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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 July, 2003, 12:24 GMT 13:24 UK
Obituary: Alexander Walker

By Chris Jones
BBC News Profiles Unit

A look back at the life and career of renowned British film critic Alexander Walker, who has died aged 73.

Alexander Walker
Walker was the Standard's film critic for 43 years
Controversy is the very stuff of film criticism and for four decades, as London Evening Standard's reviewer of the latest movies, Alexander Walker was often at the centre of it.

Born in Portadown, Northern Ireland, he was an academic before he was a journalist.

He graduated from Queen's University in Belfast, studied at the College d'Europe in Bruges and lectured in political philosophy at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.

But several years before that, he had already ventured into the entertainment field. A play he wrote when he was 15 was performed by BBC radio.

His obsession with cinema developed as a boy, where he would devour the latest offerings with a "gluttonous and undiscriminating" appetite.

His opinions, though, were restricted to an audience of one, his mother.

He recounted film plots, sketched in the stars' roles, "acted out how they were played" and found that he'd turned into a critic almost without realising it.

Caustic humour

The Birmingham Post gave him the chance to reach a bigger audience when he began film reviews in 1953.

He moved to the Standard in 1960, thanks to a letter of recommendation from a British movie star of the time, Kenneth More, who had been delighted by one of Walker's reviews.

Some Like It Hot
Some Like It Hot was one of Walker's favourite films
The Standard's proprietor, Lord Beaverbrook, was not always so enamoured of Walker's opinions.

He said he had gone to see Harold Lloyd's World of Comedy on the strength of Walker's favourable appraisal, but had not appreciated Lloyd's high-rise antics and had been "obliged to walk out".

With the caustic wit that was to make many people wince during his long career, Walker responded: "For me, in future, high buildings will hold an additional hazard."

Famous friends

But he survived, refusing to compromise in any aspect of his life.

He never learned to drive or use a computer, was meticulously dressed and sometimes was unable to contain his explosive temper, with smokers among his prime targets.

His name was known throughout the world of movies. He was on friendly terms with Katharine Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor.

Taylor was also the subject of one of his several biographies, which also included Vivien Leigh, Peter Sellers, Audrey Hepburn and his friend, Stanley Kubrick.

Alexander Walker was three times Critic of the Year in the British Press Awards, in 1970, 1974 and 1998.

He also served on the board of the British Film Institute and the British Screen Advisory Council.

He would delight many readers and enrage others. But he was never ignored.

Film critic Walker dies
15 Jul 03  |  Entertainment

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