Obituary: David Cheshire
Tuesday 08 December 1992
DAVID CHESHIRE was a gifted producer of films for the BBC Arts Features Department through the Seventies and Eighties. He drew on a wide-ranging knowledge and love of the arts and was also fascinated by the technical side of film-making.
He wrote three meticulous, elegantly constructed books on filmmaking and video, illustrated with his own photographs: The Book of Movie Photography (1979), The Video Manual (1982), and The Complete Book of Video (1990).
He was equally at home with the imagery of Ezra Pound's Pisan Cantos and the latest video-camera technology. Everything he turned to received the same piercing, often humorous, analysis. In some ways his formidable brain and range of interests made life harder rather than easier for him.
Born in 1944, he had been a star pupil at Sevenoaks School from 1955 to 1961, and won a scholarship to Clare College, Cambridge, when he was just 16, took a double First in English, and then won Fulbright and Choate scholarships to Harvard.
He was taken on by the BBC as a General Trainee in 1967 and remained with them until illness brought on by a tortured fight with alcoholism forced him to leave. He made many splendid programmes: on cinema with Gavin Millar, most memorably a portrait of Jacques Tati (1976); art-historical themes with John Julius Norwich in The Gates of Asia (1973); Victorian architecture, with John Betjeman (1970); and outstanding programmes on Robert Lowell (1980) and John Updike (1982). A documentary on the Santa Fe Opera festival (1977) showed his musical abilities.
Cheshire was a deeply ironic, self-deprecating character, the first to mock the increasing number of tragicomic episodes in his own life. Curious about social worlds and yet detached from them, an erratic family man, he was devoted to his only daughter, Catherine. He got great satisfaction from the craft of making films but often gave the impression that he was not fully stretched, as if the research fellowships which he had rejected might have suited him better than the rapid rewards of television journalism.
A warm friend and generous host, he cooked lavish meals with a characteristic mixture of meticulousness and abandon.
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