256 episodes

Biographical series in which guests choose someone who has inspired their lives.

Great Lives BBC

    • Personal Journals
    • 4.3, 44 Ratings

Biographical series in which guests choose someone who has inspired their lives.

    Frida Kahlo nominated by Author Jessie Burton

    Frida Kahlo nominated by Author Jessie Burton

    “We’re talking here about a woman who was Mexican, dark skinned, disabled and queer, who produced art and didn’t allow her disabilities to define her. She defined who she was on her own terms," says Circe Henestrosa, co curator of Frida Kahlo: Making Herself Up.
    Circe joins Jessie Burton, author of The Miniaturist in discussion about the Mexican artist known for her self-portraits and her distinctive look - the dresses and flowered hair, the monobrow, the piercing stare.
    Born in 1907, Kahlo's life was a collage of strength, beauty and pain. She survived polio and a bus crash that should have killed her, as well as a complex, passionate marriage to fellow artist Diego Rivera. Nominator Jessie Burton celebrates Frida Kahlo as a remarkable life who triumphed over adversity with true grit, glamour and great wit.
    The presenter is Matthew Parris.
    The producer in Bristol is Nicola Humphries.

    Jessie Burton is author of The Miniaturist, The Muse and The Confession.
    Circe Henestrosa is a fashion curator and Frida Kahlo scholar.

    • 27 min
    Mussolini

    Mussolini

    September 1943, and German troops have just landed in gliders to rescue Benito Mussolini from the mountain resort where he was being held. “I knew my friend Adolf Hitler would not desert me,” he said later. But Mussolini died before the end of the war, shot and then strung up with his mistress in Milan.

    Who was this man, and is he still relevant today? Nominating him is Professor Margaret MacMillan, not as her hero but as someone she says must not be dismissed as a buffoon. Mussolini founded and led the fascists in Italy, was a brilliant propagandist, and would have probably died in his bed but for the war. Winston Churchill, speaking in 1927, told him his fascist movement "has rendered a service to the entire world."

    Only later did he dub him the Italian Miscalculator. Mussolini declared war on Britain just as France was poised to fall.

    As well as archive of Mussolini, Churchill, and the Italian journalist Luigi Barzini, the programme features Professor John Foot of Bristol University. Margaret MacMillan is the author of Peacemakers and a former BBC Reith lecturer. The programme is presented by Matthew Parris.

    Future great lives in this series include Frida Kahlo, Donna Summer, Hendrick Witbooi and Kenneth Williams of Carry On fame.

    The producer in Bristol is Miles Warde

    • 29 min
    Dolly Alderton on Doris Day

    Dolly Alderton on Doris Day

    Dolly Alderton's love of Doris Day began when she watched Calamity Jane as a young child. And for Dolly, the incandescent film star was as much of a poster girl as The Spice Girls. But Dolly's view of the legendary actress and singer has changed as she's matured.
    Dolly joins Matthew Parris and Dr Tamar Jeffers McDonald, Reader in Film and Head of the School of Arts at the University of Kent, to discuss dancing, divorces and dogs. Together they explore whether the image of Doris Day as a happy-go-lucky girl-next-door is a true reflection of the life and character of one of the twentieth century's most famous stars.
    Producer: Camellia Sinclair
    Credit: Love Me or Leave Me (dir. Charles Vidor, MGM); Pillow Talk (dir. Michael Gordon, Arwin Productions).

    • 27 min
    Sybille Bedford, author of Jigsaw and A Legacy

    Sybille Bedford, author of Jigsaw and A Legacy

    Sara Wheeler first read Sybille Bedford in her early twenties, and discovered a dazzling writer. The book she read was called A Visit to Don Otavio. It's set in Mexico, a country Bedford wanted to visit because of its 'long nasty history in the past and as little present history as possible.' Born Sybille von Schoenebeck in 1911 in Germany, she lived in Italy, France, California and London, and her book Jigsaw was nominated for the Booker prize. But by her own admission she never sold many books.
    Sara Wheeler is the author of Terra Incognita - about her travels in Antarctica. Victoria Glendinning adds her thoughts and wit to the programme.
    There are archive contributions from Hilary Spurling, Sue McGregor and Sybille Bedford too.
    The presenter is Matthew Parris

    • 27 min
    Billy Bremner of Leeds United

    Billy Bremner of Leeds United

    Anand Menon, director of the UK in a Changing Europe, chooses the life of infamous Leeds United Captain, Billy Bremner.

    Billy Bremner played for Leeds as a midfielder from 1959 until 1976. He scored 115 goals for the team and captained them for 11 years during the most successful period in their history. 5’5”, with a mop of red hair, he was known as “ten stone of barbed wire” "Wee Billy and “Midfield Terrier”.

    He grew up near Stirling in a working class family, moving to Leeds at 16 to where he returned in the 80s as manager.

    At the time, Anand was a schoolboy in Wakefield. Before he became a Professor of European Politics and Foreign Affairs, he was first and foremost a Leeds fan.

    Anand was also at school with Telegraph journalist Rob Bagchi - author of the forthcoming biography of the club.

    Growing up in West Yorkshire instilled a lifelong devotion to Billy and the club in both of them - in spite of their "Dirty Leeds" reputation and the ups and downs of a team often destined to narrowly miss out on chances. "If being a Leeds fan has taught me anything, it's that anything which can go wrong, will go wrong."

    But there is another side to this story, both Anand and Rob are children of Indian parents. Elland Road was well known for the presence of the National Front on the terraces as they were growing up, and so Anand only saw Billy in the flesh a few times. But when Billy returned as manager in the 1980s, he went to great lengths to turn the culture of the terraces around.

    Presented by Matthew Parris

    Produced by Polly Weston

    • 27 min
    Sally Phillips on Hollywood star Myrna Loy

    Sally Phillips on Hollywood star Myrna Loy

    When Sally Phillips first saw Myrna Loy, she burst into tears. It was in a film called The Best Years of Our Lives, about three veterans returning to their wives after World War Two. Myrna Loy was most famous for the Thin Man series, and she also played voluptuous baddies in flicks like The Mask of Fun Manchu. But it's not just her screen career that inspires Sally, a star herself for work in Smack the Pony and Bridget Jones. Myrna Loy was a hardworking and often fearless person, heavily involved with The Red Cross and UNESCO after the war. The author of Fast Talking Dames, Maria di Battista, joins the discussion from Princeton.
    The producer in Bristol is Miles Warde

    • 27 min

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5
44 Ratings

44 Ratings

Kiana Phoenix L ,

Great Lives is a Great Podcast

I just discovered this podcast a few weeks ago and I love it. It covers a wide range of people, some I’ve heard about and many I haven’t. Super interesting and well delivered. Host asks great question and guests are well informed. Both entertaining and educational. Would recommend the listen :)

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