Barry Norman (1933 – 2017)
A personal tribute by FDA President, Lord Puttnam of Queensgate CBE
Barry Norman ranks among the most kind and perceptive men I’ve ever known.
Blessed by a brilliant marriage, which resulted in an adored and adoring family, he had no need, nor time, for rancour.
He was born into the world of cinema, so as the son of a fine director he knew better than most the passion and disappointment that went into the production of every movie - good and bad. In hindsight my generation of filmmakers were incredibly fortunate to have enjoyed the understanding and support of a tough, sometimes unforgiving, but ultimately generous group of critics.
Philip French, Derek Malcolm, David Robinson, Alexander Walker, along with Barry, all went out of their way to seek out and promote the emergence of a cinema that was outward looking in both its subject matter and respect for its audience.
To me, through the best and worst of times, Barry was never less than a witty and affectionate friend.
I think I understood him best when, on a Film Night special in early 1982 we debated the future of the industry we both loved.
As I laid out my own thoughts on what I believed lay ahead, his eyes grew wider and wider in almost pantomime consternation.
Like me he’d grown up in an era in which the local cinema was a smoky haven of silver imagery, drying raincoats, blue smoke haze and an almost religious silence.
I don’t believe he was ever able to embrace the world of DVDs, let alone ‘streaming’ - and the idea of people checking their mobile phones, and popping in and out of the concession stand while the movie was playing, would have been anathema to him.
Barry enjoyed the best of cinema at a time when, for the most part, it returned his love.
Much as I and his legion of devoted friends will miss him, with cinema subsuming its cultural potential to a spasm of sequels and masked heroes, he probably chose a good time to leave.