Sunday, 14 July 2013

Britain is no longer a country for and says "Goodbye" to a disarming and charming old, tv world travelling programme maker, called Alan Wicker

Alan, who is remembered as an interviewer for his thick spectacles, immaculate blue blazer, neat military moustache, and persistently unjudgmental and blandly phrased questions and had a career which outlasted those of many of his rivals, has died at the age of 87.

What you possibly didn't know about Alan, that he :

* was born in Cairo in 1925, where his father was a captain in the Hussars and when he died three years later, was brought to Britain by his mother with his sister and settled in London, where from the age of 11 he went to the prestigious Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School where he excelled at cross-country running and while at school camp at Teignmouth, Devon began his love affair with travel by setting off on a bus along the coast road to see how far he could get to that mecca, Torquay.

* on the death of his sister, found his relationship with his mother grew more intense and he later claimed : "We adored one another," and that this was what made him appreciate women, one of the "great pleasures" of his life and he was later devastated by her death.

* left school at the age of 16 in 1941 during the Second World War and after joining the Army at the age of 18,  was commissioned as an officer in the Devonshire Regiment and then joined the Film and Photo Unit in Italy in 1943, where he filmed at Anzio in Italy and met the commander Field Marshal Montgomery.

*  revealed in his tv series 'Whicker's War' in 2004, that he was one of the first in the Allied forces to enter Milan and  took into custody an SS General and troopers who were looking after the SS vault of money and also shot footage of the body of the dead Benito Mussolini.

* after the War, he worked as a reporter for the 'Exchange Telegraph' news agency and was a correspondent during the Korean War and was doing odd jobs for BBC radio when Alasdair Milne, then working for its flagship current affairs programme 'Tonight', spotted his ability to ask 'impertinent' questions without giving offence and in 1957 became an international reporter for the programme.

*  created the series 'Whicker's World' in 1959 and followed with 'Whicker's South Seas,' 'Whicker Way Out West', 'Whicker Down Mexico Way', 'Whicker's Orient', 'Whicker's Miss World' , amaking sure that he did not appear too much in them, letting the interviewees be the stars.

* in 1963 interviewed American oil billionaire, John Paul Getty and was able to suggest that Getty's success in business was matched by his failure as a human being without being thrown out.

* interviewed hippies in San Francisco in 1967 :

* in a 1969 tv documentary about Haiti, demonstrated his ability to ask the most piercing questions while giving those being questioned no personal provocation or excuse to break off the interview when he asked the notorious dictator 'Papa Doc' Duvalier, in kindly, innocently interested and rather baffled tones: "But Papa Doc, they say you torture people?"

* his singular style was parodied in 1972 in a Monty Python sketch with the whole team doing Wicker impressions on  Whicker Island.

*  kept travelling the world for 60 years in search of exotic and humanly interesting material, often about the rich, flying  100,000 miles a year for British audiences of up to 15 million and seeing his programmes also sell well abroad.

* in 1978, he flew the 7,000 miles back to London from Singapore to receive a Bafta Richard Dimbleby award and immediately flew back again and won many other awards in his career, including the Screenwriters' Guild 'Best Documentary Script'.

* in the 1990s one of his younger colleagues, Peter Salmon commissioned 'Whicker's World' programmes on Hong Kong and Spain , despite feeling that his manner and interests were not those of a new generation because he felt that, as an interviewer, Alan was without peer, able to get more than anyone else out of a one-to-one interview.

* in 2009 at the age of 84, returned to some of the locations featured in 'Wicker's World' in the series 'Wicker's Journey of a Lifetime' and met with people he had interviewed decades earlier to see how their lives had progressed since the initial meeting.

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