Paul Ryan, Soho regular, French movie buff, Brando biographer and jazz singer – obituary

Paul Ryan, who died at the age of 69, later became known as a jazz singer, specializing in the authoritative Great American Songbook, although he had many other strings to his bow.

He was born on December 30, 1952 and grew up in Cardiff, where his father was an electrician. His mother was a waitress and amateur dancer and young Paul soon joined her on stage as a singer and tap dancer.

He attended the city’s St Illtyd High School, but by the age of 19 he had moved to London, working behind the bar at the Arts Theater Club and performing at the Hampstead Theatre.

He made a living as a freelance art critic and also wrote a play called Lost in Exile, based on the story of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, although it is actually a thinly veiled account of an affair with a girl he knew.

He usually had a flat somewhere but was often ‘homeless’, sometimes even hanging out with drunks under Waterloo Bridge.

He begins to stay in France and becomes a lover of everything French, French cinema in particular. Eventually he became a presenter, interviewing screenwriters, directors and film stars at the French Institute in South Kensington.

Then they would be taken to local bars and restaurants. While having lunch with Catherine Deneuve and Isabelle Huppert, he knows them all personally.

Photography was another of Ryan’s passions and he befriended Henri Cartier-Bresson as well as Robert Doisneau, Michael Wood and John Claridge. Eventually, he was appointed Officer of Arts and Letters for his services to French culture by the Ambassador at the French Embassy.

Among his other activities, Ryan has written books on Marlon Brando and Lindsay Anderson, and translated the American detective show Colombo for French television.