John Mackenzie (film director)

John Leonard Duncan Mackenzie (22 May 1928 – 8 June 2011)[1] was a Scottish film director who worked in British film from the late 1960s, first as an assistant director and later as an independent director himself.[2]

John Mackenzie
John Leonard Duncan MacKenzie

(1928-05-22)22 May 1928
Edinburgh, Scotland
Died8 June 2011(2011-06-08) (aged 83)
London, England, UK
Alma materUniversity of Edinburgh
OccupationFilm director
Years active1966–2009

Early lifeEdit

Mackenzie was born in Edinburgh, where he attended Holy Cross Academy. He studied history at the University of Edinburgh.[3] He studied drama and joined Edinburgh's Gateway Theatre Company.[3] He worked as a teacher and moved to London in 1960.[3]


Early careerEdit

He began his career with Ken Loach, acting as the latter's assistant director on such works as Up the Junction (1965) and Cathy Come Home (1966). This training allowed Mackenzie to begin a move into directing himself, as well as teaching him the skills of working on location with non-professional, local actors to a tight budget and schedule.

Directing, film and televisionEdit

Initially, Mackenzie worked on television plays, following his apprenticeship with Loach.[citation needed] During this period he directed episodes of The Jazz Age and ITV Saturday Night Theatre. His first film was the television drama There Is Also Tomorrow (1969), followed by two feature films One Brief Summer (1970) and Unman, Wittering and Zigo, an adaptation of Giles Cooper's radio play (1971). Mackenzie still largely worked for television, aside from the independent production Made (1972), until in 1979 he directed the highly acclaimed A Sense of Freedom, a BAFTA-nominated film (released on television in the US in 1985). Freedom was surpassed, however, by Mackenzie's next film, the gangster piece The Long Good Friday, generally accepted as his masterpiece.[citation needed]

The Long Good Friday, starring Bob Hoskins and Helen Mirren, opened up opportunities to work in the United States. The Honorary Consul was adapted from Graham Greene's novel by Christopher Hampton. Also released as Beyond the Limit, the film re-united Mackenzie with Hoskins, as well as giving him the chance to direct Michael Caine and Richard Gere. Mackenzie's other films of this period include The Innocent (1985) and The Fourth Protocol (1987).

The greatest success that Mackenzie enjoyed in his American period was Ruby (1992),[2] a biopic of Jack Ruby, the Texan nightclub owner who assassinated Lee Harvey Oswald. Ruby starred Academy Award-nominated Danny Aiello and Twin Peaks actor Sherilyn Fenn.[4]

Another film of this period was The Last of the Finest, a UK-US thriller starring Brian Dennehy. Mackenzie returned to the UK in 1993.[5] He later directed films such as Deadly Voyage (1996) and When the Sky Falls (2000).[2]


Mackenzie died following a stroke on 8 June 2011, some three weeks after his 83rd birthday.[1] He is survived by his three daughters (Colyn, Katherine and Rebecca) by Wendy Marshall, whom he married in 1956 and who predeceased him.[3]


As Assistant Director

As Director: Film

As Director: Television


  1. ^ a b Eardley, Nick (11 June 2011). "Actor and film-maker John Mackenzie dies, aged 83". The Scotsman.
  2. ^ a b c "John Mackenzie". The New York Times.
  3. ^ a b c d "Telegraph obituary". The Daily Telegraph. 13 June 2011. Retrieved 11 June 2015.
  4. ^ Canby, Vincent. "Ruby (1992) Review/Film: Ruby; Annals of an Assassin's Assassin". The New York Times.
  5. ^ "John Mackenzie". 13 June 2011. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 18 January 2019.

External linksEdit