Obituary: William Hall

With his famous byline ‘The man the big stars talk to”, author, broadcaster and film critic William Hall interviewed and befriended many of the all-time great screen legends, from Elvis Presley, Clint Eastwood, Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster and Charlton Heston to John Travolta, Sylvester Stallone and Tom Cruise…

Hall made his name travelling the world documenting his rare glimpses into the lavish lifestyles of household names, travelling ‘a million miles and writing three million words”.

Born in London and educated at Highgate School, he started his glittering journalistic career as a cub reporter on the Fulham Chronicle, followed by 21 years as film critic and film and travel writer on London’s Evening News.

With a contact book to rival Who’s Who, Hall was just as much at home playing tennis with Charlton Heston, arm wrestling with Sylvester Stallone or being threatened by Marlon Brando when he trespassed on his South Sea island just to follow up on a story: ‘My Tango with Brando”.

He was quoted as saying that his most memorable interview was the private hour he spent alone with Elvis Presley, followed by two hours on set with The King.

Syndicated

At home in the world of long lunches and star status during the golden age of Fleet Street, the friendships he made both with the stars and his colleagues were long lasting. His work was often syndicated around the world and he was a regular contributor to the San Francisco Chronicle and LA Times.

He covered the Academy Awards and Cannes Film Festival for 18 years, was a past President of The Critics’ Circle (film section) and a lifetime member of BAFTA, and it was Hall who was first asked by William Hill to provide the odds for betting on the Oscars.

Hall was a gifted conversationalist and was renowned for his sense of humour. He could get a good story out of anyone, usually over a good lunch, and his passion for writing witty, in-depth stories lead him to his next venture.

When the Evening News merged with the Evening Standard, Hall turned his attention to books, and followed up on a scoop he had uncovered back in 1964 on the set of the film Zulu. His discovery of a then unknown actor, Michael Caine, lead to Hall’s first book, Raising Caine, which went on to be a bestseller, republished several times over 25 years.

He followed this with biographies of Norman Wisdom, Frankie Howerd, James Dean and Robert Maxwell to name a few, as well as being the first biographer of 14-year-old Charlotte Church.

Writing was just one of Hall’s many passions. He worked as a radio reporter for the BBC‘s Movie Go Round, made documentaries, including directing John Wayne in the short film The Duke In London – with Wayne commenting on Hall’s direction, ‘I don’t like it but I’ll do it”.

He was also one of the founders of Fleet Street’s Gunpowder Club, which held its legendary explosive annual dinners in some of London’s top restaurants.

Fascinated by time, Hall was one of the creators of the Millennium Sundial in Greenwich; he adored cricket, played chess with world champion Anatoly Karpov and was a keen skier.

He was president of the British Journalists’ Ski Club and competed all over the world for the British Team (laughing that he usually came last). He also loved tobogganing, going down the Cresta Run (and coming off at the infamous Shuttlecock Corner).

He died from liver cancer on May 19. He is survived by his wife, two children and a grand-daughter.

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