Friday 27 April 2018

Controversial film director Ken Russell dies at 84

Film director Ken Russell who has died aged 84
Film director Ken Russell who has died aged 84

Sherna Noah

British film director Ken Russell has died at the age of 84. The director's son, Alex, said the Women In Love director died in hospital on Sunday.

Russell, known for his controversial films such as The Devils, began his career in television.

Film director Michael Winner paid tribute to Russell, saying he made a "unique" contribution to British film-making.

He said: "He had been terribly, terribly ill for some time. I've known Ken since 1968. He was the most innovative director.

"I persuaded Oliver Reed to work with him even though Oliver said 'I'm not a TV star, I'm a movie star'.

"His television was in a field of its own, it was absolutely extraordinary. Then he graduated to movies."

Winner added: "He was also a very nice person. He was very cheerful and very well-meaning.

"He had a very good run even though his style of picture-making became obsolete, but that happened to everyone, Billy Wilder and Hitchcock.

"His contribution to TV and cinema in this country is absolutely unique. He took it into areas it hadn't been before.

"They were riveting movies and TV because this strange mind was at work."

Winner said Russell would be best remembered for The Devils.

"What the censor took out of The Devils was almost as long as the rest of the movie," he added.

Russell was known as an enfant terrible of the British movie world, with his challenging subject matter, with uncomfortable stories about the church and sexually challenging material.

His Women In Love is known to a generation for its naked male wrestling scene, and his film The Devils - which initially featured a scene with naked nuns - was banned by some authorities in the UK and in many other countries.

Russell went on to make an unlikely appearance in Celebrity Big Brother in 2007, although he lasted only a matter of days, leaving after a disagreement with fellow contestant Jade Goody.

The film-maker first gained a reputation while directing for BBC arts programme Monitor. He is still revered for a programme about Edward Elgar which did much to revive the composer's music.

He went on to establish a successful cinema career, following up the notoriety of 1969's Women In Love with films such as The Music Lovers and Valentino.

In 1971 he won huge acclaim for his adaptation of the Broadway hit The Boy Friend - a 1920s musical pastiche - casting model Twiggy in the lead role.

Four years later he brought to life The Who's rock opera Tommy with a star-studded cast including Oliver Reed, Jack Nicholson, Tina Turner and Sir Elton John.

But as time went on his budgets became more modest although he continued to use familiar themes of sex and religion in movies such as The Lair Of The White Worm, which gave an early break to Hugh Grant.

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