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."

Arts and Entertainment
Shades of glory: Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend

Glastonbury Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend will perform with Paul Weller as their warm-up act

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
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.

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power