Philip French, BBC radio producer, Died at 82

  Dead Famous

Philip Neville French was born on August 28, 1933, and died on October 27, 2015 from a heart attack.

Philip was a British film critic and former radio producer.

Philip began his career in journalism in the late 1950s, before eventually becoming a BBC Radio producer, and later a film critic.

He began writing for The Observer in 1963, and continued to write criticism regularly there until his retirement in 2013.

Philip was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire in December 2012, and upon his death on 27 October 2015, was referred to by his Observer successor, Mark Kermode as “an inspiration to an entire generation of film critics”.

Philip was born in Liverpool in 1933. The son of an insurance salesman, he was educated at the direct grant Bristol Grammar School, Exeter College, Oxford (where he read Law).

He undertook post-graduate study in Journalism at Indiana University, Bloomington, on a scholarship.

Philip entered journalism as a reporter in the Bristol Evening Post in 1957.

He was theatre critic of the New Statesman (1967–1968) and deputy film critic to David Robinson at The Times for some years.

Philip was the film critic of The Observer from 1978, but had begun writing for the paper in 1963.

He also wrote for Sight and Sound. French’s books include The Movie Moguls: An Informal History of the Hollywood Tycoons (1969) and Westerns, which reappeared in a revised version in 2005.

Philip also wrote the book Cult Movies (1999) together with Karl French, one of his sons.

From 1959 to 1990, when he took early retirement, French was a BBC Radio producer.

At first Philip was a producer on the North American service, but the bulk of his BBC career was for domestic radio.

He was a BBC talks producer (1961–1967) and then a senior producer for the corporation from 1968.

In the 1960s Philip produced The Critics on the BBC Home Service and from 1974 to 1990 he produced its successor programme Critics’ Forum on BBC Radio 3.

His appointment as film critic of The Observer was opposed by the then Controller of Radio 3, Stephen Hearst, who felt that it would be impossible for Philip to be an impartial producer while also working as a regular film critic, but he was overruled by his superior, Howard Newby.

Philip was named the British Press Awards Critic of the Year in 2009.

He was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2013 New Year Honours for services to film.

At the beginning of May 2013 it was announced that French would retire as film critic for The Observer in August to coincide with his 80th birthday.

Philip’s Swedish-born wife Kersti is a translator; the couple had three sons.

Their oldest son, Sean French, is one half of the Nicci French writing team, while his brother, Patrick French, is a doctor.

Prompted by the release of the film, The King’s Speech, Philip wrote about his own stammer.

Philip died of a heart attack at the age of 82 on October 27, 2015.