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At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Peeping Tom’

2 December 2010
The Peeping Tom 
directed by Michael Powell.
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... Hitchcock intended. People walked out of Peeping Tom, distinguished critics were disgusted (Dilys Powell wrote that the director, her namesake, could not ‘wash his hands of responsibility for this essentially vicious film’), and Michael Powell’s career went into a slump. You can see the film on a Criterion ...

Kindness rules

Gavin Millar

8 January 1987
A Life in Movies 
by Michael Powell.
Heinemann, 705 pp., £15.95, October 1986, 9780434599455
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All Our Yesterdays: 90 Years of British Cinema 
edited by Charles Barr.
BFI, 446 pp., £12.95, October 1986, 0 85170 179 5
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... Though it does not say so, Michael Powell’s 700-page autobiography is merely the first volume of a work which Powell rather surprisingly tells us is ‘what my mother would have wished and what I was born for’. Surprising not for the reference to his mother, since he always speaks of her with the greatest affection and respect, but for the seeming dedication to letters in a man who never ceases to proclaim his lifelong devotion to images ...

Every Rusty Hint

Ian Sansom: Anthony Powell

21 October 2004
Anthony PowellA Life 
by Michael Barber.
Duckworth, 338 pp., £20, July 2004, 0 7156 3049 0
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... I happened to read Michael Barber’s rather off-beat and amusing biography of Anthony Powell while waiting for a delayed easyJet flight from Stansted to Belfast and enduring all the usual privations of short-haul, low-cost flying: being shunted from gate to gate, and from sky-blue-upholstered departure lounge to sky-blue-upholstered departure lounge; and being jostled, and jostling, on this occasion in the very burly company of the young men and women of the Scottish Gymnastics Display Team, and an elderly couple, both in wheelchairs, and a man tattooed from neck to wrist, and possibly lower, who was working his way loudly through a large box of Quality Street ...
6 July 1989
The Challenge of Europe: Can Britain win? 
by Michael Heseltine.
Weidenfeld, 226 pp., £14.95, May 1989, 0 297 79608 9
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... as long as a Conservative government was in power. A handful of rebels was neither here nor there. Michael Heseltine’s extended tract is a measure of how far, under Mrs Thatcher, this expectation remains unfulfilled. The Prime Minister’s abrasive relations with Britain’s European partners have been one of the characteristics of her period in office. For ...

Six Scotches More

Michael Wood: Anthony Powell

8 February 2001
A Writer's Notebook 
by Anthony Powell.
Heinemann, 169 pp., £14.99, February 2001, 0 434 00915 6
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... to check page proofs against finished copies of books, and I do, I will. But the proofs of Anthony Powell’s A Writer’s Notebook provide, along with numerous unimportant oddities of phrase and spelling which seem to be errors of transcription from script to voice to type to print (‘I would like to thank my wife, who read the manuscript book onto tape, and ...

Wedded to the Absolute

Ferdinand Mount: Enoch Powell

26 September 2019
Enoch PowellPolitics and Ideas in Modern Britain 
by Paul Corthorn.
Oxford, 233 pp., £20, August 2019, 978 0 19 874714 7
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... Hotel, Birmingham (now rebranded as the Macdonald Burlington), to mark the spot where Enoch Powell delivered his famous speech on 20 April 1968. Yet of all the speeches delivered by British politicians in the 20th century, or come to that in the 21st, it remains the most memorable, surpassing even the snatches I can recall of ‘We shall fight on the ...

Chances are

Michael Wood

7 July 1983
O, How the wheel becomes it! 
by Anthony Powell.
Heinemann, 143 pp., £6.95, June 1983, 0 434 59925 5
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Brilliant Creatures 
by Clive James.
Cape, 303 pp., £7.95, July 1983, 0 224 02122 2
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Pomeroy 
by Gordon Williams.
Joseph, 233 pp., £7.95, June 1983, 0 7181 2259 3
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... is said to be a ‘chapter of accidents’, and in the title and precarious plot of Anthony Powell’s O, How the wheel becomes it! The wheel is Ophelia’s, and suggests the incessant circlings of fortune, but quickly, in Powell’s hands, comes to hint at roulette and the dodgy hazards of English literary ...
4 December 1980
My Life with Nye 
by Jennie Lee.
Cape, 277 pp., £8.50, November 1980, 0 224 01785 3
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Debts of Honour 
by Michael Foot.
Davis-Poynter, 240 pp., £9.50, November 1980, 0 7067 6243 6
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... If Jennie Lee, Aneurin Bevan and Michael Foot had achieved Cabinet rank together in the 1960s, the United Kingdom would be in better shape now. ‘That is my truth,’ as Bevan used to say. ‘Now tell me yours.’ What have they in common, though, this leftist Gang of Three, the Englishman, the Welshman and the Scot, Bevan, his wife and his friend, all from such different backgrounds? They have similar opinions, of course: but what of their human and moral nature, their style of writing and speaking? It may be worth noting that all three are childless and parentful: all three have been devoted to Protestant Christian parents and have (to my regret) firmly rejected the faith of their fathers ...

English Butter

David Trotter

9 October 1986
Englishness: Politics and Culture 1880-1920 
edited by Robert Colls and Philip Dodd.
Croom Helm, 378 pp., £25, June 1986, 0 7099 0849 0
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The Character Factory: Baden-Powell and the Origins of the Boy Scout Movement 
by Michael Rosenthal.
Collins, 335 pp., £15, August 1986, 0 00 217604 1
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Oxford and Empire: The Last Lost Cause? 
by Richard Symonds.
Macmillan, 366 pp., £29.50, July 1986, 0 333 40206 5
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... between patriots. Nobody reasserted Englishness more emphatically than Colonel Robert Baden-Powell, hero of Mafeking. No organisation transmitted Englishness to a wider audience than the Boy Scout movement he founded in 1908. The extraordinary fame of the soldier made the extraordinary success of the movement possible. Both testify to the superb ...

It’s a riot

Michael Ignatieff

20 August 1981
‘Civil Disturbances’: Hansard, Vol. 8, Nos 143-144, 16 July 1981 – 17 July 1981 
HMSO, £80Show More
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... riots. In the adjournment debate on ‘Civil Disturbances’, MPs as far apart as Joan Lestor and Michael Heseltine agreed that the speeches had transcended party politics. Of course there were exceptions. No Tory MP joined Stuart Holland and John Fraser in their criticism of the Police in Brixton, and no Labour MP supported Winston Churchill’s call for an ...

Short Cuts

Chris Mullin: Michael Foot

25 March 2010
... Of all the many tributes to Michael Foot it was David Cameron who hit the nail on the head. He was, Cameron said, ‘almost the last link to a more heroic age in politics’. In appearance, and demeanour, Foot resembled an Old Testament prophet. An impression which, in later life, his shock of white hair, the passion of his delivery and the magnificence of his rhetoric served only to enhance ...

Brief Encounters

Andrew O’Hagan: Gielgud and Redgrave

5 August 2004
Gielgud's Letters 
edited by Richard Mangan.
Weidenfeld, 564 pp., £20, March 2004, 0 297 82989 0
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Secret Dreams: A Biography of Michael Redgrave 
by Alan Strachan.
Weidenfeld, 484 pp., £25, April 2004, 0 297 60764 2
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... talked too much, gossiped too much.’ The fear of gossip can run a life, and sometimes ruin one; Michael Redgrave was an actor powered by secrets. ‘What an odd fish he is,’ Gielgud wrote in 1977. ‘So talented but now a wreck, yet determined to go on working – a real pro.’ And again, in another letter: ‘...

Saint Jane

D.A.N. Jones

20 October 1983
The Good Father 
by Peter Prince.
Cape, 204 pp., £7.95, September 1983, 0 224 02131 1
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Mrs Pooter’s Diary 
by Keith Waterhouse and John Jensen.
Joseph, 208 pp., £7.95, October 1983, 0 7181 2339 5
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Dandiprat’s Days 
by David Thomson.
Dent, 165 pp., £8.50, September 1983, 0 460 04613 6
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The Dream of a Beast 
by Neil Jordan.
Chatto, 103 pp., £6.95, October 1983, 0 7011 2740 6
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Squeak: A Biography of NPA 1978A 203 
by John Bowen and Eric Fraser.
Faber, 127 pp., £2.95, October 1983, 0 571 13170 0
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The Life and Times of Michael
by J.M. Coetzee.
Secker, 250 pp., £7.95, September 1983, 0 436 10297 8
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... the Brixton riots: at a lunch party in nearby Stockwell, the firmest of the true believers, Jane Powell, is maintaining that a legal amnesty should have been given to all those arrested in the street fighting. Her friends call her Saint Jane: she is a lawyer who works for a law centre, a hard-working Labour councillor, regularly insulted by her Haughey-like ...

Different Speeds, Same Furies

Perry Anderson: Powell v. Proust

19 July 2018
Anthony PowellDancing to the Music of Time 
by Hilary Spurling.
Hamish Hamilton, 509 pp., £25, October 2017, 978 0 241 14383 4
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... has been encased in an obese 995 pages from Zachary Leader. Hilary Spurling’s Life of Anthony Powell breaks with this pattern. The longest-lived of all significant novelists of the last century, his 94 years are covered in fewer than 450 pages of text. In part, that’s because she confines the final quarter of his life to the briefest of postscripts. Yet ...

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