then offered him the hosting gig on Film ’72, a programme which he would host for 26 years until Film ’98. Connolly said: “He was a TV natural…He loved films, and viewers who also loved films, love him.”

Norman also wrote columns for the Guardian and the Radio Times..

He hosted BBC Radio 4’s The News Quiz, presented the Today programme and anchored Channel 4’s coverage of the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea.

In 1998 Norman was awarded a CBE for services to broadcasting.

The Daily Mail reported that he published “11 novels and various books on film”.

In 2001 Norman told the Guardian of his move to television: “When I started nearly 30 years ago, people were asked to go on television because it was felt that they could bring some sort of knowledge to what they were discussing.

“I think the difference now is that people go on television because they want to be celebrities and that seems to be an empty ambition. I do like to feel I’ve contributed something, as well as just sitting there.”

Although the Guardian’s Ben Quinn called Norman a “lovely man” and said that he was “known for a diplomatic approach and friendly demeanour”, he recounts explosive interviews with stars such as Robert De Niro.

In a statement about his death Norman’s daughters Emma and Samantha said: “He had a great life, a wonderful marriage and an enviable career.

“He leaves behind a family who adore him and a great roster of friends who love him too. We will miss him more than we can say.”

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