Oakes, Philip 1928–2005
Oakes, Philip 1928–2005
(Philip Barlow Oakes)
OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born January 31, 1928, in Burslem, Staffordshire, England; died of a heart attack, December 18, 2005. Journalist, critic, and author. A reporter, columnist, and critic for several London newspapers, Oakes also wrote novels and poems, but was best known for his autobiographical trilogy covering his life from the Great Depression through the 1950s. Enduring a tragic childhood, he spent much of his early life in orphanages after his father died when he was just four years old and, a few years later, his mother's health declined severely from a brain tumor. An affair with the house mother of his orphanage when he was fifteen resulted in a baby, but Oakes did not know she had been pregnant until he was an adult and had married; he, the mother, and their child maintained a friendly relationship, however. Completing a school certificate when he was sixteen, he found work as a copy boy for Eric R. Sly's Court Reporting Service. He was too young to join the military during World War II, but after the war, he was called up to serve in the Middle East and Athens, Greece. Here he worked for a military newspaper until 1949. Having gained valuable journalism experience, Oakes returned to his former employer, this time as a reporter, until 1955. He then worked for a string of newspapers, first as columnist and editor of Truth, then penning "The World I Watch" column for the Daily Express for a year. He was a film critic for the London Evening Standard from 1956 to 1958. Meanwhile, Oakes pursued other interests, including poetry—his first verse collection, Unlucky Jonah: Twenty Poems, was published in 1955—and jazz music, in which he indulged by singing with Mick Mulligan and his band. Always interested in movies, Oakes enjoyed his first job as a critic, but he left this work for a time to write scripts for the Granada Television film unit. During this period, he cowrote the screenplay for The Punch and Judy Man (1962). He then returned to criticism with the Sunday Telegraph from 1963 to 1965. Oakes joined the London Sunday Times Magazine as an assistant editor for two years, finally settling down at the London Sunday Times, where he was arts columnist from 1965 until his 1980 retirement. Oakes supplemented his journalism work with fiction and more poetry, including such novels as Exactly What We Want (1962), Experiment at Proto (1973), and Shopping for Women (1994), as well as the poetry collections Married/Singular (1973) and Selected Poems (1982). However, he received the most critical and audience attention for his three autobiographies: From Middle England: A Memory of the 1930s (1980), Dwellers All in Time and Space: A Memory of the 1940s (1981), and All the Jazz Band Ball: A Memory of the 1950s (1983).
OBITUARIES AND OTHER SOURCES:
Guardian (London, England), December 20, 2005, p. 31.
Times (London, England), December 31, 2005, p. 60.