Ken Russell (1927-2011)
The eldest son of Ethel and Henry Russell, Henry Kenneth Alfred Russell was born on 3 July 1927 in Southampton, England. He died peacefully in his sleep on Sunday 27 November 2011. He was 84.
Having previously tried his hand at photography, dance and a short spell in the army, Ken Russell went on to become a film maker. In the post ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ era, Russell was never afraid to bring to the screen scenes which were often considered explicit or graphic in the 60s and 70s. In a career that started with arts documentaries for the BBC, Russell’s first feature film in 1963, ‘French Dressing’ was critically and commercially unsuccessful. His second feature, ‘Billion Dollar Brain’ came in 1967 and starred Michael Caine. Russell’s trademark style was already visible in the unusual camera angles and moving camera shots. British classics such as the ground breaking ‘Women In Love’ (1969) - for which he received a Best Director nomination alongside Glenda Jackson who took the Best Actress Award, ‘The Devils’ (1970) and the flamboyant film version of The Who’s rock opera ,’Tommy’ (1975) are the films for which Russell will best be remembered. He directed the then top model Twiggy in the comedy musical ‘The Boy Friend’ (1971), for which she won two Golden Globe Awards – Best Actress in a musical comedy and Best Newcomer. British talent such as Melvin Bragg, Oliver Reed and Glenda Jackson forged long and successful careers working with Russell in the early days of their chosen fields.
Over the next two decades, Russell had a brief spell in America before returning to the UK. Science fiction film ‘Altered States’ (1980) with William Hurt, Blair Brown and the film debut of a 5-years old Drew Barrymore, ‘Crimes of Passion’ (1984) starring Anthony Perkins and Kathleen Turner, ‘Gothic’ (1986) with Gabriel Byrne and ‘The Lair of the White Worm’ (1988) with Amanda Donohoe and Hugh Grant all capture the attention to detail and visual imagery that had become Russell’s trademark.