Michael Winner

Active - 1958 - 1998  |   Born - Oct 30, 1935   |   Died - Jan 21, 2013   |   Genres - Thriller, Action, Crime, Drama, Mystery

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Biography by Hal Erickson

A one-time Cambridge law student, British director Michael Winner had been geared toward a cinematic career since the age of 16, when he began writing entertainment criticism. His earliest directorial assignments were for the BBC; he entered films as the screenwriter for a brace of programmers, Climb up the Wall and Shoot to Kill (both 1960). Adapting many of the quick-cut, freeze-frame, hand-held techniques popularized by Richard Lester, Winner became typed as a "swinging" director of hip, youthful projects. Although he was virtually a youngster himself, Winner's basic point-of-view was middle-aged conformist. The oh-so-clever young characters in You Must Be Joking (1965), The Jokers (1967), and I'll Never Forget What's 'is Name (1969) are depicted as shallow, status-seeking snots, no better than the adults whom they claim to despise. Transferring his base of operations to Hollywood, Winner turned his back on the trendiness of his British work to become a top violent-action specialist. When Winner attempted a return to the freewheeling irreverence of old, the result was the so-called comedy Won Ton Ton -- The Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976), which deploys the weakest "camp" device in the world: hiring several icons of Old Hollywood (Victor Mature, Rhonda Fleming, Stepin Fetchit, the Ritz Brothers, and scores of others), then wantonly squandering their talents in pointless cameos. Michael Winner's most successful films were made with macho superstar Charles Bronson, notably the first three entries in the Death Wish series. Winner died of heart and liver disease in early 2013.

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