Michael Robert Winner (30 October 1935 – 21 January 2013) was an English film director and producer, bon vivant, and a restaurant critic for The Sunday Times.
Winner in 2010
Robert Michael Winner
30 October 1935
Hampstead, London, England
|Died||21 January 2013 (aged 77)|
|Resting place||Willesden Jewish Cemetery|
|Alma mater||Downing College, Cambridge|
|Occupation||Film director and producer, food critic, media personality|
Winner was an only child, born in Hampstead, London, England, to Helen (née Zlota) and George Joseph Winner (1910–1975), a company director. His family was Jewish; his mother was Polish, and his father of Russian extraction. Following his father's death, Winner's mother gambled recklessly and sold art and furniture worth around £10M at the time, bequeathed to her not only for her life but to Michael thereafter. She died at the age of 78, in 1984.
Winner was educated at St Christopher School, Letchworth, and Downing College, Cambridge, where he read law and economics. He also edited the university's student newspaper, Varsity, and was the youngest ever editor up to that time, both in age and in terms of his university career (being only in the second term of his second year). Winner had earlier written a newspaper column, "Michael Winner's Showbiz Gossip", in the Kensington Post from the age of 14. The first issue of Showgirl Glamour Revue in 1955 had him writing another film and show-business gossip column, "Winner's World". Such jobs allowed him to meet and interview several leading film personalities, including James Stewart and Marlene Dietrich. He also wrote for the New Musical Express.
Winner directed his first travelogue, This is Belgium (1957), which was largely shot on location in East Grinstead. It was financed by his father. Later, he wrote, produced and directed a short, The Square (1957), starring A. E. Mathews, and which again was financed by Winner's father.
Winner's first on-screen feature credit was earned as a writer for the low-budget crime film Man with a Gun (1958) directed by Montgomery Tully. He went on to direct the shorts Danger, Women at Work (1959) and Watch the Birdie (1959), and was Associate Producer on Floating Fortress (1959), produced by Harold Baim.
Early British feature filmsEdit
Winner's first feature as director was Shoot to Kill (1960), which he also wrote. Dermot Walsh starred. He followed this with Climb Up the Wall (1960), which was essentially a series of music acts presented by Jack Jackson, but which Winner nonetheless wrote and directed.
Winner's third feature as director was the thriller Murder on the Campus (1961), also known as Out of the Shadow, which Winner also wrote and helped produce. Dermot Walsh starred once again, together with Terence Longdon. Shortly afterwards, Winner wrote and directed the short Girls Girls Girls! (1961) which was narrated by Jackson, and directed the short feature Old Mac (1961), written by Richard Aubrey and starring Charles Lamb, Vi Stevens and Tania Mallet.
Winner directed the shorts Haunted England (1961), It's Magic (1962), and Behave Yourself (1962), the latter of which was based on Emily Post's Book of Manners, and whose cast included Jackson and Dennis Price.
Winner's next feature, Some Like It Cool (1962), is the tale of a young woman who introduces her prudish husband and in-laws to the joys of nudism. Filmed at Longleat, Winner was afraid the sight of bare flesh would offend the magistrate for the area, so he confided his worries to the landowner, the Marquess of Bath. 'Don't worry,' said the Marquess, 'I am the local magistrate.' The film cost £9,000 and Winner said it made its money back in a week.
Winner went on to update Gilbert and Sullivan, writing the screenplay and directing a version of The Mikado titled The Cool Mikado (1963), starring Frankie Howerd and Stubby Kaye and which was produced by Harold Baim.
Winner's film The System (1964), also known as The Girl-Getters, began a partnership with actor Oliver Reed that would last for six films over a 25-year period, and was based on a script by Peter Draper. Winner would later receive an offer from Columbia to direct a comedy, You Must Be Joking! (1965). It starred American import Michael Callan and the support cast included Lionel Jeffries and Denholm Elliott, while Winner also wrote the script.
Winner was reunited with Reed on The Jokers (1967), a comedy where Reed was teamed with Michael Crawford. It was based on a script by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais from a story by Winner for his own company, Scimitar Productions (for Universal's English operations, then under Jay Kanter). The resulting movie was a popular hit.
Winner and Reed then made the comedy-drama I'll Never Forget What's'isname (1967), co-starring Orson Welles, Carol White and Harry Andrews, also for Scimitar. Draper wrote the script, which was a spoof of the advertising world, and the film was also done for Universal.
Winner did some uncredited directing on A Little of What You Fancy (1967), a documentary about the history of the British music hall. Then he and Reed made their fourth feature together, the World War II satire Hannibal Brooks (1969), again from a Clement/La Frenais script and based on a story by Winner.
Early American filmsEdit
Hannibal Brooks drew notice in Hollywood, and Winner soon received an opportunity to direct his first American film, for United Artists; this was Lawman (1971), a Western starring Burt Lancaster and Robert Duvall, and for which Gerald Wilson was the writer.
Back in England, Winner directed Marlon Brando in The Nightcomers (1971), a prequel to The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, the first of many films for which Winner was credited as editor using the pseudonym 'Arnold Crust'.
Winner edited, producer and directed Chato's Land (1972), recounting a mixed race American Indian fighting with Whites. It starred Charles Bronson and was done for Scimitar through United Artists. Once more, Gerald Wilson wrote the script. Winner's second film for Bronson and United Artists was The Mechanic (1972), a thriller in which professional assassins are depicted. It was based on a story and script by Lewis John Carlino and Winner also edited, although he did not produce; he replaced Monte Hellman as director.
The following year, Winner cast Lancaster again in the espionage drama Scorpio (1973), co-starring Alain Delon and made for Scimitar and United Artists. Winner also produced and directed a third film with Bronson, The Stone Killer (1973), for Columbia and in collaboration with producer Dino De Laurentiis.
Winner and Bronson collaborated on Death Wish (1974), a film that defined the subsequent careers of both men. Based on a novel by Brian Garfield and adapted for the screen by Wendell Mayes, Death Wish was originally planned for director Sidney Lumet, under contract with United Artists. The commitment of Lumet to another film and UA's questioning of its subject matter, led to the film's eventual production by De Laurentiis through Paramount Pictures. Death Wish follows Paul Kersey, a liberal New York architect who becomes a gun-wielding vigilante after his wife is murdered and daughter is raped. With a script adjusted to Bronson's persona, the film generated controversy during its screenings but was one of the year's highest grossers.
Winner tried to break out of action films with Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976), an animal comedy Winner produced and directed, starring Bruce Dern, Madeline Kahn, Art Carney, and Milton Berle. Intended as a satire of Hollywood, it was a financial failure. Of modest success was his horror film The Sentinel (1977), which Winner wrote, produced and directed for Universal, and which was based on the novel by Jeffrey Konvitz.
Winner then wrote, produced and directed the remake of Raymond Chandler's novel The Big Sleep (1978), starring Robert Mitchum as Philip Marlowe with a strong support cast including John Mills, Sarah Miles, Richard Boone and Candy Clarke. The film was relocated to England, and financed by ITC Films. Also for ITC, Winner produced, edited and directed the organized crime thriller Firepower (1979). It was meant to star Bronson, who withdrew, and wound up starring Sophia Loren and James Coburn.
Reunion with Bronson/Cannon FilmsEdit
By the early 1980s, Winner found himself in great need of a successful film and accepted Charles Bronson's request to film Death Wish II (1981), a sequel to the 1974 hit. Bronson had already signed a lucrative deal with Cannon Films, independent producer of exploitation fare and marginal art house titles. The sequel, co-starring Bronson's wife Jill Ireland, considerably increased the violence to more graphic levels. Winner said the film was 'the same, but different', to the original. 'That's what sequels are – Rocky II, Rocky III – you don't see Sylvester Stallone move to the Congo and become a nurse. Here the look of LA is what's different. Besides – rape doesn't date!' Death Wish II made a $2 million profit for Cannon films and made an extra $29 million worldwide.
The success of Death Wish II enabled Winner to raise money from Cannon for a dream project: a 1983 remake of 1945's The Wicked Lady, this time starring Faye Dunaway and which Winner wrote, produced and directed.
Winner was also attached to direct Cannon's 1990 film Captain America, from a script by James Silke, which he would revise with Stan Hey, and then Stan Lee and Lawrence Block. By 1987, however, Winner was off the project.
Winner's final film for Cannon was an adaptation of the Agatha Christie novel Appointment with Death (1989) starring Peter Ustinov as Poirot. Winner produced, edited and directed; but despite a strong support cast including Lauren Bacall and Carrie Fisher, the film flopped.
Final British filmsEdit
After Cannon Films entered bankruptcy, Winner confined himself to British productions. He produced and directed an adaptation of the Alan Ayckbourn musical play A Chorus of Disapproval (1989) with Anthony Hopkins, and also wrote the script with Ayckbourn.
Winner produced, directed and edited the Michael Caine and Roger Moore farce Bullseye! (1990), based on a story by Winner. Later, he wrote, produced and directed Dirty Weekend (1993), starring Lia Williams; and hosted the television series True Crimes, which was cancelled in 1994.
In 1994, Winner appeared as a guest artist – alongside Joan Collins, Christopher Biggins and Marc Sinden (who in 1983 had appeared in Winner's The Wicked Lady) – in Steven Berkoff's film version of his own play Decadence.
Other media activityEdit
Winner was a regular panellist on BBC Radio 4's Any Questions, and later appeared on television programmes including BBC1's Question Time and BBC2's Have I Got News for You. He was also an occasional columnist for the Daily Mail throughout the 2000s, and an honorary member of BAFTA and of the Directors Guild of Great Britain. His autobiography Winner Takes All: A Life of Sorts was published by Robson Books in 2006, it largely describes his experiences with many big-screen actors. Winner also wrote a dieting book, The Fat Pig Diet Book.
Winner also featured in television commercials that he himself directed for insurance company esure between 2002 and 2009, with his trade-mark catchphrase 'Calm down, dear! It's just a commercial!' He was referred to repeatedly in the QI edition "Illness".
Winner became engaged to Geraldine Lynton-Edwards in 2007. They had met in 1957, when he was a 21-year-old film-maker and she was a 16-year-old actress and ballet dancer. They married on 19 September 2011 at Chelsea Town Hall, London. Michael and Shakira Caine were witnesses to the ceremony.
Winner lived in the former home of painter Luke Fildes in Holland Park, Woodland House, designed for Fildes by Richard Norman Shaw. It was announced in 2008 that Winner intended to leave his house as a museum, but discussions with Kensington and Chelsea council apparently stalled after they were unable to meet the £15 million cost of purchasing the freehold of the property, which expires in 2046.
On 1 January 2007, Winner acquired the bacterial infection Vibrio vulnificus from eating an oyster in Barbados. He almost had a leg amputated, and verged on the brink of death several times. Before recovering, Winner was infected with the 'hospital superbug' MRSA. In September 2011, he was admitted to hospital with food poisoning after eating steak tartare, a raw meat dish, four days in a row. The dish is not recommended for those with a weak immune system, and in retrospect Winner regarded his decision to eat it as 'stupid'.
Police Memorial TrustEdit
Winner was an active proponent of law enforcement issues, and established the Police Memorial Trust after WPC Yvonne Fletcher was murdered in 1984. Thirty-six local memorials honouring police officers who died in the line of duty, have been erected since 1985, beginning with that of Fletcher in St. James's Square, London. The National Police Memorial, opposite St. James's Park at the junction of Horse Guards Road and The Mall, was also unveiled by Queen Elizabeth II on 26 April 2005.
In 2006, it was revealed that Winner had been offered but declined an OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours for his part in campaigning for the Police Memorial Trust. Winner remarked: 'An OBE is what you get if you clean the toilets well at King's Cross station.' Winner subsequently alleged (on his Twitter page) that he had also turned down a knighthood.
Winner remained prominent in British life for other reasons, including his outspoken restaurant reviews. His fame as a restaurant critic was such that, at a Cornwall cafe, an unconsumed piece of his serving of lemon drizzle cake was incorporated into the Museum of Celebrity Leftovers. Winner wrote his column, "Winner's Dinners", in The Sunday Times for more than twenty years. On 2 December 2012, he announced that he was to contribute his last review because of poor health, which had put him in hospital eight times in the previous seven months.
Winner was an outspoken character. He was a member of the Conservative Party and supporter of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Winner was praised for having liberal views on gay rights, in particular during an episode of Richard Littlejohn Live and Uncut, where he attacked the presenter (who had been in the midst of an attack on two lesbian guests) for his stance on same-gender marriage and parenting, going so far as to say to him 'The lesbians have come over with considerable dignity whereas you have come over as an arsehole.' After Winner's death, this moment was brought up many times in eulogies to him. In a 2009 interview with The Daily Telegraph, Winner bemoaned political correctness, and said that if he was Prime Minister, he would be 'to the right of Hitler'.
Interests and hobbiesEdit
Winner was an art collector, and a connoisseur of British illustration. Winner's art collection includes works by Jan Micker, William James, Edmund Dulac, E. H. Shepard, Arthur Rackham, Kay Nielsen and Beatrix Potter. His collection once included almost 200 signed colour-washed illustrations by Donald McGill.
Winner spent his free time gardening ('my garden is floodlit, so I quite often garden after midnight') or with a string of girlfriends, notably the actress Jenny Seagrove. He claimed that his life had not altered in the past 40 years: 'I do essentially the same things I did as an 18-year-old', he said. 'I go on dates, I make films, I write. Nothing has really changed.'
In an interview with The Times in October 2012, Winner said liver specialists had told him that he had between 18 months and two years to live. He said he had researched assisted suicide offered at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland, but found the bureaucracy of the process off-putting. Winner died at his home, Woodland House in Holland Park, on 21 January 2013, aged 77. Winner was buried following a traditional Jewish funeral at Willesden Jewish Cemetery.
Following the allegations made against Harvey Weinstein in October 2017, Winner was accused by three women, Debbie Arnold, Cindy Marshall-Day and an unidentified woman, of demanding they expose their breasts to him – in Arnold's case during an audition at his home. The two named women refused. Actress Marina Sirtis, who was directed by Winner in The Wicked Lady and Death Wish 3, has implied she was mistreated by Winner, as reported by The Stage in 2019:
When it comes to the dark side of film, TV and theatre's treatment of women, Sirtis is 'in awe of those young actresses' who have spoken out as part of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. She reveals she has been assaulted during her career. 'I went to see an agent here and he lifted up my dress', she says. 'And I know you're not supposed to speak ill of the dead', she adds, but she hopes that film director Michael Winner, who directed her in Death Wish 3, will 'rot in hell for all eternity'.
(from 1967 also producer)
- The Square (1956)
- This is Belgium (1956)
- Man with a Gun (1958)
- It's Magic (1958)
- Danger, Women at Work (1959)
- Floating Fortress (1959) (associate producer)
- Girls, Girls, Girls! (1961) (directed and written by)
- Haunted England (1961)
- Behave Yourself (1962)
- Climb Up the Wall (1960)
- Shoot to Kill (1960)
- Some Like It Cool (1961)
- Old Mac (1961)
- Out of the Shadow (1961)
- Play It Cool (1962)
- The Cool Mikado (1963)
- West 11 (1963)
- The System (1964)
- You Must Be Joking! (1965)
- The Jokers (1967)
- I'll Never Forget What's'isname (1967)
- Hannibal Brooks (1969)
- The Games (1970)
- Lawman (1971)
- The Nightcomers (1971)
- Chato's Land (1972)
- The Mechanic (1972)
- Scorpio (1973)
- The Stone Killer (1973)
- Death Wish (1974)
- Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976)
- The Sentinel (1977)
- The Big Sleep (1978)
- Firepower (1979)
- Death Wish II (1982)
- The Wicked Lady (1983)
- Scream for Help (1984)
- Death Wish 3 (1985)
- Appointment with Death (1988)
- A Chorus of Disapproval (1989)
- Bullseye! (1990)
- Dirty Weekend (1993)
- Parting Shots (1999)
- Food writing
- Winner's Dinners: The Good, the Bad and the Unspeakable (1999)
- The Winner Guide to Dining and Whining (2002)
- The Harry's Bar Cookbook (2006, Arrigo Cipriani, foreword by Michael Winner)
- The Fat Pig Diet (2007)
- Winner's Dinners: The Restaurant & Hotel Guide (2009)
- Unbelievable!: My Life in Restaurants and Other Places (2010)
- Winner Takes All: A Life of Sorts (2004)
- Tales I Never Told (2011)
- Michael Winner's True Crimes (1992)
- Michael Winner's Hymie Joke Book (2012)
- Film criticism
- The Films of Michael Winner (1978, Bill Harding, foreword by Michael Winner)
- Film biography
- Fade To Black (2003, Paul Donnelley, foreword by Michael Winner)
- Six English Filmmakers (2014, Paul Sutton, contributor Michael Winner)
- "Michael Winner". The Telegraph. London. 21 January 2013.
- "Index entry:Winner, Michael". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 22 January 2013.
- "Michael Winner Biography (1935–)". Filmreference.com. 30 October 1935.
- McGrath, Nick (10 October 2009). "Michael Winner: My family values". The Guardian. London.
- Faces of the week, BBC News, 29 April 2005. Accessed 28 August 2009.
- Winner, Michael (25 November 2007). "Great Queen Street". The Times. London.
- "Overview for Michael Winner". Tcm.com. Retrieved 19 October 2011.
- Showgirl Glamour Revue (closed) Archived 18 January 2009 at the Wayback Machine. A-Z of Men's Magazines
- NME: Still rocking at 50. BBC.co.uk (24 February 2002).
- Garrahan, Matthew (24 September 2004). "Weekend interview: Michael Winner". FT. London. p. 1.
- "MAN WITH A GUN". Monthly Film Bulletin. 25 (288). London. 1 January 1958. p. 129.
- "SHOOT TO KILL". Monthly Film Bulletin. 28 (324). London. 1 January 1961. p. 12.
- "CLIMB UP THE WALL". Monthly Film Bulletin. 27 (312). London. 1 January 1960. p. 68.
- "OUT OF THE SHADOW". Monthly Film Bulletin. 28 (324). London. 1 January 1961. p. 99.
- "OLD MAC". Monthly Film Bulletin. 28 (324). London. 1 January 1961. p. 66.
- "Tania Mallet, Tilly Masterson in James Bond film Goldfinger, dies aged 77". The Guardian. 1 April 2019. Retrieved 1 April 2019.
- Slotnik, Daniel E. (22 January 2013). "Michael Winner, 77, 'Death Wish' Director: [Obituary; Biography]". The New York Times (Late (East Coast) ed.). p. A.19.
- Watts, Stephen (19 August 1962). "English Screen Scene: Gilbert and Sullivan in the Groove – Focus on Fonda and Tushingham". The New York Times. p. 99.
- Martin, B. (3 June 1966). "Gavin signs universal pact". Los Angeles Times. ProQuest 155503215.
- Martin, Betty (22 February 1967). "Schell to Direct 'Garden'". Los Angeles Times. p. e14.
- MARK SHIVAS (11 June 1967). "The Jokers' Make Him the Winner". The New York Times. p. 133.
- "Hannibal Brooks (1969) Directed by Michael Winner". LETTERBOXD. Retrieved 28 March 2018.
- Goodwin, Cliff Evil Spirits: The Life of Oliver Reed, London: Virgin Publishing Ltd, 2000
- Haber, Joyce (27 August 1975). "To Rinny With Love and G Rating". Los Angeles Times. p. e10.
- Steiner, Stephen (3 September 1978). "New bottles for the old Juice". Chicago Tribune. p. g10.
- Trombetta, Jim (13 July 1981). "THE REINCARNATION OF A 'DEATH WISH'". Los Angeles Times. p. g1.
- Andrew Yule, Hollywood a Go-Go: The True Story of the Cannon Film Empire, Sphere Books, 1987 p24
- Mann, Roderick (26 October 1982). "FAYE DUNAWAY: ENJOYING LIFE ON THE SCREEN AGAIN". Los Angeles Times. p. g1.
- Basler, Robert (31 October 1985). "Tempo: Another 'Death Wish' comes to life". Chicago Tribune. p. d13A.
- "The "Never Got Made" Files #66: Cannon's CAPTAIN AMERICA (1984–87)". Video Junkie. 22 July 2011.
- Klady, Leonard (8 January 1989). "Box Office Champs, Chumps : The hero of the bottom line was the 46-year-old 'Bambi' – Page 2". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 26 June 2012.
- JOHN CULHANE (14 January 1990). "In 'Bulls-Eye!' the Aim Is Laughter: Michael Caine and Roger Moore play four roles as Michael Winner directs a caper comedy. In 'Bull's-Eye!' Michael Winner Aims for Laughter". The New York Times. p. H15.
- Richard Ford and Alexandra Frean (30 August 1994). "Winner blames internal politics for demise of True Crimes Michael Winner show;Michael Winner". The Times.
- May, Dinah (27 October 2014). Surviving Michael Winner: A Thirty-Year Odyssey. Biteback Publishing. ISBN 9781849548243.
- "Director Michael Winner to marry for first time". BBC. 11 August 2011.
- "Interview: Michael Winner on collecting Donald McGill". The Arts Desk. Retrieved 1 July 2012.
- Hibbert, Christopher; Weinreb, Ben; Keay, John; Keay, Julia (9 May 2011). The London Encyclopaedia (3rd ed.). Pan Macmillan. p. 539. ISBN 978-0-230-73878-2. Retrieved 21 June 2012.
- Kay, Richard (17 March 2011). "Food critic poisoned by his dinner – Life & Style". NZ Herald News.
- "Police Memorial Trust". Policememorial.org.uk. 19 March 2009.
- "Winner shuns 'toilet-cleaner OBE", BBC News (28 May 2006). Accessed 28 August 2009.
- "Emma's Eccentric Britain: the Museum of Celebrity Leftovers, Cornwall". The Guardian. 18 May 2012.
- "Michael Winner". The Times. London. 29 May 2010. Archived from the original on 28 May 2010.
- Kuo, Patricia (2 December 2012). Restaurant Columnist Winner Pens Last Review, Sunday Times Says. Bloomberg.
- Parfitt, Orlando. (21 January 2013) Michael Winner death: His best quotes. Uk.movies.yahoo.com. Retrieved on 28 January 2013.
- Thompson, Ben (10 July 1994). "Oases amid the Troubles", The Independent
- Video: Archive video: Michael Winner calls Richard Littlejohn an -hole on TV. Telegraph (21 January 2013). Retrieved on 28 January 2013.
- Screenwriter » Michael Winner and the lesbians. Irishtimes.com (21 January 2013). Retrieved on 28 January 2013.
- Michael Winner knew how preposterous he was and was never afraid to laugh at himself – Andy Dawson – Mirror Online. Mirror.co.uk (22 January 2013). Retrieved on 28 January 2013.
- "Film director to leave house and collection to nation". The Arts Newspaper. Retrieved 1 July 2012.
- "Film director Michael Winner: Life in pictures". The Telegraph. London. 31 May 2011.
- "Michael Winner researching assisted suicide | Showbiz". Express.co.uk. 4 October 2012. Retrieved 21 January 2013.
- "Michael Winner: Film Director Dies Aged 77". News.sky.com. 19 September 2012. Archived from the original on 16 February 2013.
- Whitworth, Damian (4 October 2012). "Michael Winner, film director and restaurant critic, dies aged 77". The Times. Retrieved 21 January 2013.
- "Film director and restaurant critic Michael Winner has died aged 77". BBC. 21 January 2013.
- Shepherd, Jack (23 October 2017). "Michael Winner: Three actresses say the director demanded to see their naked breasts". The Independent.
- Wicker, Tom (18 June 2019). "Actor Marina Sirtis: 'You know you're an icon when the drag queens start doing you'". The Stage.
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