Tributes to Datchworth’s much-loved Barry Norman

Barry Norman.

Barry Norman. - Credit: Archant

The family of film critic Barry Norman have paid tribute to his remarkable life, which came to a much-lamented end on Friday night after 60 years in Datchworth.

The veteran movie buff, who presented a regular BBC television review programme from 1972 to 1988, died in his sleep at the age of 83.

His daughters, Samantha and Emma, said in a statement released through their father’s agent: “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. He was remarkable.”

Barry Norman’s passion for films came from his father Leslie, a successful director who lived in retirement in Knebworth.

His professional agent, Gordon Wise of Curtis Brown Group, said: “His career was legendary, and to several generations he was the defining voice of film criticism ,and insightful interviewing of screen legends from both sides of the camera.

“Besides his notable television work, his writing career spanned the glory days of old Fleet Street.”

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He came to Datchworth in 1957 after his marriage to Diana, an author known professionally as Ariana Franklin, who died in 2011.

During the 1980s, he became an increasingly familiar television face, inspiring professional impersonators, a Spitting Image puppet, and even a popular catchphrase - “And why not?”

Before his television career, he worked as a journalist for some years in South Africa, before returning to Britain and writing for papers such as The Daily Sketch, The Guardian, and The Daily Mail.

He named The Cruel Sea (1953), Chariots of Fire (1981), and Skyfall (2012) as among his favourite British films.

Datchworth Parish Council clerk Wendy Prowle said: “He did like to get involved with village events, more so when he was younger.

“He opened the village fete for several years, and when I and Jane Walker wrote a book about Datchworth he did a review and helped with the launch.

“He did a fantastic speech.”

Welwyn Hatfield borough councillor Terry Mitchinson, who as Welwyn Hatfield Times editor met the critic several times, said: “Barry Norman was not only hugely knowledgeable about the movie industry, he was also a pleasure to be with. He was always hospitable, welcoming and very easy to talk to.

“He was also a family man who loved his village and did a great deal to support his community.

“He is someone I will retain fond memories of, as I am sure will all those who met him.”