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Openly reticent

Jonathan Coe

9 November 1989
Grand Inquisitor: Memoirs 
by Robin Day.
Weidenfeld, 296 pp., £14.95, October 1989, 0 297 79660 7
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by Kenneth Branagh.
Chatto, 244 pp., £12.99, September 1989, 0 7011 3388 0
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Storm over 4: A Personal Account 
by Jeremy Isaacs.
Weidenfeld, 215 pp., £14.95, September 1989, 0 297 79538 4
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... but to start writing books about themselves. In the case of Robin Day (Sir Robin, I suppose, if one is not to repeat Mrs Thatcher’s famous gaffe) that time has come at the age of 68; in the case of KennethBranagh, at the age of 28. Make of that what you will. Actually I had never thought that KennethBranagh was a particularly interesting person until the press started to tell me that he was, whereas ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Dunkirk’

16 August 2017
... visual effect is just that. None of the mess you find on earth and sea. The impression is enhanced by the fact that the heroic pilot’s role is handsomely filled by Tom Hardy, while the navy gets KennethBranagh, his eyes moist as he thinks of ‘home’, and ready to stay on after the evacuation to do what he can ‘for the French’. I imagine this line is meant to sound decent, even noble, but it ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Murder on the Orient Express’

30 November 2017
Murder on the Orient Express 
directed by Kenneth​ Brannagh.
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... The great detective​ never rests, and perhaps doesn’t want to, although in KennethBranagh’s new film he does express a wish for a day or two off. No such luck, of course, something has to happen even in a slow and glossy movie. He starts off by dealing with a theft in Jerusalem, runs ...

Make use of me

Jeremy Treglown: Olivia Manning

9 February 2006
Olivia Manning: A Life 
by Neville Braybrooke and June Braybrooke.
Chatto, 301 pp., £20, November 2004, 0 7011 7749 7
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... not absent from the books, is often left unpointed in them: in particular how the holiday which Harriet (played by Emma Thompson) takes from her marriage and the impact of her supposed death on Guy (KennethBranagh did these scenes with a thrilling rawness) both bring a shift in the balance not so much of power as of need between the partners. James Cellan Jones’s direction made the most of the battle ...


Joanna Kavenna: In Tromsø

31 October 2002
... departure lounge, the last stop before the endless ice. I had thought the city would be reaping the benefits of the Polar industry – the biopics, the biographies, the inexplicable determination of KennethBranagh (of Shackleton) to out-act John Mills (of Scott of the Antarctic), the retellings of modern legends about the explorers freezing and dying and writing poetry as they did so. But Tromsø is ...

Identity Parade

Linda Colley

25 February 1993
People and Places: Country House Donors and the National Trust 
by James Lees-Milne.
Murray, 232 pp., £19.99, October 1992, 0 7195 5145 5
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The Making of the National Poet: Shakespeare, Adaptation and Authorship, 1660-1769 
by Michael Dobson.
Oxford, 266 pp., £30, October 1992, 0 19 811233 5
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Myths of the English 
edited by Roy Porter.
Polity, 280 pp., £39.50, October 1992, 0 7456 0844 2
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Fields of Vision: Landscape Imagery and National Identity in England and the United States 
by Stephen Daniels.
Polity, 257 pp., £39.50, November 1992, 0 7456 0450 1
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... their superior patriotism. The actor David Garrick also used the Bard to inflate and dignify his own career, puffing him as the nation’s number-one playwright – just like Lawrence Olivier and KennethBranagh would go on to do – as a means of representing himself as its number-one actor. He had himself painted and engraved alongside Shakespeare’s bust. And he commissioned Roubiliac to do a ...
20 December 2018
... is an equal ‘turn’; the result is that adaptations tend to become films in which actors are chewing the scenery while also phoning it in. Witness the completely pointless recent remake with KennethBranagh as Poirot. John Malkovich is about to impersonate the great detective in a Christmas adaptation of The ABC Murders – now that one I’m looking forward to.) A novel in which the detective ...
21 March 1991
Ever Closer Union: Britain’s Destiny in Europe 
by Hugh Thomas.
Hutchinson, 96 pp., £7.99, January 1991, 0 09 174908 5
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The Challenge of Europe: Can Britain win? 
by Michael Heseltine.
Pan, 226 pp., £5.99, February 1991, 9780330314367
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... range of English letters, and the expertise that the visitor is assumed to be able to display on it. Sometimes that, too, can lead to retrospective wishful thinking. When I was in Germany last month, KennethBranagh’s Henry V was showing everywhere, and had clearly caused something of a stir. More than one German asked me whether it should not be seen as part of a long-standing English vision of ...

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