Film director and foodie Michael Winner dies aged 77 after long illness

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

 

Film director, food writer and bon viveur Michael Winner died today aged 77 after a long illness.

Winner was a food critic for the Sunday Times as well as the director of more than 30 films including his famous Death Wish series starring Charles Bronson.

He had been unwell for some time, revealing last summer that specialists had given him 18 months to live due to heart and liver problems - and that he had considered going to a Dignitas assisted-dying clinic in Switzerland.

His wife Geraldine confirmed his death at their home in Kensington today.

Mrs Winner paid tribute to him in a statement: "Michael was a wonderful man, brilliant, funny and generous. A light has gone out in my life."

The pair married nearly two years ago at the Chelsea Register Office after a courtship spanning 50 years.

Geraldine nee Lynton-Edwards met Winner when she auditioned for his debut film in 1957 aged just 16. She was later cast in his short film The Square.

Speaking to The Independent ahead of his wedding in September 2011, Winner revealed he would wear pyjamas to walk down the aisle.

"They are handmade pyjama bottoms by Turnbull & Asser and they are very comfortable. They do actually look like nice tartan trousers," he said.

"It's true that not many people get married in pyjama bottoms but then not many wait 50 years to get married."

Winner credited Geraldine with nursing him through a rare and deadly virus called vibrio vulnificus, which can spread through the body like gangrene.

Winners friends and admirers have been quick to respond to the news of his death tioday.

Actor Cleese paid tribute to his friend in a statement on his website: "He was the dearest, kindest, funniest and most generous of friends. I shall miss him terribly."

Restaurant critic Jay Rayner wrote on Twitter: "RIP Michael Winner. He could be absurd and made some lousy films. But he could also be a rather lovely man. Winner made life more interesting."

Piers Morgan tweeted: "Very sad to hear Michael Winner has died. Hilarious, often proposterous, always generous, highly intelligent man. And terrific writer. RIP."

Andrew Lloyd Webber said: "True originals come rarely in a lifetime. Madeleine and I will deeply miss you. ALW"

Among Winner's contributions to film are the Death Wish films, set in the slums of New York and Los Angeles, the Golden Globe nominated comedy The Jokers, The Nightcomers with Marlon Brando and horror film The Sentinel starring Ava Gardner.

Winner became well known in later life for appearing in the Esure car insurance advertisements with the catchphrase "Calm down, dear!" As an actor he also appeared in Danny Boyle's BBC film For The Greater Good and in Steven Berkoff's film Decadence. He had a hit ITV series called Michael Winner's True Crimes in 1994.

He had a prolific career as a food writer and journalist with his pieces continuing to appear in the Daily Mail up until his illness. His restaurant columns appeared weekly in the Sunday Times for 15 years. He wrote about lifestyle and politics for the now defunct tabloid the News of the World for nearly a decade. From aged 14 he wrote a newspaper column in the Kensington Post called "Michael Winner's Showbiz Gossip". At Cambridge he edited the student newspaper Varsity.

A book of his restaurant columns titled Winner's Dinners was published in 1999 and became a bestseller leading to several follow-ups including The Winner Guide to Whining and Dining and UNBELIEVABLE! My Life in Restaurants and Other Places. He was famously banned from Le Gavroche.

In 1984 Winner founded the Police Memorial Trust charity in tribute to officers slain in the line of duty by placing memorials where they fell. The rights to his wedding to Geraldine were sold to Hello! magazine and the proceeds donated to the PMT. More than 50 officers have been honoured by the trust at sites across the country.

Winner was born in Hampstead in 1935, the son of Helen and George Joseph Winner. His mother was Polish and his father of Russian extraction. He was educated at St Christopher School, Letchworth and Downing College, Cambridge where he studied law and economics.

Winner grew up - and died -  in a 46 room Victorian mansion in Kensington which he has bequeathed to the nation. Describing it to The Independent in 2007 he said: "There are nine toilets and seven bathrooms - because I'm a bachelor, I don't need many bedrooms, but you could quite easily have 15 if you wanted to. At the moment, there are three bedrooms in active use - one for the housekeeper, one for me and one for Geraldine in case I snore too much."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
Arts and Entertainment
U2 have released Songs of Innocence in partnership with Apple

musicBand have offered new record for free on iTunes
Arts and Entertainment
Brad Pitt stars in David Ayer's World War II drama Fury

film
Arts and Entertainment
Top hat: Pharrell Williams

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as undercover cops in 22 Jump Street

film
Arts and Entertainment
David Bowie is back with fresh music after last year's hit album The Next Day

music
Arts and Entertainment
Keith Richards is publishing 'Gus and Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar', a children's book about his introduction to music

music
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris has generated £4m in royalties from the music platform

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week