Cracked Actor: David Bowie in 1974


In 1974 Alan Yentob, a 27-year-old producer-director for the BBC's Omnibus strand, received a call from Tony Defries, whose management company MainMan looked after David Bowie. After meeting Bowie in New York, agreement was reached to film a documentary around his Diamond Dogs tour of North America. The legendary film Cracked Actor was the result, capturing Bowie at an extraordinary moment in his life.

Alan Yentob, now the presenter of BBC One's imagine series, recalls Bowie demonstrating his use of William S. Burroughs' cut-up style of writing, and Bowie talking in the back seat of a car - footage which encouraged Nicolas Roeg to cast him in The Man Who Fell to Earth.

"He was fragile and exhausted, but also prepared to open up and talk in a way he had never really done before."

Photograph by Terry O'Neill. Hand colouring by David Bowie. Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive 2012. David Bowie and William Burroughs, 1974. Image © V&A Images.


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Design by David Bowie, film stills by David James. Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive 2012. Film stills © STUDIOCANAL Films Ltd. Photo collage of manipulated film stills from The Man Who Fell to Earth. Image © V&A Images

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