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January 21, 2013 7:54 AM   Subscribe

RIP Michael Winner, director of the Death Wish series among others, restaurant critic, Esure advert star (remix) and clean underpants wearer.
posted by fearfulsymmetry (24 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

Here he is calling Richard Littlejohn an arsehole.
posted by fight or flight at 8:02 AM on January 21, 2013 [16 favorites]

Thanks for that fight or flight, I'd totally forgotten Michael's finest hour
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:05 AM on January 21, 2013

Winner's Dinners was ridiculous. I remember reading it as a lad on gloomy November Sundays in Ireland, wondering why I wasn't on first name terms with Giovnanni the pastry chef at some restaurant in the Alps and mystified as to how you could spend more than £200 pounds eating alone.
posted by Damienmce at 8:10 AM on January 21, 2013 [4 favorites]

One of those people Brits love to hate and iirc wasn't it Paul Merton who said about him that he doesn't know the taste of spitless soup, but that takedown of Littlejohn makes up for a lot.
posted by MartinWisse at 8:11 AM on January 21, 2013

Michael Winner´s ''Just Desserts'' (via).
posted by adamvasco at 8:16 AM on January 21, 2013

Nothing for it but to track down that bacteria that killed him and shoot it in the face.

posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:16 AM on January 21, 2013

He was an extremely strange man.

I admired his use of Twitter. Unlike most public figures who use it largely as an extension of their PR, his feed was little more than a bizarre stream-of-consciousness.

posted by TheAlarminglySwollenFinger at 8:21 AM on January 21, 2013

Love that Littlejohn smack-down.

posted by colie at 8:39 AM on January 21, 2013

posted by Artw at 8:39 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Michael Winner was a genuine, one of a kind enigma who consistently confused people about where the bombastic public buffoon and the private, intelligent gentleman started and ended.

He got his first newspaper column at 14. He went to Cambridge at 17, and graduated at 20. He made his first movie at 21. He actually once made half decent films and then.. didn't. He was latterly best known for doing not much more than sunning himself in Barbados but actually founded the Police Memorial Trust. He built a hugely loyal following at the Sunday Times as a restaurant critic, where he wrote in the style of a pompous, wealthy man who hated haute cuisine. Each week, he printed, alongside his columns, both earnest and satirical letters in which readers castigated him for his pomposity, wealth and lack of taste. He namedropped like his life depended on it, but he was extremely discreet about close friends like Michael Caine and Roger Moore, who loved him to bits. Latterly he is more known for insurance commercials and a spat with Victoria Coren (they later made up and Winner apologised privately and publicly - "They say it’s an ill wind that blows no good. The ill wind was, unsurprisingly, me." Coren's brother, Giles, was also a restaurant critic for the Times and they ended up going out for dinner). He made much of his apparent wealth, but was equally open about his millions of pound of debt and regularly skewered chefs who overcharged for crappy food and restaurants with crappy service. For that alone, he was considered a national treasure.

The popular view is that people loved to hate him. But largely they didn't hate him. The success of insurance brand esure summed up why: the most pompous man most people could think of was entirely unafraid to make a fool of himself, consciously.

Personally, I thought he was great. I have done ever since I saw this photo.

Rest in peace, Michael Winner.

posted by MuffinMan at 8:41 AM on January 21, 2013 [13 favorites]

That is an incredible photo, MuffinMan - thanks!
posted by TheAlarminglySwollenFinger at 9:03 AM on January 21, 2013

posted by lalochezia at 9:19 AM on January 21, 2013

Death Wish 2 was the first film I recall ever watching that made me feel physically sick. The violence and rape in that film put me off completely as if it were my own private Ludovico technique. To this day I have to fight the urge to vomit whenever I hear Jimmy Page on the guitar.

posted by cazoo at 9:35 AM on January 21, 2013

The Mechanic is a terrifically interesting film, in that the relationship between the two characters, eventually played by Charles Bronson and Jan-Michael Vincent, was originally explicitly gay. Producers balked and money could not be found, but Michael Winner never removed the subtext -- the whole film behaves as though it is understood that this is a relationship between an erudite, professional older man and a callow, unscrupulous younger lover, and that it is merely going unsaid.

I'm not terrifically surprised to see Winner defending gay people in that Littlejohn clip. If you look at The Mechanic as a gay film, its extraordinary not merely in the fact that it's not a tormented film about self-loathing, which seemed to be par for the course back then, but it's also one in which gayness is unremarkable. That a person can be an action hero -- in this instance, a wronged contract killer -- and be gay, and need not be presented as a psychopathic killer or a ruined neurotic, which was typically how gay characters were lensed back then in genre films.

Of course, you have to know that this was the case in Lewis John Carlino's original script and was removed. But once you know, its impossible to un-know, as Bronson is playing a different gay type -- the older bachelor gentleman sophisticate, in a house filled with exquisite objets d'art. A similar character, albeit more floridly gay, appears in Withnail and I, and his luxurious, art-filled apartment is treated as being an immediate tip-off that he is a gay man. For Winner, I expect that he thought this would be obvious.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:54 AM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

Back in August, he tweeted:
i am extremely docile today, so much so many people assume, not incorrectly, that i am dead. If I'm dead I will be there to haunt you
posted by Pallas Athena at 10:01 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

I just watched Death Wish for the first time this weekend. Also this weekend I learned that Michael Winner directed the film usually cited as the first major motion picture to feature the word "fuck".
posted by mediated self at 10:18 AM on January 21, 2013

I was in Soho pitching movies today and my friend Robert and I were talking about Winner, the old cunt. He truly represented a bygone age in English movies. It's impossible not to have a grudging respect for the man, if only for getting such mindbogglingly terrible movies as Bullseye! Made. No, really, watch that and get back to me
posted by unSane at 11:42 AM on January 21, 2013

He claimed that his fine head of hair in later life was due to washing it daily in beer. He'd experimented with various brews, before settling for a can of Heineken. The secret, he said, was to do it first thing in the morning and to not rinse it off.

Mentioned here. (Link is to the Daily Nazi, I'm afraid.)

He was as mad as a box frogs, but I'll miss him.
posted by veedubya at 1:04 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

The obituary in the Telegraph is brilliant, for example:

"In 1957 he directed his first travelogue — This is Belgium — shot largely on location in East Grinstead."

"“I don’t go out much,” he recalled, “partly because I get bored sitting next to the same person for three hours and partly because I started giving my hostesses marks out of 10 for their cooking.”"


"He 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.”"
posted by DanCall at 1:33 PM on January 21, 2013


I saw that on late-night TV once, marvelling at its sheer sloppiness. Then, when the credits rolled, and the long list of thanks to various hotels and restaurants dotted around ... wherever it was they shot the film ... and I realised that the film largely existed so that Michael Winner and Roger Moore could get fine meals in agreeable surroundings for free.

There are even worse films made for less inspiring reasons.
posted by Grangousier at 1:47 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

The obituary in the Telegraph is brilliant

Yeah, The Guardian's is good value too:

On more solitary evenings he cut and glued table mats, and said obituarists would describe him as a "table-mat maker", adding "film‑maker" if there were space.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:51 PM on January 21, 2013

I always got the feeling from his writing that he knew what his obituary would say and was comfortable not giving a damn what anyone thought. He'll be missed.

posted by arcticseal at 3:43 PM on January 21, 2013

@fearfulsymmetry - Yes, that is very good. Wonder what his French Connection would have been like, apart from violent?
posted by DanCall at 2:43 AM on January 22, 2013

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