Philip French

Philip French is film critic of the Observer and has been a BBC talks producer since 1959. He is the editor of the recent anthology of talks and poems broadcast on Radio 3, The Third Dimension, and his radio portraits of Edmund Wilson, F.R. Leavis and Lionel Trilling were published as Three Honest Men.


Philip French, 6 June 1996

The smugness, torpor and repression of British life that my generation of undergraduates hated were epitomised in Julian Slade’s long-running musical Salad Days, the story of a pair of inane Cambridge graduate newly-weds living in London with a magic piano. It opened in the summer of 1954, a few months before I went up to Oxford, and featured a jolly song supposedly counselling against nostalgia called ‘We Said We’d Never Look Back’, any three bars of which bring back memories of what I most disliked about those times. Now it is back in the West End, and its revival coincides with the publication of Sebastian Faulks’s percetive study of three men who died young, the painter Christopher Wood (1901-30), the war hero, Richard Hillary (1919-43), and Jeremy Wolfenden (1934-65) who was (or is?) the most spectacular failure of my Oxford generation.

Going on the air

Philip French, 2 May 1985

It is unlikely that the governor of Lubianka gaol has ever boasted to visitors that his notorious dungeons were chosen as the setting for Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon. But for over thirty years successive generations of BBC producers escorting guests through the labyrinthine corridors of Broadcasting House past doors bearing inscrutably coded designations have cheerfully informed them that they’re in the building that inspired George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.


Michael Wood, 17 December 1992

The pale child gives a faint wave of his hand. He is saying goodbye to his Jewish friend, about to be taken from school to die in Auschwitz, but there is also a whole history of helplessness in...

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The Education of Philip French

Marilyn Butler, 16 October 1980

Can you name the author who set you thinking? For Philip French, at a Bristol grammar school in the 1950s, the enlighteners were Edmund Wilson, F.R. Leavis and Lionel Trilling. For me, at a...

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