Talking Movies: Remembering Barry – Episode 5

Welcome to Talking Movies, I’m Spling. This week we embark on episode five of Remembering Barry, a heartfelt tribute to the beloved entertainment journalist and film critic Barry Ronge. A rare privilege, I stepped into Barry’s tranquil Johannesburg home and conversed with his partner of 47 years, Albertus van Dyk, LightStrider to many. Their starry-eyed story unfolds beautifully, a love that blossomed against their shared passion for the silver screen.

Did Barry think of himself as a celebrity? How did he handle the attention? And do you have any funny stories about fan interactions, coming back to maybe some signatures or autographs?

That’s funny, actually. The shy man who became a public figure. What an extraordinary thing. Barry was never rude. He was kind. He was always open to take a question, to answer letters, lots of them. They became too many, he couldn’t do it. The first thing when we wanted to be snug on a Sunday morning, we were just still courting.

Barry was giving lectures at WITS and at some women’s club, and his number was available, and I realized soon after this specific event, which I will talk about now, we wanted to be snug on a Sunday morning, and somebody phoned. They’d seen a movie, and they just wanted Barry Ronge to give them a personal review of this. So of course, darling did.

I was a bit annoyed. I said, “darling, what was that all about?” He told me, I said, “I don’t think this is right.” Well, I said, “darling, tomorrow I’ll go to the post office, and I’ll have this number changed.”.

That became a long story. I did all the admin behind the scenes, got the letters… Barry signed, and it began a long journey of a number for Barry, unlisted. Later it became a number for both of us, unlisted.

Then it became a number for Barry for the family, a number for me for my family, and two unlisted numbers, and that’s how we’ve lived for a long, long time. Every time somebody crossed that line, I just changed the number. I think once you’re on radio, radio especially, and in the media, and in the way that you communicate, and also from my example, my experience on the radio, when you are on the radio, you’re talking to people in their lounge, in their bedroom.

It does become a very intimate experience, and people become familiar. I think that familiarity is one of the big things that you can say they invade our space, or they’re approachable. We’re both very approachable. I might be more distant because I’m more suspicious, but that was what made Barry so likable. Well, he wasn’t liked by everybody. None of us are ever, and yeah, kindness, and that came through after Barry died.

Every person who was speaking and responded was talking about the kindness of this human being, Barry Ronge, and that’s true. Kindness, that came from his mom, the kindest woman I’d ever known. She was such a dear soul, an angel really… so kindness, being honorable, being respectful, that was our motto.

That’s lovely, and just thinking a bit more laterally, and I thought this was an interesting question. Do you think Barry’s work would have been more appreciated or revered in a country with a more progressive film culture? The question I’m asking is because I recently was in Egypt at a film festival, and the way that the Egyptian film critics are treated seems to be with much more dignity and authority in a way than I find film journalists have been treated locally in South Africa.

It is interesting, and it was also a very important factor when we wanted to emigrate to Australia or to Britain, because I did feel that Barry needed a bigger stage, and that he would have been admired and respected even more, but then again, you would have been a smaller fish in a bigger pond, and you just don’t know how that would have turned out.

Well, he wasn’t just local, he was international, and I think Spling, as we discussed earlier, with the movies and going to the movie junkets, Barry became known world over. So even though he was a Hollywood person, and that’s sometimes a criticism, especially now when we say what is the legacy of Barry, and when we were trying to find a house for Barry’s books, it’s too Eurocentric or too American, it’s not South African enough, but yet it was Hollywood, but he was also known in Bollywood. So Barry was international in that way, not just because I love him, because of his quality of his work, the respect Barry Ronge got from overseas, and because of his professionalism, and also, as we said just now, of a triple threat.

He gave them media exposure, television exposure, print exposure, radio exposure, and once they had an encounter with Barry, and they saw the reality of Barry and who he was, and the way he treated people with enthusiasm, with great intellect, great language, the response was always, we want Barry Ronge from South Africa. And of course, it’s not just Hollywood, you’ve got the representatives here in South Africa, New Metro, the film companies, and they said, who do we send? We send Barry Ronge. So he was international in a different way.

Barry Ronge’s legacy shines through our collective memories. In this spirit, we seek a library or museum for his 1,700 film book collection, where his passion for movies can endure. Together, we can ensure Barry’s love for art, film, and culture continues to light our way. Share your ideas and join us on this mission at splingmovies.com.