Great Lives

Great Lives

Biography series exploring the greatest people who ever lived. Matthew Parris interviews an eminent guest and an expert to reveal the truth behind their history heroes.

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All episodes (106)

  • 30 Sept 14 Lucille Ball

    Thu, 2 Oct 14

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Matthew Parris asks Professor Edith Hall about the life and work of Lucille Ball, whom she nominates as a Great Life. Producer: Christine Hall

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  • 23 Sept 14 Joseph Bazalgette

    Thu, 2 Oct 14

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Matthew Parris talks to Lord Adonis about the life of Sir Joseph Bazalgette and is joined by his great-great-grandson Peter. Producer: Christine Hall

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  • 10 Sept 14 Dorothy L Sayers

    Wed, 10 Sep 14

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Dame Stella Rimington talks to Matthew Parris about her fascination with the life and writing of Dorothy L Sayers. With expert witness Seona Ford.

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  • 09 Sept 14 Arthur Ransome

    Tue, 9 Sep 14

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Singer-songwriter and poet Labi Siffre chooses the life of children's author Arthur Ransome whose work he says has taught him more about moral responsibility than any holy book.

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  • 02 Sept 14 Gramsci

    Tue, 2 Sep 14

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Dr Tom Shakespeare tells Matthew Parris why Antonio Gramsci's is a Great Life.

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  • 26 Aug 14 Rommel

    Tue, 26 Aug 14

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Field-Marshal Erwin Rommel, for a time Hitler's favourite general is nominated by Ray Mears. Matthew Parris hears why this German soldier was a "great life".

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  • Great Lives: 19 Aug 14 Ida B Wells

    Tue, 19 Aug 14

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Matthew Parris leads a discussion on Ida B. Wells an African American civil rights and women's rights activist who was a political trailblazer and the choice of Baroness Oona King.

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  • 12 Aug 14 James Brown

    Tue, 12 Aug 14

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Matthew Parris invites his guests to nominate the person whom they feel is a great life. Music producer and DJ Jazzie B of Soul II Soul chooses James Brown.

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  • Great Lives: 05 Aug 14 Edward Burra

    Tue, 5 Aug 14

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Writer Jonathan Meades nominates the English artist Edward Burra, who died in 1976, arguing that he deserves to be better known. With Matthew Parris and biographer Jane Stevenson.

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  • Michael Palin nominates Ernest Hemingway

    Tue, 27 May 14

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Michael Palin first came across his Great Life when he was studying for school exams, his love of Ernest Hemingway has never gone away. He along with expert Naomi Wood tell Matthew Parris why this twentieth century legend is a Great Life. Producer :Perminder Khatkar

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  • John Craven on Brunel

    Tue, 13 May 14

    Duration:
    28 mins

    John Craven proposes engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Should this creator of great machines be considered a great man or is his finest feat the engineering of his own reputation?

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  • Isy Suttie on Jake Thackray

    Tue, 6 May 14

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Isy Suttie chooses Jake Thackray, Yorkshire's answer to Noel Coward. With Matthew Parris and Fake Thackray

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  • Emma Kirkby on Henry Purcell

    Tue, 6 May 14

    Duration:
    25 mins

    Soprano Emma Kirkby discusses the life of English composer Henry Purcell with Matthew Parris. Despite dying at the age of 36, Purcell was arguably the first composer to become a national figure, as shown by his funeral at Westminster Abbey. Living through turbulent times, and through the reign of three monarchs, Purcell had to cope with shifting Catholic and Protestant regimes while producing a steady output of religious music. But he also did some of his most memorable and enduring work for the commercial theatre. Few composers have set the English language to music so felicitously. After his death, Britain produced few world class composers for 200 years. To discuss his legacy, Emma and Matthew are joined by Purcell scholar Michael Burden

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  • Arnold Bennett

    Tue, 29 Apr 14

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Writer Deborah Moggach nominates the author Arnold Bennett whose work she thinks has been wrongly overlooked. Matthew Parris presents and Gyles Brandethn brings his enthusiasm and expertise.

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  • Borges

    Tue, 22 Apr 14

    Duration:
    29 mins

    Mathematician Marcus de Sautoy chooses the blind Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges for Great Lives. He is fascinated by the connection between the creator of 'The Library of Babel' and science - did Borges really understand notions of infinity and space ? Biographer Jason Wilson adds colourful detail to the life of a great writer whom he insists was just being impish when it came to the weighty matters that have excited more than one mathematician over the years. The programme includes beautiful recordings of Borges in conversation in 1971. Marcus du Sautoy is the Charles Simonyi Professor for the Understanding of Science. The presenter is Matthew Parris, and the producer is Miles Warde

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  • Great Lives: Hans Sloane

    Tue, 15 Apr 14

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Sir Mark Walport, the government's Chief Scientific Advisor champions the life of Sir Hans Sloane, founder of the British Museum. Along with expert Marjorie Caygill they tell Matthew Parris why they think Sloane is the mother and father of all collectors. Producer : Perminder Khatkar.

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  • Dante

    Tue, 8 Apr 14

    Duration:
    28 mins

    "Whenever I have too much to drink, I bang on about Dante ...." Sarah Vine makes a choice from the heart - the great Italian writer Dante Alighieri, father of the Italian language and author of the Divine Comedy. Matthew Parris presents, the producer is Miles Warde.

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  • Great Lives: Jacqueline Du Pre

    Tue, 1 Apr 14

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Evelyn Glennie, solo percussionist talks about her admiration for the cellist Jacqueline Du Pre with presenter Matthew Parris. Producer: Perminder Khatkar

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  • Great Lives: Lisa 'Lefteye' Lopes chosen by Sara Cox

    Tue, 28 Jan 14

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Sara Cox nominates Lisa 'Left Eye' Lopes, a hip hop artist and rapper, the first on Great Lives. The presenter is Matthew Parris. Producer: Perminder Khatkar. Assistant Producer: Milly Chowles.

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  • Great Lives: Kahlil Gibran chosen by Mark Constantine

    Thu, 23 Jan 14

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Businessman Mark Constantine champions the life of Kahlil Gibran, telling Matthew Parris how the poet has inspired him both at work and throughout his personal life.

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  • Great Lives: Meg Rosoff on Isabella Bird

    Thu, 23 Jan 14

    Duration:
    28 mins

    The novelist Meg Rosoff explains how the pioneering Victorian travel writer Isabella Bird inspired her life, work and love of horses.

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  • Great Lives: Dave Allen

    Tue, 14 Jan 14

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Comedian Dave Allen is chosen by Adil Ray, creator and star of Citizen Kahn. He explains to Matthew Parris how the legendary Irish comic helped shape his own career.

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  • David Baddiel on John Updike

    Wed, 8 Jan 14

    Duration:
    28 mins

    The writer and comedian David Baddiel and the novelist Justin Cartwright explain their fascination with one of the great figures of American literature, John Updike

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  • Great Lives:Sir David Chipperfield on Le Corbusier

    Tue, 31 Dec 13

    Duration:
    29 mins

    Pioneer of Modern architecture, Le Corbusier, chosen by award winning architect Sir David Chipperfield. Le Corbusier aimed to build a better world through radical buildings and the controversial reshaping of whole cities. Flora Samuel, Professor of Architecture at the University of Sheffield, joins Matthew Parris to unpick the life of a man who considered himself a herioc figure, fighting battles to improve the world. Presenter: Matthew Parris. Producer: Melvin Rickarby

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  • Great Lives: Michael Horovitz on Allen Ginsberg

    Tue, 17 Dec 13

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Matthew Parris is joined by Michael Horovitz who nominates fellow poet and founder of the Beat generation Allen Ginsberg as his Great Life. Ginsberg's friend and biographer Barry Miles provides biographical detail of this colourful and controversial writer, who through his battle for free expression inspired American counter culture. Producer: Melvin Rickarby

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  • Hank Williams 11 Dec 2013

    Tue, 10 Dec 13

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Deacon Blue singer Ricky Ross nominates the 'Hillbilly Shakespeare' Hank Williams. Matthew Parris presents.

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  • Nancy Mitford 22 Jan 13

    Wed, 2 Oct 13

    Duration:
    29 mins

    Grace Dent loves Nancy Mitford for her wit, and for the way in which she showed women that it was possible to live your life. Grace Dent is a TV critic, newspaper columnist, author, and broadcaster - and a feared presence on Twitter. Nancy Mitford's greatest success came with the novels The Pursuit of Love (1945) and Love in a Cold Climate (1949). Matthew Parris asks what it is about Nancy that so inspires Grace, with the aid of biographer Lisa Hilton. Producer Beth O'Dea

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  • Bernard Montgomery 01 Oct 13

    Tue, 1 Oct 13

    Duration:
    28 mins

    In defeat, unbeatable; in victory, unbearable" – so said Winston Churchill on this week's Great Live, Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery. Many would argue that he was Britain's greatest field commander since Wellington - arrogant, hard to like but undeniably successful – one of the most, perhaps the most, conspicuously successful British commander of the Second World War. He was a national celebrity. In this edition of Great Lives - Al Murray - comedian and TV personality best known for his character of 'The Pub Landlord' champions Monty – and Al starts off by showing presenter Matthew Parris his action figure doll of the man. Producer : Perminder Khatkar

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  • John Steinbeck 24 Sept 13

    Tue, 24 Sep 13

    Duration:
    29 mins

    Matthew Parris is joined by trade unionist Sir Brendan Barber who nominates American author John Steinbeck as his Great Life. The author of The Grapes of Wrath aimed to fight the cause of the common man, was derided by the right as a Communist and by the left as a sell-out for supporting the Vietnam war. Brendan Barber picks through the politics and explains how Steinbeck influenced him as a teenager to look towards joining the trade union movement. Producer: Melvin Rickarby

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  • Ada Lovelace

    Tue, 17 Sep 13

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron's only legitimate daughter is championed by TV presenter Konnie Huq , who along with Suw Charman Anderson tell Matthew Parris why she is a Great Life.

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  • George Devine

    Tue, 10 Sep 13

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Matthew Parris is joined by actor Peter Bowles who nominates George Devine, groundbreaking artistic director of the Royal Court Theatre. Devine battled against repressive censorship, enhanced the careers of actors like Lawrence Olivier and Peggy Ashcroft, and by discovering writers like John Osborne and other Angry Young Men changed British theatre forever. Helping guide us through the landscape of Devine's life is Philip Roberts, Emeritus Professor of Drama and Theatre Studies at the University of Leeds. Produced in Bristol by Melvin Rickarby

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  • Louise Michel 03 Sept 13

    Tue, 3 Sep 13

    Duration:
    28 mins

    TV journalist and writer Paul Mason talks to Matthew Parris about the 19th Century French anarchist, Louise Michel, heroine of the Paris Commune. They're joined by historian Carolyn Eichner who says that Michel "expounded action and aggression with a theatrical, infectious elegance." Producer: Peter Everett

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  • Ava Gardner

    Tue, 27 Aug 13

    Duration:
    28 mins

    The writer Julie Burchill talks to Matthew Parris about the Hollywood star Ava Gardner. They're joined by Ava's biographer Lee Server. Often described as "the most beautiful woman in the world", Ava Gardner made 65 movies, ranging from ‘Mogambo' (for which she won an Oscar nomination) to ‘Maisie Goes To Reno' (for which she didn't). She had three husbands (Mickey Rooney, Artie Shaw and Frank Sinatra) and hundreds of lovers including Howard Hughes, David Niven, Robert Mitchum, John F.Kennedy and various playboys, beach-boys and bullfighters. She was, says Matthew Parris, a "hard-drinking, wisecracking, libidinous vamp – a liberated woman before the phrase was invented.

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  • Rabindranath Tagore

    Tue, 20 Aug 13

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Playwright Tanika Gupta chooses as her Great Life, a man who is a hero to Bengali speakers across the World, Rabindranath Tagore. Born in 1861, to a wealthy family in Calcutta, Tagore would be the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, his work spanning every genre. He was also a humanist, philanthropist, and thinker, whose friends included Yeats and Gandhi. The producer is Lizz Pearson

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  • Fela Kuti

    Tue, 13 Aug 13

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Poet, playwright, and critic Gabriel Gbadamosi chooses as his Great Life the political maverick and inventor of Afrobeat, musician Fela Kuti, and tells Matthew Parris why his work deserves to be better known. Whether withstanding ferocious beatings from the Nigerian police, insulting his audiences, or demanding a million pounds in cash upfront from Motown records, his strength and stubbornness were legendary, and his gift for controversy unmatched. Fela had more than 25 wives, some of whom he beat, and was President of his own self proclaimed Republic. He smoked dope and was the scourge of the rulers of a corrupt Nigerian state and was acclaimed as having the best live band on earth. Gabriel Gbadamosi is joined by Stephen Chan, professor of International Relations at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, to discuss the musical and political life of this outspoken force of nature. Presenter: Matthew Parris Producer: Melvin Rickarby

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  • Ivor Novello

    Tue, 6 Aug 13

    Duration:
    29 mins

    Astrologer and performer Russell Grant chooses one of the greatest screen legends of cinema's early years – Ivor Novello. Born in 1893 in Cardiff, he was also a talented writer and composer, and would dominate both screen and stage with his epic romantic fantasies, until his death in 1951. Produced by Lizz Pearson

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  • Florence Nightingale 28 May 13

    Wed, 5 Jun 13

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Dr Lucy Worsley, historian and Chief Curator at the independent charity, Historic Royal Palaces, chooses 'The Lady with the Lamp', Florence Nightingale. She's joined by biographer Mark Bostridge. Matthew Parris chairs. Producer: Lizz Pearson

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  • Primo Levi 21 May 13

    Tue, 21 May 13

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Edmund de Waal chooses a writer he believes is one of the greatest of the modern age - Primo Levi, author of the Periodic Table. Born in 1919 in Turin, Levi was an Italian Jew, one of the few deported to Auschwitz who would escape alive. Ceramicist and author Edmund de Waal joins Matthew Parris to discuss how Levi's work inspired The Hare With Amber Eyes - his own memoir of his family's history as Jews in 19th and 20th century Europe. And biographer Ian Thomson, one of the last to interview Levi, explains why we shouldn't confuse Levi the writer with Levi the man. Producer: Lizz Pearson

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  • Salvador Dali 14 May 13

    Tue, 14 May 13

    Duration:
    28 mins

    John Cooper Clarke, poetry's Punk Laureate and the Bard of Salford, nominates Salvador Dali for great life status - melting clocks, Mae West lip sofas, lobster telephones and all. Producer: Mark Smalley

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  • Bill Shankly 7 May 13

    Tue, 7 May 13

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Mumsnet founder Justine Roberts champions the football manager Bill Shankly, who nurtured Liverpool to become one of the world's greatest sides. Matthew Parris chairs. Producer: Jolyon Jenkins

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  • Arthur Conan Doyle 30 Apr 13

    Tue, 30 Apr 13

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Broadcaster Gyles Brandreth nominates Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as his "Great Life". Matthew Parris chairs, assisted by biographer Andrew Lycett. Producer: Jolyon Jenkins

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  • David Livingstone 23 Apr 13

    Tue, 23 Apr 13

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Dr David Livingstone was the Victorian equivalent of an astronaut - a man who ventured into the interior of Africa to report on territory that was wholly unknown to Europeans. In this programme, the explorer Colonel John Blashford-Snell explains why he admires his predecessor. Matthew Parris chairs the discussion, assisted by Dr Sarah Worden of the National Museum of Scotland. Producer: Jolyon Jenkins

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  • Kenny Everett 16 Apr 13

    Tue, 16 Apr 13

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Chris Tarrant nominates Kenny Everett, mad little geezer and genius deejay. Matthew Parris presents with help from biographer James Hogg and Captain Kremmen of the Star Corps.

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  • Galileo 09 Apr 13

    Tue, 9 Apr 13

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Bobby Friction - DJ and broadcaster better known for his Bhangra music remixes - champions Galileo Galilei, the Italian physicist and astronomer. For Bobby Galileo is almost 'God like' - If he didn't recant it would have been the ultimate two-fingered salute". Expert contributions come from Dr David Berman from Queen Mary, University of London. Producer : Perminder Khatkar.

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  • George Bell 02 Apr 13

    Tue, 2 Apr 13

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Peter Hitchens chooses George Bell, bishop of Chichester, who spoke out against the area bombing of Germany in 1944. Matthew Parris presents.

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  • William Robinson 29 Jan 13

    Tue, 29 Jan 13

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Gardener Carol Klein's great life is a hero of the wild garden, William Robinson. Matthew Parris presents with expert help from Robinson's biographer Richard Bisgrove.

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  • Aubrey Beardsley

    Tue, 15 Jan 13

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen on the Victorian artist Aubrey Beardsley, whose shocking originality he compares to that of Alexander McQueen. Laurence's first foray into art was copying Beardsley drawings to sell at his school - with the more erotic ones fetching a premium price... Biographer Matthew Sturgis fills in the detail of Beardsley's short but extraordinary life, and Matthew Parris presents. Producer Beth O'Dea

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  • JS Mill

    Tue, 8 Jan 13

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Max Mosley chooses John Stuart Mill, British philosopher and author of On Liberty. Matthew Parris presents.

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  • Rasputin

    Tue, 1 Jan 13

    Duration:
    27 mins

    Was Rasputin really the lover of the Russian queen ? Richard Herring nominates his hero with help from Bob Service. Matthew Parris presents.

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  • Vaughan Williams 25 Dec 12

    Tue, 25 Dec 12

    Duration:
    25 mins

    Classical composer Ralph Vaughan Williams is the hero of 6Music presenter Stuart Maconie. Matthew Parris is intrigued, and brings along the Chair of the Ralph Vaughan Williams Society to tell us more.

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  • Jean Cocteau

    Tue, 11 Dec 12

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Children's author Francesca Simon chooses for her great life the writer, poet, filmmaker and artist Jean Cocteau. Matthew Parris presents.

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  • 04 Dec 12 Dick Francis

    Tue, 4 Dec 12

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Dick Francis, champion jockey and bestselling author, chosen by Martin Broughton. Matthew Parris presents.

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  • George Orwell

    Fri, 28 Sep 12

    Duration:
    28 mins

    In conversation with Matthew Parris, former Home Secretary Alan Johnson explains why Orwell was crucial to his education and political development. He's surprised to learn that Orwell is not on the National Curriculum, and insists that Orwell would have hated I.D. cards. They're joined by Jean Seaton, Professor of Media History at the University of Westminster and Chair of the Orwell Prize. Orwell was in the news recently when the outgoing Director-General of the BBC, Mark Thompson, turned down a proposal to erect a statue of George Orwell outside BBC Broadcasting House, reportedly telling Joan Bakewell that it was 'far too Left-wing an idea.' Producer: Toby Field

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  • Edith Wharton

    Tue, 25 Sep 12

    Duration:
    28 mins

    "If only we'd stop trying to be happy we could have a pretty good time." Edith Wharton is as well known for her wit as for her novels. Born in 1862, she was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize, for The Age of Innocence in 1921. She is nominated by Naomi Wolf, the provocative American commentator and author of The Beauty Myth. Presenter Matthew Parris is also joined in the studio by Janet Beer and Avril Horner. The producer is Jolyon Jenkins.

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  • Karel Reisz

    Tue, 11 Sep 12

    Duration:
    29 mins

    Film director Stephen Frears discusses the life of his mentor, Czech-born director, Karel Reisz, with the help of critic and Reisz's friend, John Lahr. Frears is one of Britain's most successful directors, responsible for "My Beautiful Laundrette", "Dangerous Liaisons", and "Dirty Pretty Things", among many others. Reisz is probably best known for "Saturday Night and Sunday Morning", and "The French Lieutenant's Woman". "Karel took me into his life and into his family and he took on the business of turning me into whatever it is I've become," Frears has said. "Without him, I wouldn't have become a film director". Matthew Parris chairs the discussion.

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  • Stan Laurel

    Tue, 4 Sep 12

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Comedian and performer Ken Dodd tells Matthew Parris how Stan Laurel inspired him to go into comedy, with the help of expert Glenn Mitchell.

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  • Juvenal

    Wed, 29 Aug 12

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Matthew Parris invites writer and comic Natalie Haynes to explain why her nomination for a Great Life is a Roman poet about whose life we know very little.

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  • Leonard Maguire

    Tue, 21 Aug 12

    Duration:
    27 mins

    Matthew Parris finds out why the actor Bill Paterson nominates the Scottish actor Leonard Maguire for Great Life status. The expert witness is Leonard Maguire's writer daughter, Susie.

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  • Sir Walter Scott

    Tue, 14 Aug 12

    Duration:
    29 mins

    Tory MP, author and adventurer Rory Stewart champions the life of Sir Walter Scott. Matthew Parris is joined by biographer Stuart Kelly. Did Scott invent the idea of Scottishness?

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  • Josephine Bonaparte

    Tue, 7 Aug 12

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Jospehine Bonaparte, wife of Napoleon and first empress of France, nominated by Janine di Giovanni. Matthew Parris presents and expert advice from Andrea Stuart.

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  • Henry Cooper

    Tue, 31 Jul 12

    Duration:
    29 mins

    Des Lynam nominates Henry Cooper, who fought Muhammed Ali twice. Matthew Parris presents and expert advice comes from Norman Giller.

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  • Sebastian Walker

    Tue, 22 May 12

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Lynn Barber talks to Matthew Parris about why Sebastian Walker remains such a memorable friend. They're joined by Walker's sister and biographer Mirabel Cecil.

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  • Goya

    Tue, 15 May 12

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Diana Athill joins Matthew Parris to explore the life of the Spanish painter, Francisco de Goya with the help of art historian Dr Sarah Symmons and reader Javier Marzan.

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  • John Ford

    Tue, 8 May 12

    Duration:
    29 mins

    John Ford, director of Stagecoach, The Searchers and The Grapes of Wrath, is chosen by Eric Pickles for Great Lives. Matthew Parris presents.

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  • Edward Said

    Thu, 26 Apr 12

    Duration:
    29 mins

    In Great Lives, comedian and author Alexei Sayle explains to Matthew Parris why Edward Said inspired him.

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  • George Lyward

    Tue, 24 Apr 12

    Duration:
    29 mins

    Musician and broadcaster Tom Robinson tells Matthew Parris how educationalist George Lyward saved his life. Dr Norman Alm provides expert assistance.

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  • Gertrude Stein

    Tue, 17 Apr 12

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Activist and best-selling novelist Erin Pizzey chooses the American poet and writer Gertrude Stein. Joining presenter Matthew Parris in the studio is Diana Souhami, author of "Gertrude and Alice".

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  • Oscar Wilde

    Tue, 10 Apr 12

    Duration:
    29 mins

    Will Self chooses Oscar Wilde, author of The Importance of Being Earnest. Matthew Parris presents with expert contribution from Franny Moyle, biographer of Mrs Oscar Wilde.

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  • Dylan Thomas

    Tue, 3 Apr 12

    Duration:
    29 mins

    Dylan Thomas proposed by another Welsh poet Owen Sheers in a specially recorded edition at Bristol's More Than Words Listening Festival. Includes Richard Burton reading Under Milk Wood. Matthew Parris presents.

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  • Razia Sultana 31 Jan 12

    Tue, 31 Jan 12

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Co-chairman of the Conservative party Sayeeda Warsi tells Matthew Parris why she's fascinated by the much mythologized thirteenth century Indian princess Razia Sultana, who ruled for less than four years in the 1230s but has long been celebrated as the first female Indian Muslim leader. They are joined by writer and expert on India, William Dalrymple.

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  • Vera Brittain 23 Jan 12

    Tue, 24 Jan 12

    Duration:
    28 mins

    The pacifist Vera Brittain - who bore witness to the toll of the First World War on her generation - is discussed by her daughter Baroness Shirley Williams and Dr Clare Gerada. Presented by Matthew Parris.

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  • Gracie Allen 1 Jan 12

    Tue, 17 Jan 12

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Matthew Parris is joined by the actress Emma Kennedy to explore the life of the American comedienne Gracie Allen.

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  • Joseph Rotblat 10 Jan 12

    Tue, 10 Jan 12

    Duration:
    29 mins

    Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees tells Matthew Parris why his hero, physicist Joseph Rotblat, lived a "great life". Rotblat was a brilliant physicist who was the only scientist to resign from the Manhattan Project once it became clear that Germany would not make an atomic bomb. Joining them in the studio is Rotblat's friend and colleague Kit Hill.

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  • Lonnie Donegan 3 Jan 12

    Tue, 3 Jan 12

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Downton Abbey actor Jim Carter tells Matthew Parris why skiffle king Lonnie Donegan is his hero. Lonnie Donegan is probably best remembered for the novelty hits "My Old Man's a Dustman" and "Does Your Chewing Gum Lose its Flavour? " However, early hits like "Rock Island Line" were instrumental in inspiring the likes of John Lennon, Brian May and Roger Daltrey to perform.

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  • Ludwig II of Bavaria 27 Dec 11

    Tue, 27 Dec 11

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Brian Sewell on his long-standing love of "Mad" King Ludwig II of Bavaria, who built the ultimate fantasy castle at Neuschwanstein. Presenter Matthew Parris and contributor Simon Winder find out more...

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  • Thomas Hobbes 20 Dec 11

    Tue, 20 Dec 11

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Thomas Hobbes: the writer and psychologist Steven Pinker joins Matthew Parris to discuss the life of the great English philosopher. Noel Malcolm from All Souls College, Oxford provides the expert analyis. Power and violence are themes of the discussion of Hobbes who, Steven Pinker argues, was "perhaps the first cognitive psychologist."

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  • Ludwig Wittgenstein 13 Dec 11

    Tue, 13 Dec 11

    Duration:
    29 mins

    Ludwig Wittgenstein, the fascinating and misunderstood genius who changed the course of philosophy, is chosen by writer Raymond Tallis. With biographer Ray Monk, he brings alive this most enigmatic of men and his singular life. And to make sure that they don't get lost in Wittgensteinian thought, presenter Matthew Parris brings along a whistle to blow whenever he feels in danger..

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  • Philip K Dick 06 Dec 11

    Tue, 6 Dec 11

    Duration:
    29 mins

    Actor Michael Sheen (Frost/Nixon; The Queen; Midnight in Paris) explores the life of Philip K Dick, and explains how this enigmatic science-fiction writer has influenced his recent production of Hamlet.

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  • Shakespeare 30 Aug 11

    Fri, 7 Oct 11

    Duration:
    29 mins

    The bard himself, William Shakespeare, is nominated for great life status by poetry curator, Daisy Goodwin. Dominic Dromgoole of the Globe Theatre joins Matthew Parris.

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  • 27.09.11: Gerald Durrell

    Tue, 27 Sep 11

    Duration:
    29 mins

    Great Lives. Former England footballer Graeme le Saux champions the life of conservationist Gerald Durrell. Also joining presenter Matthew Parris is Geralds widow Lee Durrell.

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  • Hildegard von Bingen 20 Sept 11

    Tue, 20 Sep 11

    Duration:
    28 mins

    The singer and broadcaster Cerys Matthews tells Matthew Parris why she thinks the life of the 12th century nun, Hildegard von Bingen qualifies as great.

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  • Lutyens 13 Sept 11

    Tue, 13 Sep 11

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Edwin Lutyens, architect of New Delhi and the Cenotaph, chosen for Great Lives by Simon Jenkins. Expert advice from Lutyens great grand daughter Jane Ridley and presented by Matthew Parris.

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  • Hans Fallada 06 Sept 11

    Tue, 6 Sep 11

    Duration:
    29 mins

    Fast Show comedian Simon Day tells Matthew Parris why he's fascinated by the life of German author Hans Fallada. Matthew is also joined by Fallada's biographer Jenny Williams.

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  • Eduardo Paolozzi 23 Aug 11

    Tue, 23 Aug 11

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Restaurateur Antonio Carluccio nominates his friend the sculptor and forefather of Pop Art Eduardo Paolozzi as a Great Life. Joining Antonio and presenter Matthew Parris in the studio is cultural historian Sir Christopher Frayling.

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  • Kirsty MacColl 09 Aug 11

    Tue, 9 Aug 11

    Duration:
    29 mins

    Broadcaster Janice Long tells Matthew Parris why her friend singer-songwriter Kirsty MacColl led a "great life" despite her tragically early death in a boating accident in 2000.

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  • Graham Greene 02 Aug 11

    Tue, 2 Aug 11

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Graham Greene, author of Brighton Rock and The Third Man, proposed by Tim Butcher. Matthew Parris presents and David Pearce battles bravely to defend the reputation of a writer who played Russian Roulette when bored.

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  • Harold Pinter 24 May 11

    Tue, 24 May 11

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Playwright Harold Pinter is chosen by Diane Abbott MP. With expert assistance from the critic and biographer Michael Billington and presented by Matthew Parris.

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  • Jack Johnson 17 May 11

    Tue, 17 May 11

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Jack Johnson, the Galveston Giant, was the first African American heavyweight champion of the world. Chosen by Matthew Syed both for his boxing skills and for what he came to represent. Matthew Parris presents.

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  • Petra Kelly 10 May 11

    Tue, 10 May 11

    Duration:
    29 mins

    Matthew Parris presents the biographical series in which his guests choose someone who's inspired their lives. Green MP Caroline Lucas nominates German Green politician Petra Kelly.

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  • Lewis Carroll 03 May 11

    Tue, 3 May 11

    Duration:
    29 mins

    Matthew Parris and writer Lynne Truss discuss the life of author Lewis Carroll. Famous for the Alice books, Carroll was also a brilliant mathematician and early photographer.

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  • Kathleen Ferrier 27 Apr 11

    Tue, 26 Apr 11

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Broadcaster Sue MacGregor nominates singer Kathleen Ferrer, who died tragically young. Matthew Parris presents, with the help of Christopher Fifield who edited Ferrier's letters.

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  • Simone de Beauvoir

    Tue, 19 Apr 11

    Duration:
    26 mins

    Actress Diana Quick tells Matthew Parris why Simone de Beauvoir changed her life after reading "The Second Sex". Lisa Appignanesi is the expert witness.

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  • Bernstein 12 Apr 10

    Tue, 12 Apr 11

    Duration:
    29 mins

    Leonard Bernstein, composer of West Side Story, was one of the greatest musical figures of the twentieth century. He's chosen by conductor Charles Hazlewood. Presenter Matthew Parris asks Bernstein's colleague and friend, Humphrey Burton, blunt questions about the great man's sexuality.

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  • Thomas Edison 05 April 11

    Tue, 5 Apr 11

    Duration:
    27 mins

    Sir Clive Sinclair nominates fellow inventor Thomas Edison. Edison invented sound recording, the electric light bulb and moving pictures, but also had his fair share of duds along the way. Sir Clive invented the first electronic calculator but also the ill-fated C5 electric car. Separated by a century, do the two men have anything in common? Joining the discussion is Edison's biographer Neil Baldwin.

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  • Marcus Garvey 01 Feb 11

    Tue, 1 Feb 11

    Duration:
    29 mins

    Kwame Kwei-Armah chooses Marcus Garvey, the inspirational black leader of the early twentieth century. With biographer Colin Grant and presenter Matthew Parris.

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  • Mary Stott 25 Jan 2011

    Tue, 25 Jan 11

    Duration:
    29 mins

    Katharine Whitehorn nominates Mary Stott, the great campaigning journalist and the first editor of the Guardian women's page. Dame Liz Forgan shares her memories of working with Mary, and Matthew Parris presents.

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  • Gertrude Bell 18 Jan 11

    Tue, 18 Jan 11

    Duration:
    29 mins

    Iraqi-born physicist Jim al-Khalili explores the life of Gertrude Bell, adventurer, archaeologist and arguably the founder of modern Iraq.

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  • Aneurin Bevan 04 Jan 11

    Tue, 4 Jan 11

    Duration:
    29 mins

    Matthew Parris explores the life of Aneurin Bevan, the founder of the NHS, chosen by the former leader of the Labour Party, Lord Kinnock. John Campbell adds biographical detail.

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  • Sammy Davis Jr 28 Dec 10

    Tue, 28 Dec 10

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Lionel Blair chooses his friend and dancing partner Sammy Davis Jr - Puerto Rican, Jewish, and possessing only one eye, but a great all round performer. Paul Gambaccini offers expert advice and Matthew Parris presents.

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  • Beckett 21 Dec 10

    Tue, 21 Dec 10

    Duration:
    29 mins

    Sir Gerry Robinson chooses fellow Irishman Samuel Beckett. Matthew Parris presents and Jim Knowlson, a personal friend of the playwright, offers the expert's view.

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  • DH Lawrence 14 Dec 10

    Tue, 14 Dec 10

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Matthew Parris is joined by John Hegley and Geoff Dyer to discuss the life of DH Lawrence, author, poet, painter, who died aged just 44 but made a giant contribution to literature.

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  • Malcolm McLaren 07 Dec 10

    Tue, 7 Dec 10

    Duration:
    29 mins

    Was Malcolm McLaren a musical great, or the great rock n' roll swindler ? Mark Borkowski joins Matthew Parris and Chris Salewicz in a discussion centred around compelling archive.

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  • Walt Disney 28 Sept 10

    Tue, 28 Sep 10

    Duration:
    29 mins

    Gerald Scarfe, creator of some of the most savage cartoon images of the last forty years, chooses Walt Disney for Great Lives. Brian Sibley and Roger Rabbit creator Richard Williams join presenter Matthew Parris in the studio debate.

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  • Montaigne 21 Sept 10

    Tue, 21 Sep 10

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Robert Winston chooses Michel de Montaigne, one of the most influential writers of the French Renaissance. Adding their help are biographer Sarah Bakewell and presenter Matthew Parris.

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  • Winston Churchill 14 Sept 10

    Tue, 14 Sep 10

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Winston Churchill's is the Great Life chosen by Lord Digby Jones, former Director General of the CBI. Expert contribution comes from Professor David Reynolds. Both men have vivid memories of the day in 1965 when, as children, they heard that Churchill had died. Surprisingly this is the first time that Churchill has been nominated in the series.

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  • Golda Meir 07 Sept 10

    Tue, 7 Sep 10

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Golda Meir was the Iron Lady of Israeli politics, a straight-talking, intransigent leader who once said, "There is a type of woman who does not let her husband narrow her horizons". She is the choice of former Conservative government minister Edwina Currie. Matthew Parris presents and historian Ahron Bregman joins as expert witness.

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