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
Wonder.land Musical by Damon Albarn

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
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.

    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'