Michael Winner, British filmmaker who directed ‘Death Wish,’ dies at 77

January 21, 2013

Michael Winner, the flamboyant British film director best known for the “Death Wish” series of the 1970s and ’80s, died Monday at his home in London. He was 77.

His wife, Geraldine, announced his death in a statement released to the media. Mr. Winner, who reinvented himself in recent years as an outspoken restaurant critic for London’s Sunday Times, revealed last summer that he had heart and liver problems and that specialists had given him 18 months to live.

His movie career spanned some 40 years and more than 30 feature films, including the successful “Death Wish” series starring Charles Bronson as a vigilante out to avenge family murders.

Mr. Winner worked with some of the biggest stars in Hollywood, including Marlon Brando, Robert Mitchum and Faye Dunaway, but his success was overshadowed by a divisive image in Britain as a pompous bon viveur who did nothing to hide his wealth.

In its obituary, London’s Daily Telegraph said, “Flamboyant, often boorish, he was, in many ways, his own worst enemy.”


Michael Winner was best known for 1974’s ‘Death Wish,’ in which Charles Bronson played a vigilante. (Evening Standard/Getty Images)

Born in London in 1935, Mr. Winner took an early interest in show business and wrote an entertainment column at age 14.

According to his Web site, he studied law and economics at Cambridge University and worked as a film critic as a teenager before entering the world of movies full time in 1956, making documentaries and shorts.

In the 1960s, Mr. Winner focused on comedies, including “The Jokers” and “I’ll Never Forget What’s’isname,” both of which starred Oliver Reed.

The following decade, Mr. Winner moved on to crime capers, such as “The Mechanic” and “The Stone Killer,” before the commercially successful “Death Wish,” which was released in 1974 and spawned several sequels.

The original movie proved controversial because of its portrayal of urban violence, but Mr. Winner defended the film he always knew he would be best remembered for.

He later turned his hand to food criticism in the typically outspoken column, “Winner’s Dinners,” for the Times. His last column appeared on Dec. 2 and was titled: “Geraldine says it’s time to get down from the table. Goodbye.”

—Reuters

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