Michael Winner: 1935-2013
Famed British film director and producer Michael Winner passed away yesterday at the age of 77. Winner who is perhaps best known for his work on the Death Wish trilogy, starring Charles Bronson, had been suffering from liver-disease.
Before venturing into the world of film, Winner studied economics at the University of Cambridge, and briefly began venturing into the world of journalism. Throughout his career Winner directed over 30 films, producing most of them himself, in a career spanning almost five decades. Beginning his career in the late 1950s with a series of short films and writing credits for television, Winner was quick to branch into directing, with his directorial feature debut Some Like it Cool released in 1962. It was a small success, but one that would serve him well. He released two musical films within a year, and in 1964 directed Oliver Reed and Barbara Ferris in The System. This would be Winner and Reed’s first film together; they went on to make a further six over the twenty years that followed.
Word of Winner’s talents soon spread over the Atlantic, and his first taste of real American triumph came in the form of the 1971 horror, The Nightcomers, starring Marlon Brando. It was then, after directing such a star as Brando, that Winner suddenly found himself in demand internationally, and this helped pave the way towards the career he would eventually be so famed for.
After the release of Death Wish in 1974, a violence-fuelled story of vigilantism at its best, Winner had cemented himself firmly in the action-genre. Following Death Wish (his twentieth directorial stint), Winner faced criticism for what he did best: violence. Many critics deemed his film too gruesome, and glorifying acts of violence was deemed almost abhorrent. In spite of this, and at the request of Bronson himself, Winner went on to direct two Death Wish sequels in 1982 and 1985.
In 1977, Winner would silence naysayers with the release of his latest horror film, The Sentinel, which he also co-wrote. If at any point, you doubt Michael Winner’s status as ‘one of the greats’ within the directing circle, The Sentinel will confirm him. Starring John Carradine, Chris Sarandon, Ava Gardener, Christopher Walken, Jeff Goldblum and Eli Wallach (to name but a few), The Sentinel would skyrocket Winner to the top of his game.
It is in the filmography of esteemed actors such as the aforementioned and others, for example Sophia Loren (Firepower, 1979), Faye Dunaway (The Wicked Lady, 1983) and Anthony Hopkins (A Chorus of Disapproval, 1988), that Winner will always remain constant. Whilst in recent years he may have successfully reinvented himself as a revered, and often loathed food critic and celebrity (due to a possession of great eccentricity), his work in film throughout the past five decades cannot, and will not, be forgotten. A man who brought British filmmakers to the world’s attention during such formative years, Michael Winner leaves behind a collection of work that everyone can find enjoyment in.