Journalist, diplomat and politician John Freeman, who was posted as the British high commissioner to India in 1965 and is most known for his interview series, Face to Face’, on BBC with celebrities, has died aged 99.
During his varied career, Freeman edited the ‘New Statesman’, was elected Labour MP for Watford 1945-55, and went on to hold top diplomatic postings in New Delhi (1965-68) and Washington. He also saw action while serving with the military during World War II.
Arriving in New Delhi in 1965, old-timers recall that Freeman tried a more down-to-earth approach, seeking to move away from old British paternalism and Raj nostalgia. The high commission had become open to a more diverse group of individuals.
However, writer Khushwant Singh once recalled: “I found Freeman cold and distant. Despite his socialist pretensions he behaved like a pukka sahib.”
Among those Freeman interviewed on television were Bertrand Russell, Martin Luther King and Carl Gustav Jung.
His unique ‘Face to Face’ interviews from 1959 were also marked by viewers never seeing his face, as he sat with his back to the camera in the shadows, with smoke emanating from a cigarette he held in his right hand.