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In October of 2010, Sound on Sight asked me to do my first commemorative piece on the passing of filmmaker Arthur Penn. I suspect I was asked because I was the only one writing for the site old enough to have seen Penn’s films in theaters. Whatever the reason, it was an unexpectedly rewarding if expectedly bittersweet experience which led to a series of equally rewarding but bittersweet experiences writing on the passing of other filmdom notables.
I say rewarding because it gave me a nostalgic-flavored chance to revisit certain work and the people behind it; a revisiting which often brought back the nearly-forgotten youthful excitement that went with an eye-opening, a discovery, the thrill of the new. Writing them has also been bittersweet because each of these pieces is a formal acknowledgment that something precious is gone. A talent may be perhaps preserved forever on celluloid, but the filmography »
- Bill Mesce
‘Tommy’ came first – the 1969 rock opera from The Who centered on a blind, dumb and deaf kid who was exceptionally good at playing pinball. However, in 1973 The Who released ‘Quadrophenia’, an album with superior songwriting and a stronger story. It was based on Pete Townshend’s own experience of growing up as an angry mod in the early Sixties. The album centres on the character Jimmy, an angry, discontented young man. It deals with adolescent coming of age issues as the protagonist fails to ‘fit in’ and is dependent on pills. Jimmy is a composite of four different personalities in The Who.
Released last month, the new reissue of the album contains the original 1973 album, two cd’s worth of demos, a 5.1 surround DVD mix, a poster and a hardback book. For those with not quite so much cash, there’s a cheaper 2- disc set, featuring the original album and a disc of demos. »
- Simon Carle
Also: child actor John Howard Davies (David Lean's Oliver Twist), Charles Chaplin discovery Marilyn Nash (Monsieur Verdoux), director and Oscar ceremony producer Gilbert Cates (Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams, I Never Sang for My Father), veteran Japanese actress Hideko Takamine (House of Many Pleasures), Jeff Conaway of Grease and the television series Taxi, and Tura Satana of the cult classic Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!.
More: Neva Patterson, who loses Cary Grant to Deborah Kerr in An Affair to Remember; Ingmar Bergman cinematographer Gunnar Fischer (Smiles of a Summer Night, The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries); Marlon Brando's The Wild One leading lady Mary Murphy; and two actresses featured in controversial, epoch-making films: Lena Nyman, the star of the Swedish drama I Am Curious (Yellow), labeled as pornography by prudish American authorities back in the late '60s, »
- Andre Soares
I was standing in Mothercare in Southampton when my mobile phone rang and a familiar voice came on the line. It was Tim, an archivist from Warners whom I had been pestering for years about trying to track down some long-lost film footage. "I've got the tin you were asking for," said Tim, with an edge of excitement in his voice. "I'm not sure what's on it, because when I opened it, it smelt of vinegar, so I've sent it to be treated. But I had a quick look at the first couple of frames and from what I could see there was a bunch of naked nuns and a bloody massive crucifix…" "I'll call you straight back," I said, hastily hung up »
- Mark Kermode
Ken Russell's work in progress on bawdy Wonderland film could be completed by new director
But this may not be the last the world sees of Ken Russell. A raunchy musical version of Alice in Wonderland, which the director had been working on at the time of his death, is expected to be made by the same team who were working with him, incorporating his ideas but with a new director.
Russell, 84, who died in hospital after a series of strokes, had nearly finished the script for the film, which is described by the producers as a bawdy musical comedy and will be loosely based on a 1976 film adaptation of Lewis Carroll's story.
Russell had hoped to attract an all-star cast »
- Ben Dowell
Ken Russell died this week, leaving behind a body of work that shocked and surprised, teased and titillated. He was, said Xan Brooks in our early news story a man of "wild drama, gaudy conflagrations and operatic flourishes", a "juggler of high and low culture who invariably courted controversy".
Russell's career path - from his documentary work for the 1960s BBC series Monitor, to the short films he made at home in later years - was hard to map. His most infamous and innovative works - The Devils, Altered States - flashed by in the wake of semi-hits Women in Love (which won him an Oscar in 1971) and Tommy. He was, said friends an "iconoclast" (Venessa Redgrave). "Fearless, eccentric and silly" (Melvyn Bragg). "Capable of »
- Henry Barnes
Dan Ireland offers his rememberance of “Uncle Ken.”
A benefit of having such an eclectic stable of gurus is that our well of experience and stories about working in the business — often with and for giants — is increasingly deep. A number of our gurus, then, have Ken Russell (who died this past weekend) stories. Bernard Rose shared such a story in 2008. And Dan Ireland remembers the man just below.
One of the great joys of my life was my wonderful association with the great, the brilliant, the bad boy of British Cinema himself, Uncle Ken Russell.
Being an early devotee of Women In Love, The Music Lovers, The Devils, The Boyfriend, Savage Messiah, Mahler, Tommy, Altered States, Crimes of Passion and just about anything he did, I once tried in vain to get him to attend a tribute that I, along with my partner Darryl Macdonald, organized at the Seattle »
Formidable film director with an impish sense of humour and a talent to entertain and provoke
Ken Russell, who has died aged 84, was so often called rude names – the wild man of British cinema, the apostle of excess, the oldest angry young man in the business – that he gave up denying it all quite early in his career. Indeed, he often seemed to court the very publicity that emphasised only the crudest assessment of his work. He gave the impression that he cared not a damn. Those who knew him better, however, knew that he did. Underneath all the showbiz bluster, he was an old softie. Or, perhaps as accurately, a talented boy who never quite grew up.
It has, of course, to be said that he was capable of almost any enormity in the careless rapture he brought to making his films. He could be dreadfully cruel to his undoubted talent, »
- Derek Malcolm
Legendary British director Ken Russell has died at the age of 84, having passed away in his sleep yesterday afternoon. Famed for his work on the likes of Women In Love, Crimes Of Passion and Tommy, Russell was one of British cinema’s more colourful characters. His films frequently courted controversy, with the Oliver Reed-starring The Devils meeting widespread outrage at its portrayal of sexual frenzy in the unlikely setting of a nunnery. Confronted by a critic from the Evening Standard who described the film as “monstrously...
- George Wales
I think that I can speak for everyone here at The Hollywood News who were saddened to hear of the passing of filmmaker Ken Russell this past weekend. Russell died at a London hospital following a series of strokes. He was 84.
Russell came to notice in the 1960′s, directing the Michael Caine movie Billion Dollar Brain, but it was his work on Women In Love, a film that featured the famous Oliver Reed/ Alan Bates nude wrestling scene, that saw him hit the big time. The film attracted major attention from the Academy, and secured Russell his first, and only Oscar nomination.
- Paul Heath
Veteran British actress Vanessa Redgrave has remembered late director Ken Russell as a "genius" and revealed she still treasures a tribute he wrote following the death of her daughter Natasha Richardson.
Her youngest daughter Joely Richardson worked with him on TV series Lady Chatterley alongside Sean Bean, while Natasha, who died in a skiing accident in Canada in 2009, broke into movies in Russell's 1986 Frankenstein film Gothic.
Redgrave has now paid her respects to Russell, who comforted her when she lost Natasha two years ago.
She tells the BBC, "I think the most important thing that I could possibly say about Ken is that he was, and his films remain, the works of a genius... I was very honoured to be in The Devils... and my youngest daughter Joely did a wonderful, I thought wonderful, Lady Chatterley's Lover with Ken, and my oldest daughter Natasha did a film about Mary Shelley which was a fantastic film, one of her first big feature films.
"I will be grateful to Ken forever personally because when my Natasha died, he wrote the most wonderful appreciation of her work as an actress which I really treasure, so I'm really sorry for his wife." »
It’s always sad when an actor or filmmaker dies, and in 2011 we have had to mourn the loss of many great stars of past and present. Pete Postlethwaite, John Barry, Maria Schneider, Jane Russell, Michael Gough, Elizabeth Taylor, Sidney Lumet, Peter Falk – all great losses, many of them at much too young an age. Only ten days ago John Neville, the delightfully charismatic star of Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, passed away peacefully aged 86.
But perhaps none of these deaths should be mourned more than that of Ken Russell, who died this week in his sleep at the ripe old age of 84. Aside from his short-lived and ill-advised appearance on Celebrity Big Brother, his name will be unfamiliar to the majority of young filmgoers – people who didn’t grow up with his biopics of Elgar and Mahler, people who didn’t spend their twenties listening to Who records, »
- Daniel Mumby
Oscar-nominated maverick found inspiration for his work in music and literature
After a film career full of wild drama, gaudy conflagrations and operatic flourishes, the director Ken Russell died quietly in hospital on Sunday afternoon at the age of 84, after suffering a series of strokes. – effecting a quiet, discreet exit from the comfort of his hospital bed. "My father died peacefully," said his son Alex Verney-Elliott. "He died with a smile on his face."
Known for his flamboyant, often outrageous brand of film-making, Russell made movies that juggled high and low culture with glee and invariably courted controversy. His 1969 breakthrough, the Oscar-winning Women in Love, electrified audiences with its infamous nude wrestling scene, while 1971's The Devils – a torrid brew of sex, violence and Catholicism – found itself banned across Italy and was initially rejected by its backer, Warner Bros. His other notable films include Altered States, The Boy Friend and Tommy, »
- Xan Brooks
British director Ken Russell has died in his sleep at the age of 84. Married four times, Russell is survived by Elize Tribble, whom he married in 2001, and his six children. After starting his career in the mid-1950s with various shorts and television projects, he made his feature debut with 1964 comedy French Dressing, which starred James Booth, Roy Kinnear and Marisa Mell. Spending his career as a director, producer, writer and even an actor, Russell was best known for films like Altered States, Tommy (based on The Who rock opera) and Women in Love, which earned him his one and only Academy Award nomination (the same can be said for the Golden Globes). In 1974 Russell brought Mahler, a biopic about composer Gustav Mahler, to the Cannes Film Festival and was both nominated for the Palme d'Or and won the Technical Grand Prize. Though he had some success with awards and »
The defiant romantic of British cinema never lacked for critics but his prime inspiration was surely in music
Part glam rocker, part wild-haired conductor, Ken Russell was the populist maestro of the screen, the great defiant romantic of British cinema. Russell's films showed his great love for music and composers: Elgar, Tchaikovsky, Delius, Strauss, Liszt – and Sandy Wilson and Roger Daltrey. Other film-makers might have found their creative impetus in novels or plays; Russell's inspiration was surely primarily in music. His ideas, his images, his rows, his career itself were all one colossal, chaotic rhapsody.
His adventures were a rebuke to British parochialism, literalism and complacency, and he had something of Kubrick's flair for startling or mind-bending spectacle. Russell gave us the nude wrestling scene between Alan Bates and Oliver Reed in the Oscar-winning Women In Love (1969) in which each actor, with Russell's cheerful consent, was said to have taken »
- Peter Bradshaw
I worked with Ken on six films. Women in Love was the first time I'd worked with a director of that genius, and on a film of that size. What I remember most was the creative and productive atmosphere on set: he was open to ideas from everyone, from the clapperboard operator upwards. Like any great director, he knew what he didn't want – but was open to everything else.
As a director he never said anything very specific. He'd say, "It needs to be a bit more … urrrgh, or a bit less hmmm", and you knew exactly what he meant. I used to ask him why he never said "Cut", and he said, "Because it means you always do something different." They gave »
- Melissa Denes, Laura Barnett
British filmmaker Ken Russell, who died Sunday at the age of 84, had a knack for creating images that were unforgettable for both their pop-art beauty and their boundary pushing eroticism: Alan Bates and Oliver Reed wrestling naked in Women in Love (1969), Vanessa Redgrave passionately kissing Jesus in The Devils (1971).
But one scene in his work stands out from the rest for its sheer tongue-in-cheek audacity. In Tommy (1975), Russell’s psychedelic adaptation of The Who’s rock opera, a pinball wizard’s emotionally fragile mother (Ann-Margret) suffers a surreal nervous breakdown, rolling in baked beans, bubbles, and melted chocolate after throwing »
- Adam Markovitz
For an artist who's been called an iconoclast, a maverick and a genius — one with a professed love for consciousness-altering drugs — Russell (born July 3, 1927) got his start in a fairly conventional manner. Following a stint in the service, Russell worked as a photojournalist to minor acclaim before going to work at the BBC as a director in 1959.
While at the BBC, Russell made a series of historical documentaries, still regarded as impressive for their impressionistic visual technique. This is the beginning of the flamboyant style that became synonymous with the name Ken Russell. Many of these television films focused on renowned composers, including Edward Elgar, Richard Strauss and Claude Debussy. Interestingly, this is subject matter Russell would return to often »
Many of you may be aware of the sad news of Ken Russell’s passing yesterday at the age of 84. The British director was a colourful figure who, throughout his long career (which began back in TV during the late 50’s) managed to shock, perturb and upset the establishment with his sometimes controversial perspective on sexuality and religion (his infamous 1971 historical drama The Devils represented the pinnacle of this, earning the kind of notoriety which would forever be associated with him and his subsequent work).
The word ‘cult’ is bandied around freely nowadays, but Russell’s work is truly deserving of that status. He brought a demented glee to his adaptation of The Who’s celebrated rock opera Tommy (pulling together a truly eclectic cast which included the likes of past collaborator Oliver Reed, Tina Turner, Elton John, Keith Moon and Jack Nicholson) and his 1980 twisted sci-fi yarn, Altered States »
- Adam Lowes
Kathleen Turner, Anthony Perkins, Crimes of Passion Provocative, Controversial Director Ken Russell Dead at 84: Women In Love, Tommy, The Devils Valentino (1977) was another much-talked about biopic. (Perhaps not too surprisingly, decades later Ken Russell would write a positive commentary on a horrendously sensationalistic Valentino biography.) Reviews for the film starring Rudolf Nureyev as silent-film idol Rudolph Valentino were mostly negative. Audiences, for their part, opted instead for Stars Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Three years later, Russell went Hollywood with Altered States, a bizarre, philosophical, hallucinogenic sci-fier starring William Hurt as a scientist who undergoes genetic regression. Written by Oscar winner Paddy Chayefsky, with whom Russell clashed on the set, the costly Warner Bros. release was a major box-office disappointment. Another Us-based effort, the Belle du Jour-like 1984 sex drama Crimes of Passion, earned Kathleen Turner a Best Actress Award from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association »
- Andre Soares
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