Hollywood seems to be running low on genuine characters and today we lost one more. To most ill informed people Michael Winner is just that silver haired "Calm down dear" chap off the tele. To those of us that have actually read a book Michael Winner is one of Britains most underrated filmmakers
An early career in journalism found the London born Winner mingling in the same circles as notable stars of the fifties such as James Stewart and Marlene Dietrich, and from those lofty beginnings he slowly worked his way behind a film camera. Early projects saw him directing programs for the BBC and cheap cinema shorts, but he gradually graduated to full length movies with a series of cheaply made but money spinning B-movies, Shoot To Kill (1960), Some Like It Cool (1961), Out Of The Shadow (1961).
More notable projects followed, West 11 (1962), before Winner met fellow English movie livewire Oliver Reed and teamed up with him for the first of their six films together, The System (1964). Not long after Winner announced himself on the world stage directing Marlon Brando in The Nightcomers (1972) before a second project with seventies hardman Charles Brosnan sealed Winner's Hollywood legacy forever.
Death Wish (1974) introduced the world to everyman vigilante Paul Kersey and set both Winners and Brosnan's careers for the next few decades. Death Wish kicked up controversy at the time and remains a harsh watch even by today's standards, but despite a battering from the critics audiences loved its pull-no-punches attitude. The series produced four sequels, with Winner directing three of them. Though on the face of it Winner seemed more concerned with earning box office sterling than critical plaudits his drive to do things his own way, everyone else be damned, produced some memorable cinematic art, perhaps none more pleasing than his update of the classic noir The Big Sleep (1978).
Outside of film Winner appeared to be a man that said what he liked and liked what he said, but there was much more to him than his bold media personality. Following the murder of young WPC Yvonne Fletcher in 1984 Winner set up the Police Memorial Trust and, ever the anti-conformist, turned down both an OBE and a Knighthood offered to him for his work in cinema and for his ongoing support for the Trust.
When questioned on his life Winner famously claimed that he still pursued the same interests now that he did when he was an eighteen year old; women, films and writing. As a life well spent, they don't come much better than that.