David Shipman (writer)

David Herbert Shipman (4 November 1932 – 22 April 1996)[1] was an English film critic and writer, best known for his trilogy of books on film stars.

David Shipman
David Herbert Shipman

4 November 1932
Norwich, Norfolk, England, United Kingdom
Died22 April 1996(1996-04-22) (aged 63)
Overton, Hampshire, England, United Kingdom
OccupationWriter, biographer, film critic


Shipman was born in Norwich, Norfolk,[1] After a period in London, the family was evacuated to Pensilva, Cornwall, in 1940. He did his national service in the RAF, partly in Singapore, then briefly attended Merton College, Oxford.[2][3] He worked as a sales representative in publishing from 1955 to 1965, mostly in Europe, then returned to Britain to work for the publishers Thames & Hudson.

In 1968, he began work on his first book, The Great Movie Stars: The Golden Years, which was published two years later and became a best seller. He also worked as a lecturer, journalist and film consultant, and from 1986 until his death wrote obituaries for The Independent newspaper.[1]

Shipman died of a heart attack aged 63 in Overton, Hampshire.[1] At the time he was writing a biography of Fred Astaire.[4] He was survived by his partner since 1964, art director Felix Brenner.[1]

Richard Cohen, writing Shipman's obituary for The Independent, stated that:

For over a quarter of a century David Shipman was the most influential writer on film in the world. He was never [a] film critic for a national newspaper, and was generally not seen by the cinema establishment as a heavyweight; but in the 10 books he wrote, most notably the three volumes that made up The Great Movie Stars and the two-volume The Story of Cinema, he exerted an influence no other writer on film has matched. More widely read than Pauline Kael, more authoritative and more knowledgeable than Leslie Halliwell, he always seemed in touch with the audiences for whom he wrote, and they appreciated his strongly held if iconoclastic views and the fact he was always his own man.[1]

Select writings

  • The Great Movie Stars: The Golden Years (1970 1st ed – revised 1979, 1985, 1995)
  • The Great Movie Stars: The International Years (1972 1st ed – revised 1980, 1991)
  • Brando (1974) – a biography of Marlon Brando
  • The Story of Cinema (1980)[5]
  • The Good Film and Video Guide (1984 1st ed)
  • Caught in the Act: Sex and Eroticism in the Movies (1985)
  • Movie Talk: Who Said What About Whom in the Movies (1989)[6]
  • The Great Movie Stars: The Independent Years (1991 1st ed)
  • Cinema: The First Hundred Years (1993)
  • Judy Garland: The Secret Life of an American Legend (1993)


  1. Richard Cohen & James Ferguson 'Obituary: David Shipman', The Independent, 24 April 1996 accessed 23 July 2012
  2. James Fergusson in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: OUP, 2004–2006) Retrieved 4 November 2018.
  3. Levens, R.G.C., ed. (1964). Merton College Register 1900–1964. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. p. 461.
  4. "David Shipman, 63, A Movie Historian With Reels of Lore". The New York Times. 5 May 1996. Retrieved 23 July 2012.
  5. "Subjective reassessments". The Canberra Times. 59, (18, 198). Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 27 July 1985. p. 2 (the SATURDAY page). Retrieved 26 February 2016 via National Library of Australia.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  6. "Delicious double entendres but more was expected". The Canberra Times. 63, (19, 562). Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 30 April 1989. p. 18. Retrieved 26 February 2016 via National Library of Australia.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
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