Derek Malcolm, ‘a giant among critics’ and film world darling, has died. His early life was stranger than any movie and he wandered through a chequered career before finally finding his fate as one of the world’s leading film critics aged 40.
He was born 12 May 1932 in London, long after his father, on returning unexpectedly from military service in World War One had shot his mother’s lover. After a sensational murder trial he was let off on justifiable homicide, having claimed he was defending his wife’s honour. They remained unhappily hitched thereafter and never spoke of it.
Young Malcolm was boarded at crammers from the age of four, thence to Eton, where he learned to ride and discovered a gift for words. His family home was oppressive so he escaped during school holidays in daily visits to the cinema and later squeaked into Oxford, the Warden being one of his mother’s lovers, and joined the Film Society.
Thereafter he tried to get into publishing, became an amateur National Hunt jockey, started an acting career in the theatre. After three years in repertory on the South Coast, he became a gossip writer, racing correspondent, then deputy film critic before ascending to the role itself in 1971.
What is is fascinating about his life looking backwards is it seems blindingly obvious what he was designed to be. Yet he was forty before he found his destiny. Or it found him.
Another twist came on his father’s death in 1969 when an aunt wrote to say he was not his biological father at all. Maybe happening around the same period of his life that was not a coincidence.
He had a Taurus Sun conjunct Chiron – ‘damaged and chosen’ – and that sat on the midpoint of a trine between influential Pluto and the North Node in filmic Pisces which seems apt; as well as being in a confident square to Jupiter in flamboyant Leo. His Mars in Taurus was in a showbizzy trine to Neptune, sextile Venus which would suit him for the glamour world of stars and film makers. His Moon in Leo was probably opposition Saturn square Mars – which fairly describes a bleak childhood. His Mercury in upfront Aries was conjunct Uranus and square Pluto – giving him a facility for words, a mischievous sense of humour and a quirky take on life.
An out of the ordinary life produced a singular talent.