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Ken Russell Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (2) | Spouse (4) | Trade Mark (12) | Trivia (27) | Personal Quotes (15)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 3 July 1927Southampton, Hampshire, England, UK
Date of Death 27 November 2011Lymington, Hampshire, England, UK  (following a series of strokes)
Birth NameHenry Kenneth Alfred Russell
Height 5' 7½" (1.71 m)

Mini Bio (2)

Ken Russell tried several professions, before choosing to become a film director. He was a still photographer, a dancer and even served in the army, but it was film that was to be Mr. Russell's destiny. He began by making several short films, and those paved the way for his brilliant television films of the sixties that are acclaimed for his attention to detail and opulent visuals. His third feature film Women in Love (1969) was a triumph and he became an internationally known filmmaker. In the 1970s, his talent truly blossomed. Over the next 2 decades, he would direct a succession of remarkable films, most of them contained his trademark flamboyance that critics generally dismiss but many seem to find this engrossing. He will forever be remembered as a controversial and visionary artist with something of a third eye when it comes to making oddball dramas that have captivating images and themes.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: che <che@telerama.com>

When he was age 8 he was given a 9.5 mm projector for Xmas. He graduated to 35mm together with a box of silents that had been salvaged from the liner Mauretania when she was being broken up. He attended a nautical school where he made his first short film, trained as an Air Force electrician and tried unsuccessfully to break into the world of ballet and the theatre. He then took a course in photography and soon began to sell his pictures to magazines. Having married a fellow student and turned to Catholicism he made two short films - 'Amelia and the Angel' and 'Lourdes' - with the aid of a Catholic Institute. He took them to the BBC and showed them to Huw Weldon, the director of 'Monitor', a new arts programme. He was immediately hired to replace John Schlessinger and stayed for 10 years making 34 films. The last one, 'Dance of the Seven Veils' (70), caused such an outcry, which even raised questions in Parliament, that he never worked for the BBC again.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: tonyman5

Spouse (4)

Lisi Tribble (2001 - 27 November 2011) (his death)
Hetty Baynes (1992 - 1999) (divorced) (1 child)
Vivian Jolly (1983 - 1991) (divorced) (2 children)
Shirley Russell (1956 - 1978) (divorced) (5 children)

Trade Mark (12)

Frequent snake imagery
Use of primary colors
Frequent use of trains and train settings
Frequent use of baptism imagery
Frequent use of fire and fire imagery
Frequent use of mountains
Frequent use of England's "Lake District" (Cumbria) as location
Frequent use of extreme facial close-ups
Frequent use of moving camera shots
Frequent use of "outré" camera angles
Deliberately theatrical acting
Frequent use of classical music, particularly from mid-19th century through mid-20th century

Trivia (27)

Has tried to work on film with Barbra Streisand twice, first in the early 1970s on a biography of Sarah Bernhardt, and then in the version of the stage musical "Evita".
Became interested in making movies after frequenting the cinema after school with his mother.
According to Russell, he once met Federico Fellini, of whom he had been a fan, outside an Italian movie studio. They approached each other and spoke briefly, complimenting each other by calling themselves, "the Italian Ken Russell," and "the English Federico Fellini," respectively.
His films were popular in Italy. At the 1971 Venice Film Festival he won Best Director-Foreign Film for The Devils (1971).
After the controversy surrounding Altered States (1980), he found it hard to get financial backing, so he directed opera for a while, including a version of Madame Butterfly.
In the early 1980s during preproduction for the film version of the stage hit "Evita", he was so impressed with Liza Minnelli's screen test that he refused to direct the film without her. But the producers wanted Elaine Paige and the production came to a halt. The film was eventually made by Alan Parker starring Madonna.
Alumni of East London University.
Stanley Kubrick once called him in the early 1970s to ask him where he had found the lovely locations for his films. Russell complied and Kubrick used the locations in his next film Barry Lyndon (1975). Russell later said, "I felt quite chuffed".
His favorite film is Jean Vigo's L'Atalante (1934).
He was a guest of Belgrade Film Festival - FEST 2003.
During his stay at Belgrade as a guest of FEST film festival he was awarded with a Golden Seal Award from Yugoslav Cinematheque for his complete work and contribution to world cinema and film.
His first wife, Shirley Russell, was the costume designer on all of his films until 1978 when they divorced. She was later nominated for two Oscars: Michael Apted's Agatha (1979) and Warren Beatty's Reds (1981).
Was dubbed "England's Orson Welles" early in his career.
Was sometimes called the "Fellini of the North".
He had a variety of jobs before he got into the film industry, including at one point a ballet dancer in a troupe in Norway.
Was part of a legendary incident in British television when he appeared on Late Night Lineup (1964) on BBC2 to discuss his new film The Devils (1971) alongside critic Alexander Walker, who did not like the film. As Walker began critiquing the film, Russell interrupted him repeatedly. The two began shouting at each other, and Russell eventually hit Walker over the head with a rolled-up copy of his own review. The incident took place on live television and no footage is known to exist.
Visited the Andy Worhol 'Factory' in 1964 and appeared in Worhol's famous "screen tests", but the scene he filmed was eventually cut.
Considers his best film to be Omnibus: Song of Summer: Frederick Delius (1968), which he directed for the BBC. When discussing the film he said, "This is the best film I have ever made... I don't think I would have done a single shot differently".
Considered his best film to have been The Rainbow (1989).
Directed 2 actresses to Oscar nominations: Glenda Jackson (Best Actress, Women in Love (1969)) and Ann-Margret (Best Actress, Tommy (1975)). Jackson won an Oscar for her performance.
He served in the British Merchant Navy and the Royal Air Force before moving to London, England where he studied dance before turning to photography in his late 20s.
He is survived by his four sons, Alex Russell, James Russell, Xavier Russell, and Toby Russell; a daughter, Victoria Russell from his first marriage to costume designer, Shirley Kingdon; a daughter, Molly Russell and a son, Rupert Russell from his second marriage to photographer Vivian Jolly; and a son Rex Russell from his third marriage to actress, Hetty Baynes; and is survived by his fourth wife, Lisi Tribble Russell, an actress.
One of his staunchest allies was Stan Brakhage, the experimental American film-maker whose work was in a different world from Russell's, but who frequently showed his films to students as object lessons in effective audacity.
Directing the play "Mindgame" by Anthony Horowitz in New York, starring Keith Carradine. [October 2008]
Currently a house-mate in the UK TV series Celebrity Big Brother (2001), Episode #5.1 (2007). [January 2007]
Currently a feature writer for the London Times film section. [March 2007]

Personal Quotes (15)

[concerning his style of biographical films] The whole idea had degenerated into a series of third-rate clichés. I wanted to dress people in old clothes and do it in a totally unreal way, and thus make it more real than ever, and in the process send up this new civil service/academic way of doing films.
The Devils (1971) is a harsh film, but it's a harsh subject. I wish the people who were horrified and appalled by it had read the book, because the facts are more horrible than anything in the film.
It is a pity when one, either through force of circumstance or because one is afraid of being ridiculed by others, won't produce and expose to everyone that little spark of something special which is unique to him alone.
A critic's typical praise is "Beautifully understated." That means beautifully false . . . I'd rather go the other way - to gamble rather than play it safe. If I err it's by overstating, but I try to get it right.
I never want to do a violent, disturbing film like The Devils (1971) again. That's why I did The Boy Friend (1971). It's pure escapism and fun.
Life is too short to make destructive films about people one doesn't like. My films are meant to be constructive and illuminating.
I know my films upset people. I want to upset people.
This is not the age of manners. This is the age of kicking people in the crotch and telling them something and getting a reaction. I want to shock people into awareness. I don't believe there is any virtue in understatement.
[on Stanley Kubrick] I find his films quite long and boring, but I quite liked Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964).
[on Glenda Jackson] Glenda Jackson I'd never heard of. When she walked into the room I found myself watching her varicose veins more than her face, and only later in the movie of "Marat/Sade" [Marat/Sade (1967)] did I realize what a magnificent screen personality she was. I couldn't quite understand it. Sometimes she looked plain ugly, and sometimes just plain and then sometimes the most beautiful creature one had ever seen.
[on working with William Hurt on Altered States (1980)] I hired William Hurt for "Altered States" and found I was his analyst for six months. It wasn't the part he talked about, never that, but how it was such a terrible thing being a billionaire after being born in abject poverty. I was quite deferential to him, but my wife listened to the crap he was talking and said, "Okay, preppy, let's cut the shit." He was stunned and amazed but he was quite human after that.
[on working with screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky on Altered States (1980)] I don't think Paddy had ever been involved with a director who wasn't malleable. He would make suggestions and I would listen courteously, and then disagree.
Sir Richard 'I'm-going-to-attack-the-Establishment-fifty-years-after-it's-dead' Attenborough is guilty of caricature, a sense of righteous self-satisfaction, and repetition which all undermine the impact of the film.
[advert on his own website, through which he met his fourth wife Lisi Tribble] "Unbankable film director Ken Russell seeks soulmate. Must be mad about music, movies and Moet & Chandon champagne."
I believe in what I'm doing whole-heartedly, passionately, and what's more, I simply go about my business. I suppose such a thing can be annoying to some people.

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