Barry Norman: 'Best of film critics' remembered at memorial

Barry Norman in 1995

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Norman, pictured in 1995, died in his sleep last June

Stars, film-makers and journalists have come together to remember film critic Barry Norman at a memorial in London.

Ken Loach, Chris Tarrant, Rory Bremner and Dame Maggie Smith were among those in attendance to hear Barry Cryer, David Puttnam and others pay tribute.

Lord Puttnam remembered the long-time host of the BBC’s Film… programme as a “lovely man” with “an understanding as well as a knowledge” of cinema.

The Film… show’s iconic theme tune was played as guests arrived.

Norman, who hosted the programme between 1972 and 1998, died last year at the age of 83.

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The late broadcaster was one of the UK’s most respected film critics

Lord Puttnam, Oscar-winning producer of Chariots of Fire and The Killing Fields, said Norman had had “an instinctive empathy for the film-making process”.

Despite this, he continued, he had found some of the stars he interviewed to be “a pain in the neck” – among them Robert De Niro, with whom he memorably clashed in 1990, although their meeting ended with them shaking hands.

Bruce Thompson, Norman’s long-time producer, remembered the presenter as a “king of the autocue” who “wrote every word” of the scripts he delivered.

Irish playwright Frank McGuinness, meanwhile, said he had been “a wise friend”, “a gentle Englishman” and “the best of critics”.

McGuinness remembered an occasion when their dinner date was delayed for hours by the number of Dublin film fans determined to shake his hand.

Other tributes came from film critic Jason Solomons, who described Norman as “a mate, a mentor and a master” who had “showed us all how it should be done”.

Later in the service Norman’s younger brother Richard remembered him as a “protective” sibling and a “warm, loving man” whom he had loved “warts and all”.

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Norman, pictured with his wife Diana and daughters Samantha and Emma, was made a CBE in 1998

Barry Cryer said he was “a master commentator… full of Norman wisdom” in a light-hearted poem he claimed to have written “while waiting for a laugh in Lowestoft”.

He had, he continued, “the wit and style of Damon Runyon, even when describing a pickled onion” – a reference to the pickled onions to which he lent his name.

Norman’s friend John Wringe revealed during the service that proceeds from his onions would help fund a bursary for budding young journalists.

Other attendees at St Paul’s Church in Covent Garden included directors Alan Parker and John Madden, broadcasters Paul Gambaccini and Katie Derham and politicians Sir Vince Cable and Baroness Williams.

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