Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Britain is no longer a country for and says "Goodbye" to an irrepessible old, table mat and film maker called Michael Winner

Michael Winner, who has died aged 77, provoked great passions among those who knew him, to some  he was a visionary, whose films, especially his early ones, exhibited a remarkable narrative skill and others saw him as a purveyor of violence and sleaze, a dilettante who traded his talent for the transient pleasures of the bon viveur.

What you possibly didn't know about Michael, that :

* at the end of his life had a succession of young women share evenings among his antiques in his Victorian mansion, but did not live on the premises, where his companions included five full-time cleaners and herds of soft toys and where he, on more solitary evenings, cut and glued table mats and said obituarists would describe him as a 'table-mat maker', adding 'film-maker' if there were space.
* he was born in London, the only child of mother and builder father of Polish and Russian extraction respectively, where his  father propped up houses blitzed in the War and used profits to invest in  property and fund his wife's gambling, which, Michael later complained, so distracted 'Mumsie', that he was neglected and, for example, left in the bedroom with the mink coats of guests who came to his barmitzvah, only to play poker with her.
* was a boarder at the quaker, St Christopher School, in Letchworth, Hertfordshire, where he was an attention seeker with a 'craving for power which he is trying to achieve by the use of his money' and earned a 'reputation of being movie mad' after he pinned handwritten reviews on the noticeboard.

* at 16, was asked to leave school because, they claimed, he was “out of sympathy” with their aims and was then judged 'medically unfit' for National Service, spent a year cramming for his exams before going up to Downing College, Cambridge, in 1953, at the age of 17, studied law and economics, edited the Varsity newspaper and persuaded the owner of the Rex Cinema in Cambridge to apply to the local council to approve a showing of 'The Wild One', banned by the censor because of its violence, a stunt which attracted nationwide interest.
* after graduation, applied for and was turned down for a directors' courses at tv companies,  worked as a journalist and film critic at the New Musical Expess, before joining Motion Pictures Limited as a writer and editor in 1956 and then as a journalist on London's Evening Standard before moving into film production, directing his first film, 'Shoot to Kill', in 1960.

* used the £1,500 his father loaned him for his 1962 film, money soon recouped from 'Some Like It Cool', a comedy in a nudist camp which was followed, from 1963 to '69 with : the singer, Billy Fury, in 'Play It Cool' ; 'West 11'; 'The System' ; 'You Must Be Joking!'; for which he blew up a car in Piccadilly Circus in the rush hour and told police he had no idea who was in charge; 'The Jokers' and 'I'll Never Forget What's 'Isname' with Oliver Reed and Orson Welles; 'Hannibal Brooks' https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQNLsSPGJ-I and 'The Games' about an Olympic Marathon. 

* moved to film making in Holywood saying :"I was looking for something that would keep us employed. You don't have that much choice" and started with the westerns 'Lawman', shot in Spain with rubber cacti and 'Chato's Land' in 1972 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4nfElgOSO5k and after mentioning to the actor Charles Bronson the idea of a man 'justified' by the rape and murder of his womenfolk to shoot muggers, directed 'Death Wish' https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_GieK_55uyY
and two sequels and debated their controversy :

* said that the film of which he was most proud was 'The Nightcomers' https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lbtvJSI3Rik in 1971, a prequel to Henry James's 'The Turn of the Screw', starring Marlon Brando and Stephanie Beacham.

* directed versions of 'The Big Sleep' with Robert Mitchum in 1978 and 'The Wicked Lady' in 1983 which as Bronson remarked, were 'abusively hard on women.' and it was during these years, his, by then widowed mother who he described as a "nice, little, white-haired lady … She was a killer", sold paintings and antiques left to him to fund her casino losses and set 11 firms of solicitors on him.

* in 1984 set up the 'Police Memorial Trust' in response to the murder of WPC Yvonne Fletcher and tlater turned down the offer of an OBE for his work on behalf of the police, remarking: “An OBE is what you get if you clean the toilets well at King’s Cross Station” and later said that he had declined a knighthood.

* began to describe films as a hobby and spent his millions on a garage of cars which he drove 'Mr Toadishly' and the restored mansion, Woodland House, the former home of the Victorian artist Sir Luke Fildes, with his valuable collection of artwork for children's books, including EH Shepard's drawings of Winnie-the-Pooh and the artwork of Donald McGill, master of the ribald, big-bosomed seaside postcard.
* re-encountered Geraldine Lynton-Edwards, whom he had met in 1957 when she was a teenage ballet dancer and married in 2011 and after intending to leave his house to the nation, put it up for sale for £60million just before his marriage and also auctioned much of his art collection, but swore this was not to repay £9million he had borrowed for little luxuries, including the hire of helicopters.

* was encouraged by the 'Sunday Times' into restaurant reviewing for his 'Winner's Dinners' columns which were less about digestion than self-definition resulting in several famous eateries banned him for his bullying.
* used the catchphrase, "calm down dear"https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=efl5pFTFnBU, in the tv ads he directed and appeared in, once in drag, for the  displacing his own excitability and fluster on to female others and saw David Cameron the Prime Minister heavily criticised when in 2011, he directed it against the Labour Member of Parliament, Angela Eagle.

* facing the prospect of death said that he had been investigating the possibility of travelling to the assisted suicide clinic, 'Dignitas' in Switzerland “I’ve got no fear about death,” he said recently. “I’m very happy to snuff it; you have to live with the cards you’ve been dealt with" and admitted that not having children was a “the one mistake that wipes out everything I have ever done”.

* was described by the veteran critic Barry Norman, who, many years ago when working on the Daily Mail had been ordered to fire Michael, then one of his underlings considered him entertaining enough, “but he can also be rude and a bully, as if it amuses him to confront the world in the guise of a self-made shit ... Perhaps what gripes him is that he wanted to be a great director and never became one.”     

With Prime Minister David Cameron as Chairman of the Police Memorial Trust.

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