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Top Sergeant

D.A.N. Jones, 23 April 1992

An Autobiography 
by Fred Zinnemann.
Bloomsbury, 256 pp., £25, February 1992, 0 7475 1131 4
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... and Hollywood: there is another called ‘Apprentice and Journeyman’, describing his small jobs under large artists – strong, liberal directors of his own Top Sergeant rank. But it is a ‘Life and Times’, primarily, in its terse references to the audience’s state of mind in particular periods, the relation of his movies to ‘public ...

Just off Lexham Gardens

John Bayley, 9 January 1992

Through a Glass Darkly: The life of Patrick Hamilton 
by Nigel Jones.
Scribner, 408 pp., £18.95, December 1991, 0 356 19701 8
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... or patronage. Whatever social message or indignation may be implicit, of the kind his friend J.B. Priestley was putting into Angel Pavement at about the same time, they are ignored both by the way the story is told and the kind of impression it makes. What with his success in the theatre and the suc·cès d'es·time of his novels the ball at this point of the ...


Dave Haslam: Post-Madchester, 25 February 1993

... Mr Gil Thompson, Chief Executive of Manchester Airport, cited James Agate, Asa Briggs and J.B. Priestley on the splendours of Manchester’s cultural past. Mr Thompson didn’t quote Engels. Nor, understandably, John Ruskin: ‘Manchester can produce no good art, and no good culture.’ Despite the presence at the press conference of John Thaw (alias ...


John Bayley: Serious Novels, 10 November 1994

... on the sterling old tradition of the heart being in the right place, as in Arnold Bennett and J.B. Priestley, and it moves rather close to John Wain’s posthumous novel, in his Bildungsroman series about a young man growing up in Oxford – a trifle ironical in view of Amis’s strongly-expressed disdain for Wain’s mode and temper of writing. Both novels ...

Here’s to the high-minded

Stefan Collini, 7 April 1994

After the Victorians: Private Conscience and Public Duty in Modern Britain 
edited by Susan Pedersen and Peter Mandler.
Routledge, 265 pp., £40, February 1994, 0 415 07056 2
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... complicating the easy stereotypes of Bloomsbury’s revolt against Victorianism. In some ways J.B. Priestley fits less well, partly because of a quite different class background and correspondingly less mandarin manner, but even so there are numerous links between his pipesmoking-and-good-fellowship vision of England and the social attitudes displayed by the ...

A Girl’s Right to Have Fun

Susan Pedersen: Young Women at Work Between the Wars, 5 October 2006

Young Women, Work and Family in England 1918-50 
by Selina Todd.
Oxford, 272 pp., £50, September 2005, 0 19 928275 7
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... either: Orwell thought them irrelevant to his quest for a manly English socialism, and if J.B. Priestley was struck by the number of factory girls dressed like duchesses when he toured the Midlands in 1933, he didn’t feel the need to talk to them. Girls weren’t as disorderly or troublesome as boys, so officials didn’t much bother with them; and since ...

Gosh oh gee

Alan Allport: ‘Being Boys’, 21 November 2013

Being Boys: Youth, Leisure and Identity in the Interwar Years 
by Melanie Tebbutt.
Manchester, 352 pp., £75, February 2012, 978 0 7190 6613 9
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... since the Edwardian period meant that by the 1930s the typical 16-year-old boy applying for a job with the Post Office was 16 lbs heavier and one and a half inches taller than he had been a quarter-century earlier. And far from shying away from outdoor pursuits, boys and girls were enjoying unprecedented access to the countryside. The expansion of rural ...

Funny Mummy

E.S. Turner, 2 December 1982

The Penguin Stephen Leacock 
by Robertson Davies.
Penguin, 527 pp., £2.95, October 1981, 0 14 005890 7
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Jerome K. Jerome: A Critical Biography 
by Joseph Connolly.
Orbis, 208 pp., £7.95, August 1982, 0 85613 349 3
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Three Men in a Boat 
by Jerome K. Jerome, annotated and introduced by Christopher Matthew and Benny Green.
Joseph, 192 pp., £12.50, August 1982, 0 907516 08 4
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The Lost Stories of W.S. Gilbert 
edited by Peter Haining.
Robson, 255 pp., £7.95, September 1982, 0 86051 200 2
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... philosopher. His style was zestful, easy and lucid, free from tags and tired allusions. J.B. Priestley, who edited The Bodley Head Leacock (1957), claimed that, at his best, the Professor, by steering between the ‘amiable nonsense’ of English humour and the ‘hard-cutting wit and almost vindictive satire’ of America, was able to express an ...

Dreams of the Decades

Liz Jobey: Bill Brandt, 8 July 2004

Bill Brandt: A Life 
by Paul Delany.
Cape, 336 pp., £35, March 2004, 0 224 05280 2
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Bill Brandt: A Centenary Retrospective 
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... become the predominant idea of Brandt that he was the photographic equivalent of Orwell or J.B. Priestley. Delany successfully shows this reading to be inaccurate, and one of the virtues of his account is the way it traces the evolution of Brandt’s photography as it passes through the various genres, seeing them as experimental stages in the development ...


Alan Bennett: Fresh Revelations, 20 October 1994

... Powell. Andrew Devonshire (sic) has done a diary for the Spectator mentioning the memoir of Julian Jebb (edited by Tristram) as one of the books he was putting in the guest bedrooms at Chatsworth. ‘I wish he’d leave a copy in all the bedrooms,’ drawls Tristram. ‘Then it would be a best-seller.’ Take the second draft of the filmscript of The Madness ...

Flying Mud

Patrick Parrinder, 8 April 1993

The Invisible Man: The Life and Liberties of H.G. Wells 
by Michael Coren.
Bloomsbury, 240 pp., £20, January 1993, 0 7475 1158 6
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... but his record of opposition to Fascism and Stalinism is a perfectly honourable one, and J.B. Priestley was not exaggerating when he said in a funeral oration that the ‘prophet of this age of transition’ was mourned by men and women of all races. Yet to Michael Coren (who, to do him justice, quotes Priestley in ...

Golden England

Martin Wiener, 3 December 1981

Condition of England 
by Lincoln Allison.
Junction, 221 pp., £12.50, August 1981, 0 86245 032 2
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... Ambition is much more easily disparaged when one is securely placed for life in a comfortable job and town. How would England appear to Allison if he had been born ten years later and looked for a job when they were already taken? Economic change and growth are more important for the young than for the ...

Radio Fun

Philip Purser, 27 June 1991

A Social History of British Broadcasting. Vol. I: 1922-29, Serving the Nation 
by Paddy Scannell and David Cardiff.
Blackwell, 441 pp., £30, April 1991, 0 631 17543 1
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The Collected Essays of Asa Briggs. Vol. III: Serious Pursuits, Communication and Education 
Harvester Wheatsheaf, 470 pp., £30, May 1991, 0 7450 0536 5Show More
The British Press and Broadcasting since 1945 
by Colin Seymour-Ure.
Blackwell, 269 pp., £29.95, May 1991, 9780631164432
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... Despite a quotation from Vile Bodies and references to Graham Greene, George Orwell and J.B. Priestley, this section is a testament to the inadequacy of written sources, on their own, when researching matters as elusive as the likely ambience in which radio programmes were heard. At one extreme, Scannell and Cardiff reproduce comic exhortations from the ...


Patricia Craig, 19 September 1985

But for Bunter 
by David Hughes.
Heinemann, 223 pp., £8.95, September 1985, 0 434 35410 4
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Bunter Sahib 
by Daniel Green.
Hodder, 272 pp., £8.95, September 1985, 0 340 36429 7
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The Good Terrorist 
by Doris Lessing.
Cape, 370 pp., £9.50, September 1985, 0 224 02323 3
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Unexplained Laughter 
by Alice Thomas Ellis.
Duckworth, 155 pp., £8.95, August 1985, 0 7156 2070 3
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Polaris and Other Stories 
by Fay Weldon.
Hodder, 237 pp., £8.95, August 1985, 0 340 33227 1
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... a hit-or-miss procedure. It is just about possible, perhaps, to see in Johnny Bull an embryo J.B. Priestley, or to take Skinner for the youthful Oswald Mosley: but there are no grounds at all for attributing a poetic sensibility to the brashest boy in the Fourth Remove – Richards’s bony American Fish. Richards himself, on one occasion, envisaging his ...

Ruined by men

Anthony Thwaite, 1 September 1988

The Truth about Lorin Jones 
by Alison Lurie.
Joseph, 294 pp., £11.95, July 1988, 0 7181 3095 2
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by Anita Brookner.
Cape, 248 pp., £10.95, August 1988, 0 224 02554 6
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Where the rivers meet 
by John Wain.
Hutchinson, 563 pp., £12.95, June 1988, 9780091736170
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About the Body 
by Christopher Burns.
Secker, 193 pp., £10.95, August 1988, 0 436 09784 2
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by Elizabeth Jolley.
Viking, 312 pp., £11.95, July 1988, 0 670 82113 6
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... advent of true feminism, but it seems that she suffered at the hands of men. It becomes Polly’s job to seek out those men (and some women), interview them, discover just how Lorin suffered, and why. Gallery dealers, fellow painters, school friends, college friends, relatives and former in-laws – all are interviewed. Alison Lurie provides transcripts of ...

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