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Brian McFarlane

Brian McFarlane

Brian McFarlane’s latest book is Four from the Forties: Arliss, Crabtree, Knowles and Huntington, Manchester: MUP, 2018. He has had three overlapping careers, as teacher, academic, and writer. He is the author or editor of over twenty books and hundreds of articles and reviews on film and literature and related matters. He co-edited The Oxford Companion to Australian Film and was compiler, editor and chief author of The Encyclopedia of British Film. His most recent books include: Twenty British Films: A guided tour, Double-Act: The remarkable lives and careers of Googie Withers and John McCallum, and The Never-Ending Brief Encounter. He is currently serving as Adjunct Professor at Swinburne University of Technology and as Adjunct Associate Professor at Monash University.

Brian McFarlane reviews 'Orson Welles: The stories of his life' by Peter Conrad

March 2004, no. 259 01 March 2004
By chance the other day, watching British director Herbert Wilcox’s toe-curling ‘Scottish’ whimsy, Trouble in the Glen (1954), one of Orson Welles’s worst films (one of anybody’s worst films), I was struck anew by the fact that even when Welles could not save a film, he was always sure to be remembered in it. Here he plays a Scottish laird, long absent in South America, who returns to ta ... (read more)

Brian McFarlane reviews 'Spooling Through: An irreverent memoir' by Tim Bowden

May 2003, no. 251 01 May 2003
Anyone who remembers the amiable host of the ABC’s television show Backchat, which he compèred for eight years from 1986, will not be surprised to learn that Tim Bowden has written a breezily readable memoir. Its pages seem to turn of their own volition. In the foreword, Maeve Binchy daringly asks: ‘Who are the right people to do a memoir?’ Actually, it’s probably not so daring, as Binchy ... (read more)

Brian McFarlane reviews 'Changing Stations: The story of Australian commercial radio' by Bridget Griffen-Foley

April 2010, no. 320 01 April 2010
Having cut my narrative teeth on Dad and Dave and Martin’s Corner (and my critical molars on the Listener-In), I had high expectations of this book. Night after childhood night, I would wait agog for Wrigley’s Chewing Gum and a burst of rowdy music to usher in the outback doings of Dad and his hayseed family. Martin’s Corner, on the other hand, was brought to our living room by Kellogg’s C ... (read more)

Brian McFarlane reviews 'Jamaica' by Malcolm Knox

October 2007, no. 295 01 October 2007
Graham Swift’s fine novel Last Orders (1996) is propelled by the motif of a group of middle-aged men, with a shared past, brought together again by a single goal. In their case, it is the matter of casting the ashes of a dead friend into the sea. The narrative dips into the characters’ past to acquaint us with the nature of the ties that bind – have bound – them to each other and to the de ... (read more)

'The Dig' (Netflix)

ABR Arts 02 February 2021
Though one of the most sparing titles in recent film history, The Dig announces what proves to be one of the richest cinema experiences for some time. Based on true events and on John Preston’s 2007 novel of the same name, Simon Stone’s film creates a subtly textured account of a historical phenomenon as well as a moving reflection on the lives that are transformed by this. Not having read th ... (read more)

Brian McFarlane reviews 'Martin Boyd: A life' by Brenda Niall

November 1988, no. 106 01 November 1988
When Martin Boyd returned to Australia in 1948 after twenty-seven years in England, he set about restoring the Grange, the derelict former home of his mother’s family, the à Becketts. He had been disappointed to find how little known his novels were in Australia and he had difficulty in re-establishing himself with the Boyd family. Nevertheless he persevered with his impulsive scheme until he c ... (read more)

Brian McFarlane reviews 'Simple Gifts: A life in the theatre' by George Ogilvie

October 2006, no. 285 01 October 2006
Theatregoers with long memories may well hug to themselves the ‘golden years’ of the Melbourne Theatre Company’s tenancy of the Russell Street Theatre in the 1960s, a time in which plays as varied as Hochhuth’s The Representative, Peter Shaffer’s The Royal Hunt of the Sun, Feydeau’s A Flea in Her Ear, Ruth and Augustus Goetz’s infallible matinee version of Henry James’s The Heiress ... (read more)

Brian McFarlane reviews 'Sybil Thorndike: A star of life' by Jonathan Croall

February 2009, no. 308 01 February 2009
It used to be said in decades gone by that overseas acting luminaries only came to Australia when their stars were in decline. This was never true in the case of Sybil Thorndike, who was critically acclaimed here, and widely admired as a person. She was not one of those who was past her prime – or, like some, never had one. She remained in her prime until she died in 1976. It is indeed hard to i ... (read more)

'J.M. Coetzee and Philip Roth on Screen' by Brian McFarlane

June 2009, no. 312 01 June 2009
‘It wasn’t like that in the book’ is one of the commonest and most irritating responses to film versions of famous novels. Adaptation of literature to film seems to be a topic of enduring interest at every level, from foyer gossip to the most learned exegesis. Sometimes, it must be said, the former is the more entertaining, but this is no place for such frivolity. There are two contrasting ... (read more)

Brian McFarlane reviews 'People of the Book' by Geraldine Brooks

February 2008, no. 298 01 February 2008
‘I wanted to give a sense of the people of the book, the different hands that had made it, used it, protected it. I wanted it to be a gripping narrative, even suspenseful.’ So says Hanna Heath, protagonist of Geraldine Brooks’s latest novel, about her search through time and place for the history of ‘the Sarajevo Haggadah’, the ‘Book’ of the title. She is accustomed to writing schola ... (read more)