Inspector Morse creator Colin Dexter champions the life of the poet AE Housman. Housman's collection of poems, A Shropshire Lad, had huge popular appeal. But despite academic success, Housman remained a solitary, repressed and ultimately rather sad figure. A great poet? A Great Life? Matthew Parris takes some convincing..
Joyce Grenfell Tuesday 20 May 2008
Arabella Weir, the Fast Show comedian and novelist, discovers the many parallels between her life and that of her chosen subject, Joyce Grenfell, the writer and performer whose comic monologues Arabella listened to and loved as a child. Joyce’s biographer and family friend, Janie Hampton, author of The Austerity Olympics: When the Games Came to London in 1948, is there to supply the inside information on one of the best-loved entertainers of the last century.
Edward Lear 13 May 2008
Nicholas Parsons nominates as a Great Life that of the painter Edward Lear, now remembered best for The Owl and the Pussycat, The Jumblies and other nonsense verse for children. Expert Vivien Noakes is there to supply the background information.
Ian Curtis 6 May 2008
Poet Simon Armitage joins Matthew Parris to talk about his nomination for a Great Life – that of Ian Curtis, lead singer with Joy Division, who took his own life in 1980 at the age of 23. Curtis’ fellow band member Peter Hook remembers his friend.
Paul Robeson 29 April 2008
Anna Ford nominates black singer, actor and civil rights activist Paul Robeson for greatness. From Shakespeare to Showboat, his success as a stage actor was matched by his popularity as a singer, until he fell foul of the House of Un-American Activities Committee..
Juan Manuel Fangio 22 April 2008
Sir Stirling Moss nominates as his Great Life the racing drivers’ driver, Juan Manuel Fangio: the quiet, home-loving man who made the record books by winning five World racing titles. Fangio's biographer Gerald Donaldson supplies the background to the story.
Paavo Nurmi 15 April 2008
Former athlete and television commentator Steve Cram nominates "The Flying Finn", Paavo Nurmi for greatness. Middle and long distance runner Nurmi won 9 gold medals in 12 Olympic events, and is often considered the greatest track & field athlete of all time.
Charles Bukowski 8 April 2008
Writer and comedy star Rhona Cameron nominates Charles Bukowski as her “great life” because of the enormous influence his writing had on her adolescence. He belongs to an earlier generation, that of the Beats in early 60s America; the expert witness is his biographer, Barry Miles, who discusses how far Bukowski’s life can be understood from his poetry and prose.
Peter Cushing 1 April 2008
Mark Gatiss of The League of Gentlemen champions the cause of his hero of horror, Peter Cushing.
There are few actors who have plunged the villainous depths achieved by Peter Cushing. From Baron Frankenstein to Grand Moff Tarkin, Darth Vader's boss, he brought dignity, subtlety and human frailty to both the castles of Transylvania and the outer reaches of the galaxy.
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Matthew Parris is a writer for The Times and The Spectator and a frequent broadcaster on television and radio. From 1977 until the 1979 General Election, he was a member of staff in Mrs Thatcher's Office.
He was elected as an MP for West Derbyshire in 1979, a seat he held until 1986 when he gave it up to become Presenter of LWT's political interview programme, Weekend World.
He has led expeditions to Mount Kilimanjaro, Peru and Bolivia as well as to Zaire and the Sahara.