Philip French and the Critical Ear
Laurence Scott recalls the contribution of Philip French to the nation's critical life, both as producer of Radio 3's Critics' Forum and as the Observer's great film reviewer.
The writer Philip French, who died in 2015 was the creator for Radio 3 of its first regular review programme, Critics' Forum. On the 70th anniversary of the station, Laurence Scott talks to those who knew Philip and explores his long involvement with arts programming on BBC Radio.
When he died in 2015, Philip French received many and heartfelt eulogies to his intellect and sheer enjoyment of film as deployed for many decades in the review pages of the Observer newspaper. But French's contribution to shaping the taste of Britain's radio listeners was less remarked upon. This programme attempts to redress that.
Critics' Forum was Radio 3's first formal review programme, but the network was, from its inception as the Third Programme in 1946, always the home of legendary critical voices, and this feature traces that pernickety pathway from the sometimes snooty 1940s and 50s to the more demotic 1960s when Philip French's creative voice began to be heard on the network. Laurence Scott also charts what happened after Philip French's retirement, and whether formal reviewers still enjoy power in the digital age, when it's easy to express and share an opinion on anything.
And friends remember him as a comrades-in-arms in the often turbulent world of artistic review, and talks to those who remember him even as a student arguing passionately the merits and demerits of the latest film releases while swinging down the lane acting out every Gene Kelly move from 'Singing in the Rain'...
Producer Simon Elmes.