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Michael Robert Winner (born 30 October 1935) is an English film director and producer, active in both Europe and the United Statesmarker, also known as a food critic for the Sunday Times.

Early life and early career

Winner was born in Londonmarker, Englandmarker, the son of Helen (née Zloty) and George Joseph Winner, a company director. His family was Jewish; his mother was a native of Polandmarker and his father was of Russian descent (as he states his autobiography). He received a typically upper middle-class education, attending a progressive school with Quaker origins (St Christopher Schoolmarker) and Downing Collegemarker, Cambridgemarker, where he studied law and economics. He also edited the university's student newspaper, Varsity. Winner had earlier written a newspaper column, 'Michael Winner's Showbiz Gossip,' in the Kensington Post from the age of 14. The first issue of Showgirl Glamour Revue in 1955 has him writing another film and showbusiness gossip column, "Winner's World". Such jobs allowed him to meet and interview several leading film personalities, including James Stewart and Marlene Dietrich. He also wrote for the New Musical Express.

He began his screen career as an assistant director of BBC television programmes, cinema shorts, and full-length "B" productions, occasionally writing screenplays. His first on-screen credit was earned as a writer for the 1958 crime film Man With a Gun, directed by Montgomery Tully. Winner's first director credit was on a cinema short entitled Floating Fortress produced by Harold Baim. Winner's first project as a lead director involved another story he wrote, Shoot to Kill, in 1960.

British films

In the early 1960s, Winner emerged as a 'hip, young' director whose films rebelled against prevailing social conventions in Britain. His second project, Some Like It Cool (1961), is the tale of a young woman who introduces her prudish husband and in-laws to the joys of nudism. After releasing family drama Old Mac and a potboiler mystery called Out of the Shadow in 1961, Winner brushed with Gilbert and Sullivan in a psychedelic version of The Cool Mikado (1962), starring Frankie Howerd which was produced by Harold Baim. Following were the Billy Fury-led musical Play It Cool (1962), comedy short Behave Yourself (1962), and his first significant project, West 11 (1963), a realistic tale of Londonmarker drifters starring Alfred Lynch.

Winner's sex comedy The System (1964) began a partnership with actor Oliver Reed that would last for six films over a 25-year period. Winner and Reed closed out the 1960s as a pair with The Jokers (1967) (also starring Michael Crawford, popular comedy-drama I'll Never Forget What's'isname (1967), and the World War II satire Hannibal Brooks (1969). A non-Reed comedy, You Must Be Joking! (1965) with Denholm Elliott, and an ambitious Olympic drama, The Games, (1970) were also made.

American films

Hannibal Brooks drew notice in Hollywoodmarker and Winner soon received opportunities to direct for American markets. His jarring style and intense pacing were well-suited for action films, leading to an immediate offer in the Western genre from Dino De Laurentiis, the Italian film mogul who was establishing a production business in the United States. The result was Winner's first American film, Lawman (1971) starring Burt Lancaster and Robert Duvall.

The turning point came in 1972, as he first directed Marlon Brando in The Nightcomers, a prequel to The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, then made his earliest efforts with box office star Charles Bronson in Chato's Land, recounting a 'half-breed' American Indian fighting with Whites, and The Mechanic, a thriller in which professional assassins are depicted. The following year, Winner booked Lancaster again for the espionage drama Scorpio and reprised Bronson in The Stone Killer.

In 1974, Winner and Bronson collaborated on Death Wish, a film that defined the subsequent careers of both men. Based on a novel by Brian Garfield and adapted to the screen by Wendell Mayes, Death Wish was originally planned for director Sidney Lumet under contract with United Artists. The commitment of Lumet to another film and UA's questioning of its subject matter led to an eventual production by Dino De Laurentiis through Paramount Pictures. Death Wish tracks Paul Kersey, a liberal New York architect who becomes a gun-wielding vigilante after his wife is murdered and daughter is raped. With a script adjusted to Bronson's persona, the film generated major controversy during its screenings and was one of the year's highest grossers.

Upon the release of Death Wish, Winner became primarily known as an action film director. Most of his attempts to branch into other genres failed at the box office. After directing no films in 1975, Winner resurfaced with Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976), an animal comedy starring Bruce Dern, Madeline Kahn, Art Carney, and Milton Berle, amongst others. Also of modest success was his horror film The Sentinel (1977), the remake of Raymond Chandler's novel The Big Sleep (1978), and the organized crime thriller Firepower (1979) with Sophia Loren.

By the early 80s, Winner found himself in great need of a successful film and accepted Charles Bronson's request to film Death Wish II, a sequel to the 1974 hit. Bronson had already signed a lucrative deal with Cannon Films, independent producer of exploitation fare and marginal art house titles. The sequel, co-starring Bronson's wife Jill Ireland, is considered a rehash of Death Wish with violence raised to more graphic levels.

Like fellow British director J. Lee Thompson, Cannon Films became Winner's mainstay during the 1980s. His reputation was already on the decline before releasing two failures, a remake of The Wicked Lady (1983) with Faye Dunaway and the generic thriller Scream for Help (1984). Winner made a final splash, however, with Death Wish 3 in 1985, which was set in New York Citymarker but filmed mostly in Londonmarker for budgetary reasons.

Denholm Elliott was quoted in a radio interview as saying that he and Marc Sinden "are the only two British actors I am aware of who have ever worked with Winner more than once and it certainly wasn't for love. But curiously, I never, ever saw any of the same crew twice." (Elliott in You Must Be Joking! (1965) & The Wicked Lady and Sinden in The Wicked Lady & Decadence).

Winner's output dissipated after Death Wish 3, his advancing years by now leaving him at a disadvantage in the youth-oriented film industry. He directed adaptations of the Alan Ayckbourn musical play A Chorus of Disapproval with Anthony Hopkins and the Agatha Christie novel Appointment with Death in 1988. After Cannon Films entered bankruptcy, Winner confined himself to British productions with the Michael Caine/Roger Moore farce Bullseye! (1990), Dirty Weekend (1993) starring Lia Williams, and his most recent film, Parting Shots (1999).

Celebrity life

Winner is currently engaged to Geraldine Lynton Edwards. He has stated "I have told Geraldine that it took me 72 years to get engaged so she's not to hold her breath for the marriage". But he remains prominent in British life for other reasons, including his challenging dinner reviews. As well as his regular appearances on television, particularly in a series of advertisements that he directed for insurance firm esure. Winner is good friends with Simon Cowell, John Cleese, O. J. Simpson, Sir Philip Green, Gordon Ramsay, and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Winner has been writing for The Sunday Times for decades. His current column is called 'Winner's Dinners'.

He has also been an occasional panellist on Have I Got News for You.

Winner has been active on law enforcement issues and helped to establish the Police Memorial Trust after WPC Yvonne Fletcher was murdered in 1984. 36 local memorials honouring police officers who died in the line of duty have been erected since 1985, beginning with Fletcher's in St. James's Squaremarker, Londonmarker. The National Police Memorialmarker, opposite St. James's Parkmarker at the junction of Horse Guards Road and The Mall, was also unveiled by Queen Elizabeth II on 26 April 2005.
Winner, with Geraldine Lynton Edwards, at a book signing for his autobiography
His autobiography Winner Takes All: A Life of Sorts was published by Robson Books in 2006. The book largely describes his experiences with many big screen actors. He has also written a dieting book, The Fat Pig Diet Book.

In 2006, it emerged that Winner had been offered an OBE in the Queen's 80th Birthday Honours List for his part in campaigning for the Police Memorial Trust. Winner declined the honour, remarking"An OBE is what you get if you clean the toilets well at King's Cross Stationmarker."

Winner was an outspoken member of the Conservative party, but changed his political beliefs in favour of Tony Blair's New Labour.

On New Year's Day 2007 Winner acquired the bacterial infection, Vibrio vulnificus from an oyster meal in Barbadosmarker. He almost had to have a leg amputated and was on the brink of death on several occasions. Before he fully recovered Winner caught the "hospital superbug", MRSA. Winner has said he is going to leave his 35 million pound mansion in Melbury Road, West London to the nation as a museum.

Winner has stated on numerous occasions if there was one thing he could have changed, it would have been to have paid his parents more attention and show them more love, as he states in his autobiography. He thinks his father died from trying to repay all the money his wife (Winner's mother) lost, which came to 35 million pounds. He died at the age of 65 in 1975. Winner's mother died in a nursing home at the age of 80 in 1984. (10)

Winner also admitted to be writing his fifth and final book, which is to be titled Laugh After Death.


(from 1967 also producer)


  • The Square (1956)
  • This is Belgium (1956)
  • Floating Fortress (1956)
  • Girls, Girls, Girls (1957)
  • Man with a Gun (1958)
  • It's Magic (1958)
  • Danger, Women at Work (1959)
  • Haunted England (1961)

Feature films


  • Winner Takes All: A Life of Sorts (autobiography)
  • The Fat Pig Diet
  • Winner's Dinners: The Good, the Bad and the Unspeakable
  • The Winner Guide to Dining and Whining
  • The Films of Michael Winner by Bill Harding
  • Michael Winner's true crimes List of past criminals


  2. Faces of the week, BBC News, 29 April 2005. Accessed 28 August 2009.
  3. A-Z of Men's Magazines,
  5. Cox, Emma. Michael Winner had death wish, The Sun, 3 January 2008. Accessed 28 August 2009.
  6. "Police Memorial Trust", 19 March 2009, Retrieved on 8 July 2009
  7. "Winner shuns 'toilet-cleaner OBE", BBC News, 28 May 2006. Accessed 28 August 2009.
  8. Revoir, Paul. How I beat MRSA by Michael Winner, Daily Mail, 10 June 2007. Accessed 28 August 2009.
  9. Winner, Michael. Sandy Lane, The Sunday Times, 20 January 2008. Accessed 28 August 2009.

External links 10

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