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Rex Whistler's capriccio painting at Plas Newydd


Cecil Beaton
John Julius Norwich Writer
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So then there was, of course, Cecil Beaton. Cecil was, again, a very, very old friend of my mother's. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know him, you know, and again, he was absolutely sweet. He was sweet to me, I remember, when he'd done the designs for one of those Oscar Wilde plays, I think it was Lady Windermere's Fan with Paulette Goddard who was acting in it. And he took me, just him and me, he took me down to Elstree to watch the filming. It was the first time I'd ever watched a film being made. And he was very, very good company, a very, very good raconteur, and, of course, a sensational, spectacularly good photographer, but he was also... I mean, he drew beautifully, you know, and he and Rex Whistler, I remember once, drawing each other. And Cecil's portrait of Rex was every bit as good as Rex's portrait of Cecil, you know. And he travelled around the world. He worked incredibly hard, produced God knows how many books, and he was a bit wicked sometimes, malicious, but for the sake of humour, but he was wonderful fun. Again, sadly, of course, he had a very bad stroke at the end of his life. One of the... one of the effects of which was that he couldn’t stop bursting into tears, which was very embarrassing. It's a known stroke symptom, I think.

John Julius Norwich (1929-2018) was an English popular historian, travel writer and television personality. He was educated at Upper Canada College, Toronto, at Eton, at the University of Strasbourg and on the lower deck of the Royal Navy before taking a degree in French and Russian at New College, Oxford. He then spent twelve years in H.M. Foreign Service, with posts at the Embassies in Belgrade and Beirut and at the Disarmament Conference in Geneva. In 1964 he resigned to become a writer. He is the author of histories of Norman Sicily, the Republic of Venice, the Byzantine Empire and, most recently, 'The Popes: A History'. He also wrote on architecture, music and the history plays of Shakespeare, and presented some thirty historical documentaries on BBC Television.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Elstree Studios, Cecil Beaton, Rex Whistler

Duration: 2 minutes, 6 seconds

Date story recorded: 2017

Date story went live: 03 October 2018