Frayling, Christopher 1946-
Frayling, Christopher 1946-
Born December 25, 1946, in Hampton, Middlesex, England; son of Arthur Frederick (a company director) and Barbara (a driver in international car rallies) Frayling; married Helen Snowdon (a painter and college lecturer), December 14, 1981. Education: Churchill College, Cambridge, B.A. (with honors), 1968, M.A., 1971, Ph.D., 1972. Politics: "Parliamentary Democrat."
Home—Bath, Avon, England; and London, England. Office—Royal College of Art, Kensington, London SW7 2EU, England. Agent—Pat Kavanagh, PFD, Drury House, 34-43 Russell St., London WC2B 5HA, England.
Broadcaster, historian, and author. Exeter University, Exeter, Devon, England, lecturer in modern history, 1971-72; Imperial War Museum, Lambeth, London, England, film archivist, 1972-73; University of Bath, Bath, Avon, England, lecturer in history of ideas, 1974-79; Royal College of Art, Kensington, London, professor of cultural history, 1979—, head of school, 1979-2000, rector, 1996—. Chair of Trustees of Crafts Study Centre, 1981-2003; adviser on history of design for Boilerhouse Project, 1981-85; member of the Crafts Council of Great Britain, 1981-86; governor of British Film Institute, 1981-87; Arts Council of Great Britain, member, 1987-2000, chair, 2003—; chair of the Design Council, 2000-04; design advisory committee chair, the Royal Mint. Trustee of Victoria and Albert Museum, 1983—. Presenter on television series, including Design Classics, BBC Design Awards, The Art of Persuasion, Busting the Block, The Face of Tutankhamun, Cinema Profiles, Strange Landscape: A Journey through the Middle Ages, and Nightmare: The Birth of Horror.
Knighted, 2001, for services to art and design education.
Napoleon Wrote Fiction, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1972.
The Vampire: Lord Ruthven to Count Dracula, Scribner (New York, NY), 1978, revised as Vampyres: Lord Byron to Count Dracula, Faber (Boston, MA), 1992.
Spaghetti Westerns: Cowboys and Europeans from Karl May to Sergio Leone, Routledge & Kegan Paul (London, England), 1981, reprinted with new introduction by Frayling, I.B. Tauris (New York, NY), 1999, reprinted with new introduction by Frayling, 2006.
Making Good: Perspectives on Craft in the Twentieth Century, Crafts Council of Great Britain, 1984.
The Royal College of Art: One Hundred and Fifty Years of Art and Design, research by John Physick, Hilary Watson, and Bernard Myers, Barrie & Jenkins (London, England), 1987.
(With Helen Frayling and Ron Van der Meer) The Art Pack: A Unique, Three-dimensional Tour through the Creation of Art over the Centuries—What Artists Do, How They Do It, and the Masterpieces They Have Given Us, Knopf (New York, NY), 1992.
The Face of Tutankhamun, Faber & Faber (New York, NY), 1992.
Clint Eastwood: A Biography, Virgin Books (London, England), 1993.
Things to Come, BFI Publications (London, England), 1995.
Strange Landscape: A Journey through the Middle Ages, BBC Books (London, England), 1995.
Nightmare: The Birth of Horror, BBC Books (London, England), 1996.
Art and Design: One Hundred Years of the Royal College of Art, Collins (London, England), 1999.
Sergio Leone: Something to Do with Death, Faber (London, England), 2000.
Once upon a Time in Italy: The Westerns of Sergio Leone, Henry N. Abrams (New York, NY)/Autry National Center, 2005.
Ken Adam and the Art of Production Design, Faber & Faber (New York, NY), 2005.
Mad, Bad and Dangerous?: The Scientist and the Cinema, Reaktion Books (London, England), 2006.
(Editor, with Martin Myrone) The Gothic Reader: A Critical Anthology, Tate Gallery (London, England), 2006.
Author of scripts for television series, including Design Classics, BBC Design Awards, The Art of Persuasion, Busting the Block, The Face of Tutankhamun, Cinema Profiles, Strange Landscape: A Journey through the Middle Ages, and Nightmare: The Birth of Horror. Contributor to Eduardo Paolozzi—Recurring Themes, by Robin Spencer, Rizzoli (New York, NY), 1985; Hitchcock: brividi di carta, Stampalith (Trento, Italy), 2002; and Gothic Nightmares: Fuseli, Blake and the Gothic Imagination, edited by Martin Myrone, Tate Publishing (London, England), 2006. Author of preface, Dracula, by Bram Stoker, Penguin Classics (New York, NY), 2003; author of foreword, Science Fiction Poster Art, edited by Tony Nourmand and Graham Marsh, Aurum Press, 2004; author of foreword, Horror Poster Art, edited by Tony Nourmand and Graham Marsh, Aurum Press, 2005. Contributor of articles to periodicals, including Cambridge Review, Crafts, Design, New Society, Blueprint, Modern Painters, Burlington, London, Cinema, Sight and Sound, Film, Framework, and Timeout.
Christopher Frayling is an esteemed British historian and broadcaster. He is known for his pioneering work at the Royal College of Art in London—widely recognized as among the best postgraduate universities for design—where he has worked as a professor of cultural history and rector. His works include film criticism and history, literary criticism and history, cultural studies, and biography.
Frayling's Spaghetti Westerns: Cowboys and Europeans from Karl May to Sergio Leone is a study for film historians of European westerns. Included are analyses of structuralist, sociological, and Marxist critical theories, as well as detailed discussions of individual movies and directors. Its publication in 1981 has been credited with bringing some respect to the film genre of the Spaghetti Western, argued Gary Johnson in Images: "Spaghetti Westerns is a landmark book that eloquently argues for the relevancy of the European Western and effectively skewers the notion that only American Westerns can be considered authentic visions of the frontier landscape." In the related Sergio Leone: Something to Do with Death, Frayling concentrates on the famous Spaghetti Western director of A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More. As Nicholas Lezard commented in the London Sunday Times: "It is to Frayling's credit that he remains scrupulously evenhanded in his treatment of Leone, a man about whom he has obviously thought long and hard. … The book is overlong, like a Leone movie; and, like a Leone movie, cutting it down wouldn't make it any better at all. It is a fitting monument." More recently, Frayling returned yet again to one of his favorite subjects with Once upon a Time in Italy: The Westerns of Sergio Leone. This work was published in 2005 to coincide with an exhibition at the Museum of the American West in Los Angeles and was described in Publishers Weekly as "a work of scholarship and depth on the Italian western and the man who pioneered it."
Among Frayling's other works are Vampyres: Lord Byron to Count Dracula and Mad, Bad and Dangerous?: The Scientist and the Cinema. The former explores the literary history of vampires, from the folklore of Vlad the Impaler to John Polidori's Lord Byron-like vampire in the early nineteenth century, and finally to the film treatments of Dracula in the twentieth century. A reviewer for the Economist called the work an "admirable anthology," arguing that Frayling "shows how the demonic aristocrat and the folkloric bloodsucker contributed to the vampire canon." Mad, Bad and Dangerous? offers a similar approach to Vampyres, this time looking at the legacy of the "mad scientist" and "saintly scientist" stereotypes in Hollywood. Going back as far as silent-era films such as Metropolis, Frayling discusses a number of movies to illustrate his theme that Hollywood has created a powerful stereotype of scientists as either crazy or, much less often, unrealistically saintly. Public opinion of the scientific community, he concludes, has been unfairly shaped by these images. A Skeptical Inquirer critic considered Mad, Bad and Dangerous? to be an "interesting and thorough (if at times pedantic) analysis of the origin of this caricature," while a Publishers Weekly contributor declared it "a timely and insightful book."
Critics of another movie-related book by Frayling, Ken Adam and the Art of Production Design, had much to praise in this work that acknowledges an often overlooked and influential figure in modern film. Adam is notable for his designs on such films as Dr. Strangelove and the James Bond series, and he also had an impact on the "Star Trek" film series by playing a large role in designing the Enterprise space vessel. Unfortunately, praise for Adam's work was too often misdirected toward the famous directors for whom he worked, such as Stanley Kubrick. Although Variety contributor Eric Monder complained of the lack of quality photographs in the book, making it difficult for the reader to imagine Adam's accomplishments, the reviewer noted that Frayling includes "entertaining passages" about how certain sets and scenes came into being on films such as Dr. No and The Last Emperor. A Design Week writer noted that Frayling's "encyclopaedic cultural knowledge serves him well for this extended interview with Adam" and concluded that the "book gives you a fascinating insight into the mind and methods of a unique talent."
Frayling once told CA: "As professor of the first cultural history department in a British university (a department which I founded in 1979), I am interested in the ways in which modern culture (‘popular,’ ‘mass,’ ‘media,’ or ‘serious’) has evolved and in making connections where most academics and writers have erected barriers. My research and writings on film, popular literature, art and design, and the history of ideas, are all intended to be notes towards a cultural history—involving economics, sociology, politics, as well as the study of individual ‘texts.’ As a result, many of the books I read in major national libraries tend to surprise the librarians a lot!
"In [one] … television interview, I explained that my teaching—and my writing—were crucially concerned with the ‘neogeneration’ of artists, designers, writers, and filmmakers: at a time when most commercial filmmakers are concerned with making films about films about films, I try to ask why there is this obsession with referring to other peoples' work in an explicit way. Could it be that the artist's experience is increasingly limited to experience of other artists? Was it always like this?
"I feel strongly that cultural historians and writers in the latter part of the twentieth century should attempt to fight against the barriers which cultural chauvinism has traditionally erected: Any English person who has addressed a French audience on the subject of Napoleon, an American audience on the subject of westerns, or a Romanian audience on the subject of vampires will know exactly what I mean."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, July, 2005, Gordon Flagg, review of Once upon a Time in Italy: The Westerns of Sergio Leone, p. 1887.
Creative Review, September 1, 2005, review of Ken Adam: The Art of Production Design, p. 68.
Design Week, July 28, 2005, "Set Design: Action Stations," review of Ken Adam, p. 17.
Economist, December 21, 1991, review of Vampyres: Lord Byron to Count Dracula, p. 115.
Guardian (London, England), June 11, 2005, "Italian Job"; September 3, 2005, Veronica Horwell, "The Other Round Table," review of Ken Adam; February 25, 2006, P.D. Smith, "Who Cares When the Rockets Come Down?," review of Mad, Bad and Dangerous?: The Scientist and the Cinema.
Journal of Popular Film and Television, winter, 2003, Richard Thomson Thomson Gale, review of Spaghetti Westerns: Cowboys and Europeans from Karl May to Sergio Leone, p. 231.
Lancet, February 18, 2006, Rosie Taylor, "Scientists on the Screen," review of Mad, Bad and Dangerous?, p. 560.
New Statesman, October 31, 2005, Christopher Bray, "Live and Let Live," review of Ken Adam, p. 50.
Publishers Weekly, June 5, 2000, review of Sergio Leone: Something to Do with Death, p. 86; June 6, 2005, review of Once upon a Time in Italy, p. 56; August 8, 2005, review of Mad, Bad and Dangerous?, p. 220.
Reference & Research Book News, August, 2005, review of Once upon a Time in Italy, p. 254.
Skeptical Inquirer, May-June, 2006, review of Mad, Bad and Dangerous?, p. 64.
Sunday Times (London, England), February 27, 2000, Nicholas Lezard, review of Sergio Leone.
Variety, April 17, 2006, Eric Monder, review of Ken Adam, p. 34.
Images,http://www.imagesjournal.com/ (June 19, 2000), Gary Johnson, review of Spaghetti Westerns.