Robert Michael Winner (30 October 1935 – 21 January 2013) was an English film director and producer, and a restaurant critic for The Sunday Times.
Winner in 2010
Robert Michael Winner
30 October 1935
|Died||21 January 2013 (aged 77)|
|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 aged 78 in 1984.
He 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 (he 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 showbusiness 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 wrote, produced and directed a short, The Square (1957), starring A.E. Mathews. It was financed by Winner's father.
Winner directed the shorts Danger, Women at Work (1959) and Watch the Birdie (1959) and was Associate Producer on Floating Fortress (1959) produced by Harold Baim.
He wrote and directed the short Girls Girls Girls! (1961) which was narrated by Jack Jackson, and directed the short feature Old Mac (1961), written by Richard Aubrey and starring Charles Lamb, Vi Stevens and Tania Mallet.
His 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, he was afraid the sight of bare flesh would offend the magistrate for the area so he confided his worries to the landowner. "Don’t worry," said the Marquess, "I am the local magistrate." The film cost £9,000 and Winner says it made its money back in a week 
Winner updated Gilbert and Sullivan, writing the screenplay and directing a version of The Mikado titled The Cool Mikado (1963), starring Frankie Howerd and Stubby Kaye which was produced by Harold Baim.
Winner received 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. 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 Winner's own company, Scimitar Productions for Universal's English operations, then under Jay Kanter. The movie was a popular hit.
He 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. It 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.
Hannibal Brooks drew notice in Hollywood and Winner soon received an opportunity to direct his first American film, which was Lawman (1971), a Western starring Burt Lancaster and Robert Duvall for United Artists. Gerald Wilson was the writer.
Back in England he 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 he 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. Gerald Wilson wrote it.
Winner's second film for Bronson and United Artists was The Mechanic (also 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.
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 to 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 Dino 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 and 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.
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 Charles Bronson who withdrew and wound up starring Sophia Loren and James Coburn.
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!" It made a $2 million profit for Cannon films and made an extra $29 million worldwide.
For Miracle Films, Winner produced and directed the thriller Scream for Help (1984).
He produced a film called Claudia (1985), doing some uncredited directing and editing.
Winner was also attached to direct Cannon's 1990 film Captain America, from a James Silke script, which he would revise with Stan Hey, and then Stan Lee and Lawrence Block. By 1987, however, Winner was off the project and did Appointment with Death instead.
His 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. Despite a strong support cast including Lauren Bacall and Carrie Fisher the film flopped.
After Cannon Films entered bankruptcy, Winner confined himself to British productions.
He wrote, produced and directed Dirty Weekend (1993) starring Lia Williams.
He starred in a TV series recreating crimes called True Crimes which was cancelled in 1994.
In 1994 he 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.
He was a regular panellist on BBC Radio 4's Any Questions and later appeared on television programmes including the BBC TV's Question Time and Have I Got News for You. He was also an occasional columnist for the Daily Mail throughout the 2000s. He was 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. The book largely describes his experiences with many big-screen actors. He also wrote a dieting book, The Fat Pig Diet Book. He also featured in TV commercials that he himself directed for insurance company esure between 2002 and 2009, with his trade-mark catchphrase "Calm down, dear! It's a commercial!". He is referred to repeatedly in the QI episode "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. He stated "I have told Geraldine that it took me 72 years to get engaged so she's not to hold her breath for the marriage". However, they did marry, 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, Winner was also 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".
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 Fletcher's 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 "[they] have come across with considerable dignity and you have come across as an arsehole." After Winner's death, this moment was brought up many times in eulogies to him. In a 2009 interview with the Telegraph he bemoaned political correctness and said if he was Prime Minister he would be "to the right of Hitler".
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 newspaper 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.
Winner claimed during his lifetime to be worth £75 million, with £25m in offshore bank accounts and his home worth an additional £50m. But on his death his bank accounts were frozen, and a formal investigation of his affairs began. During this, it emerged that Winner had been supporting two former lovers, both of whom had been provided with living expenses and accommodation. The financial assistance extended also to his long-term personal assistant, the former Miss Great Britain Dinah May. After investigations, it was revealed that Winner's total estate was actually worth £16.8m, with total outstanding debts of £12m. In his will, Winner had left his wife a lump sum of £5m, but the residual estate was only worth £4.75m. His former wife, P.A. and lovers engaged probate lawyers to contest the will and their sums due from it. However, Winner also had substantial assets in Guernsey. When the Guernsey probate was later added, Winner had left a total of £50m and this was sufficient to provide for all his beneficiaries in full, as well as to leave a substantial balance to the Police Memorial Trust.
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.
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Appointment with Death is a 1988 British mystery film made by Golan-Globus Productions and produced and directed by Michael Winner. It is an adaptation of the Agatha Christie novel Appointment with Death featuring the detective Hercule Poirot. The screenplay was by Peter Buckman, Anthony Shaffer and Michael Winner.
The film stars Peter Ustinov as Poirot, along with Lauren Bacall, Carrie Fisher, John Gielgud, Piper Laurie, Hayley Mills, Jenny Seagrove and David Soul.
Gielgud and Bacall had previously co-starred in another big-screen Poirot adaptation, 1974's Murder on the Orient Express.Bullseye! (1990 film)
Bullseye! is a 1990 British-American action comedy film starring Michael Caine and Roger Moore. It was directed by Michael Winner. It was released on 2 November 1990, to mixed reviews and was a box office disappointment. It has since developed a small cult following, even a subreddit.Charles Bronson
Charles Bronson (born Charles Dennis Buchinsky; Lithuanian: Karolis Dionyzas Bučinskis; November 3, 1921 – August 30, 2003) was an American actor.
He was often cast in the role of a police officer, gunfighter, or vigilante in revenge-oriented plot lines. He had long-term collaborations with film directors Michael Winner and J. Lee Thompson, and appeared in fifteen films alongside his second wife, Jill Ireland.Death Wish (1974 film)
Death Wish is a 1974 American vigilante action film, loosely based on the 1972 novel of the same title by Brian Garfield. The film was directed by Michael Winner and stars Charles Bronson as Paul Kersey, an architect who becomes a vigilante after his wife is murdered and his daughter sexually assaulted during a home invasion. It was the first of the Death Wish film franchise. It was succeeded by Death Wish II.
At the time of release, the film was derided by many film critics due to its support of vigilantism and advocating unlimited punishment of criminals. The novel denounced vigilantism, whereas the film embraced the notion. The film was a commercial success and resonated with the public in the United States, which was facing increasing crime rates during the 1970s.Death Wish 3
Death Wish 3 is a 1985 American action thriller film directed and edited by Michael Winner. It is the third film and the last to be directed by Winner in the Death Wish film series. It stars Charles Bronson as vigilante killer Paul Kersey, and sees Kersey do battle with New York street punk gangs while receiving tacit support from a local NYPD lieutenant (Ed Lauter). Despite being set in New York City, some of the filming was shot in London to reduce production costs. It was succeeded by Death Wish IV.Death Wish II
Death Wish II is a 1982 American vigilante action film directed and co-edited by Michael Winner. It is the first of four sequels to the 1974 film Death Wish. In the story, architect Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) moves to Los Angeles with his daughter (Robin Sherwood). After his daughter is murdered at the hands of several gang members, Kersey is once again forced to become a vigilante. Unlike the original, in which he hunts down every criminal he encounters, Kersey only pursues his family's attackers. The sequel makes a complete breakaway from the Brian Garfield novels Death Wish and Death Sentence, redefining the Paul Kersey character. It was succeeded by Death Wish III.
The sequel was produced by Cannon Films, which had purchased the rights to the Death Wish concept from Dino De Laurentiis. Cannon executive Menahem Golan planned to direct the film, but Winner returned on Bronson's insistence. The soundtrack was composed by guitarist Jimmy Page. Death Wish II was released in the United States in February 1982 by Filmways Pictures but like the original, Columbia Pictures handled the international release and Paramount Pictures via Trifecta Entertainment & Media handles the television rights. It earned $16.1 million during its domestic theatrical run.Firepower (film)
Firepower is a 1979 British thriller film directed by Michael Winner and starring Sophia Loren, James Coburn, O. J. Simpson and Eli Wallach. It was the final film in the career of actor Victor Mature. The film was poorly reviewed by critics who objected to its convoluted plot, though the lead performances and filming locations were generally praised.Hannibal Brooks
Hannibal Brooks is a 1969 British-American war comedy film directed by Michael Winner and written by Ian La Frenais and Dick Clement based on a story by Winner and Tom Wright. The film follows a prisoner of war's attempt to escape from Nazi Germany to Switzerland during World War II, accompanied by an Asian elephant. It stars Oliver Reed, Michael J. Pollard and Wolfgang Preiss. The title is a reference to the Carthaginian military commander Hannibal who led an army of war elephants over the Alps.I'll Never Forget What's'isname
I'll Never Forget What's'isname (DVD box title: I'll Never Forget What's 'Isname) is a 1967 British film directed and produced by Michael Winner. It stars Oliver Reed as disillusioned London advertising executive Andrew Quint, who revolts against his boss, Jonathan Lute (Orson Welles), and escapes into Swinging London.Parting Shots
Parting Shots is a 1999 British dark comedy film starring Chris Rea, Felicity Kendal, Oliver Reed, Bob Hoskins, Diana Rigg, Ben Kingsley, John Cleese and Joanna Lumley. It was the final film directed by Michael Winner.
Upon release in the UK, the film gained controversy over its plot, and was widely criticised in the national press. It has since been evaluated as one of the worst films ever made.The Big Sleep (1978 film)
The Big Sleep is a 1978 British neo-noir film, the second film version of Raymond Chandler's 1939 novel of the same name. The picture was directed by Michael Winner and stars Robert Mitchum in his second film portrayal of the detective Philip Marlowe. The cast includes Sarah Miles, Candy Clark, Joan Collins, and Oliver Reed, also featuring James Stewart as General Sternwood.The story's setting was changed from 1940s Los Angeles to 1970s London. The film contained material more explicit than what could only be hinted at in the 1946 version, such as homosexuality, pornography and nudity. Mitchum was 60 at the time of filming, far older than Chandler's 33-year-old Marlowe (or the 1946 film's 38-year-old Marlowe played by a 44-year-old Bogart).The Games (film)
The Games is a 1970 British sports drama film directed by Michael Winner. It is based on the Hugh Atkinson novel and adapted to the screen by Erich Segal. The plot concerned four marathon competitors at a fictitious Olympic Games in Rome, played by Michael Crawford, Ryan O'Neal, Charles Aznavour and Athol Compton. Elton John recorded one song ('From Denver To L.A.') for the soundtrack.
To simulate vast crowds of people, thousands of life-sized dummies were placed in the stadium's seats in Rome Olympic stadium.The Jokers
The Jokers is a 1967 British comedy film written by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, and directed by Michael Winner. The film stars Michael Crawford and Oliver Reed as brothers who hatch a plot to steal the Crown Jewels.
Very much of its time - "Swinging London" - the film makes great use of London locations. Included was a short sequence of Jezebel, a 1916 Dennis N-Type fire engine that is still owned and run by the Royal College of Science Union at Imperial College London.The Sentinel (1977 film)
The Sentinel is a 1977 American supernatural horror film based on the 1974 novel of the same name by Jeffrey Konvitz, who also co-wrote the screenplay with director Michael Winner. The film stars Cristina Raines, Chris Sarandon, Ava Gardner, Burgess Meredith, Sylvia Miles and Eli Wallach. It also features Christopher Walken, Jeff Goldblum, John Carradine, Jerry Orbach, Tom Berenger, Nana Visitor and Beverly D'Angelo in supporting roles.
The plot focuses on a young model who moves into a historic Brooklyn brownstone that has been sectioned into apartments, only to find that its proprietors are excommunicated Catholic priests and that the building is a gateway to Hell.
The film was released by Universal Pictures in 1977.The Stone Killer
The Stone Killer is a 1973 action thriller film produced and directed by Michael Winner and starring Charles Bronson. It came out in between The Mechanic (1972) and Death Wish (1974), all three of which teamed up actor/director Bronson and Winner. Norman Fell and John Ritter appear as cops in this film, not too long before the TV series Three's Company. Character actor Stuart Margolin plays a significant role; he also appeared in Death Wish.The System (1964 film)
The System (US: The Girl-Getters) is a 1964 British drama film directed by Michael Winner and starring Oliver Reed, Jane Merrow and Barbara Ferris. Julie Christie was originally intended to be in the film, but she had to withdraw, and was replaced by Julia Foster. The writer was Peter Draper, who in this film popularised the word 'grockle' to mean a holiday visitor.The Wicked Lady (1983 film)
The Wicked Lady is a 1983 British drama film directed by Michael Winner. It was screened out of competition at the 1983 Cannes Film Festival. It is a remake of the 1945 film of the same name, which was one of the popular series of Gainsborough melodramas.Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood
Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood is a 1976 American comedy film directed by Michael Winner, and stars Bruce Dern, Madeline Kahn, Teri Garr and Art Carney. Spoofing the craze surrounding Rin Tin Tin, the film is notable for the large number of cameo appearances by actors and actresses from Hollywood's golden age many of whom had been employees of Paramount Pictures, the film's distributor.You Must Be Joking! (1965 film)
You Must Be Joking! is a 1965 British comedy film directed by Michael Winner.
Films directed by Michael Winner