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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 'Gay Life Stories' by Robert Aldrich

June 2012, no. 342 22 May 2012
The author of this handsomely produced volume claims in his opening sentence, ‘The sex lives of celebrities (and the less famous) always excite the curiosity of others.’ For the sake of his book he’d better be right, because what follows are more than eighty gay histories and/or partnerships, each moving inexorably to the matter of sexual orientation and declaration – reluctant or otherwis ... (read more)

The Deep Blue Sea

May 2012, no. 341 23 April 2012
By chance, two of the most famous 1950s plays are in the news again. John Osborne’s historic rant, Look Back in Anger (1956), has been successfully revived on Broadway, while Terence Rattigan’s emotionally taut piece, The Deep Blue Sea (1952), has been filmed by another Terence – Davies, that is. In their day, Osborne railed against the ‘porcelain plates [of] the well-set table of British ... (read more)

Brian McFarlane reviews 'The Narrative of John Smith' by Arthur Conan Doyle, read by Robert Lindsay

March 2012, no. 339 01 March 2012
A century later, the Conan Doyle/Sherlock Holmes industry shows no signs of abating. In recent months alone, there have been Anthony Horowitz’s The House of Silk, a new Holmes adventure, and the big, dumb action movie Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows; a television series, Sherlock, set in the twenty-first century, appeared in 2010; and in 2005 Julian Barnes’s George and Arthur investigated t ... (read more)

Brian McFarlane reviews 'John Gielgud: Matinee Idol to Movie Star' by Jonathan Croall

November 2011, no. 336 21 October 2011
As the dust settles on twentieth-century acting giants, and reputations are appraised, it is at least arguable that John Gielgud emerges as the greatest. Certainly his was the longest and most varied career, spanning nearly eighty years, only death itself, when he was ninety-six, causing him to slow down. Since then his pre-eminence has seemed confirmed as one reads about him and his distinguished ... (read more)

Brian McFarlane reviews 'On Shakespeare' by John Bell

October 2011, no. 335 27 September 2011
Others abide our question. Thou art free. We ask and ask: Thou smilest and art still, Out-topping knowledge. (Matthew Arnold, ‘Shakespeare’) When Arnold wrote his famous sonnet, he could have been anticipating John Bell’s book, which repeatedly asks provocative questions about the man and the work that have been his life’s inspiration – and arrives at much the same conclusion as Arnold. ... (read more)


ABR Arts 23 May 2011
Whereas the miniseries, most often based on revered literary texts, has been a staple of British television for fifty years, I could count on the fingers of a dismembered hand its Australian counterparts. In fact, the miniseries in general, as distinct from serials that run for a longer or shorter period, seems never to have been as common here, though The Dismissal (1983) remains an Australian sm ... (read more)

The Tempest

May 2011, no. 331 21 April 2011
Anyone who remembers Julie Taymor’s 1999 version of Titus Andronicus, Shakespeare’s first published play, will not be expecting a reverential treatment of what is reputedly his last, but Taymor’s new film does move more or less inexorably to the play’s final wisdom: ‘The rarer action is / In virtue than in vengeance.’ The Tempest is a difficult play, fraught with tensions that resonate ... (read more)