C. A. Lejeune


C. A. Lejeune

Caroline Alice (C. A.) Lejeune (1897-1973) was a British writer, best known as the film critic of "The Observer" from 1928 to 1960.

She was born in Manchester, youngest of a large Victorian family. Her father was a cotton merchant who had come to England from Frankfurt, and her mother was the daughter of the non-conformist manager Dr Alexander Maclaren. Educated at Withington Girls' School, she turned down the opportunity to go to Oxford University and instead went to Manchester University.

Due mainly to her mother's friendship to C. P. Scott, she soon began writing for the "Manchester Guardian" (now "The Guardian"). Her main interests at first were Gilbert and Sullivan, Verdi and Puccini, but she was increasingly excited by the new medium of the cinema, and began writing a weekly column for the paper called "The Week on the Screen" from 1922. After marrying Edward Rolfe Thompson, who at one point was editor of "John Bull", in 1925, she moved to "The Observer" in 1928, where she was to remain for the next 32 years, although she also contributed to journals as diverse as the "New York Times" and "Farmers' Weekly". In the post-war years, she was also a television critic for a time, and she adapted books such as the Sherlock Holmes stories, "Clementina" and "The Three Hostages" as television serials.

Long compared to Dilys Powell, who wrote for "The Sunday Times" for much of the time that Lejeune wrote for "The Observer", Lejeune's work has perhaps dated less well. The writer and critic Brian McFarlane has gone so far as to say that "read now, (Lejeune) seems to have had no feeling for cinema at all" [http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/film/journal/bookrev/lance-comfort.htm] and that she "simply never seemed to take the cinema seriously, as if it was not an art form to compare with others" [http://www.screenonline.org.uk/people/id/463484/index.html] . In the post-war years, she certainly became disillusioned by various trends in the cinema. Shortly after expressing her disgust at Michael Powell's "Peeping Tom", she resigned from "The Observer" following the release of Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho" in 1960. Subsequently, she completed Angela Thirkell's unfinished last novel, "Three Score Years and Ten" (1961) and wrote her autobiography "Thank You For Having Me" (1964). She also wrote an early book on the subject of "Cinema" (1931), and her film reviews are anthologised in "Chestnuts in her Lap" (1947) and in "The C. A. Lejeune Film Reader", edited by her son Anthony Lejeune (1991).

C. A. Lejeune died at the age of 76 in 1973. Peter Sellers said of her that "her kindness, her complete integrity and her qualities as an observer and a commentator have gained her the unqualified admiration of my profession. She respects integrity in others and has no harsh word for anyone whose honest efforts end in failure. Everything she has written, I am sure, has come as much from her heart as her head, and the high quality of her writing, and the standard of film-making she encourages, have made her work a part of cinema history" (ref. "The Times" obituary, April 2, 1973).

External links

*Screenonline name|id=463484|name=C.A. Lejeune


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