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Michael Winner: 1935 – 2013

Michael Winner whose death was announced yesterday was a film director, food critic and all round eccentric. I am certainly not in favour of trashing the name of the recently deceased. Every person who dies has a family somewhere who is grieving and Michael Winner is no exception. But by the same token I for one cannot join the seemingly endless stream of positive platitudes being directed toward Winner.

Amongst all the celebrity love ins with everyone wanting to claim Winner for themselves the reality of his awful and politically dodgy films, odious sexism and unpleasant comments over the years have been overlooked.

His crowning moment as a director was the making of “Death Wish” – a brutal, pro-vigilante flick that depicts most of the bad guys or muggers as black. Many say that the film stopped short of being racist because not all black people in the film were “bad” and not all of the muggers were black. But the style and crude dispatching of of the bad 2D characters who are all for the time, modern looking black men, leaves an uncomfortable feeling in the viewer. Other films even where he had a big named cast under his command failed to grab public attention, most notably Lawman which remains one Western film to avoid, despite starring Burt Lancaster.

Next stop for Winner was a set of insurance adverts which made the phrase “Calm down dear” his own even if David Cameron tried to steal his lines. It also gave people a more legitimate excuse to be openly sexist but be able to say “I was only joking, dear.” A few people have posted his rant against homophobia as proof of liberal tendencies  But a cynic might say that Winner liked to be controversial for its own sake.

His regular food critic column in the Times is testimony to this as was his ill-judged (or was it) outburst when turning down an OBE – “An OBE is what you get if you clean the toilets well at King’s Cross station.”

Many people falling over themselves to laud Winner stumble over what exactly they liked or admired about him. Maybe we struggle to criticise old people as a mark of respect. But there other more worthy characters to be admired who are no longer with us such as trade unionist and Pentonville 5 leader Vic Turner who was buried on Friday.

As the Independent summed up nicely today, Michael Winner was essentially “famous for being famous” and the majority have fallen for the hype.

This article first appeared at The Daily Dreadnought.


  1. treborc says:

    I really think since he was not into Politics and he has died it would be better to say nothing.

    Personally I did not like his films but his films fitted into the time when directors were breaking out of the censorship, 1969 we had a Cowboy film the Wild bunch in which blood was used by the bucket death slow motion as the bullets tore into flesh.

    Death wish was one in which revenge was the thing and the public took to it.

    Today sadly people are now sick and tired of politics and are highly critical of politicians for good reason, his face on TV and the annoying adverts which showed people were still employing him.

    I would say he is now gone and I think he is another of those people you hate to see but will miss from the dour people left to take his place.

    Obviously he did things and said things to please the employers to make a living.

  2. Joe says:

    Agreed. “Don’t speak ill of the dead” is a good maxim. Like all guidance, you should break it if theres a very compelling reason. There was no such reason to write this article, except perhaps to grab publicity through targeting topical keywords.

  3. Laban says:

    “I am certainly not in favour of trashing the name of the recently deceased.”

    (commences trashing)

  4. John P says:

    Perhaps we should try to avoid personal attacks . . . but since we’ve started . . .

    I thought much the same as the writer of this piece, but was quite surprised to see it expressed – I was beginning to think I was in a minority of one.

    There is also the view that Winner’s rudeness and nastiness was an act – like something from American professional wrestling – but if you listen to some of the anecdotes about him in private I’m not sure it holds up.

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