«

»

KEN RUSSELL

800px-Ken_Russell_2008

BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS

Full Name: Henry Kenneth Alfred Russell

Description: Film Director

Known For: The Whos “Tommy” 1975

Music Styles: Rock

Location: United Kingdom

Date Born: 3rd July 1927
Location Born: Southampton, United Kingdom

Date Died: 27th November 2011
Location Died: United Kingdom

CONTACT DETAILS
Web Site:   Ken Russell at the Internet Movie Database

Other Links: See below:

YOUTUBE VIDEO

BIOGRAPHICAL PROFILE

Henry Kenneth Alfred “Ken” Russell (3 July 1927 – 27 November 2011) was an English film director, known for his pioneering work in television and film and for his flamboyant and controversial style. He attracted criticism for being obsessed with sexuality and the church. His films often dealt with the lives of famous composers or were based on other works of art which he adapted loosely. Russell began directing for the BBC, where he made creative adaptations of composers’ lives which were unusual for the time. He also directed many feature films independently and for studios.

He is best known for his Oscar-winning film Women in Love (1969), The Devils (1971), The Who’s Tommy (1975), and the science fiction film Altered States (1980). Russell also directed several films based on the lives of classical music composers, such as Elgar, Delius, Tchaikovsky, Mahler, and Liszt.

Film critic Mark Kermode, speaking in 2006, and attempting to sum up the director’s achievement, called Russell, “somebody who proved that British cinema didn’t have to be about kitchen-sink realism—it could be every bit as flamboyant as Fellini. Later in his life he turned to making low-budget experimental films such as Lion’s Mouth and Revenge of the Elephant Man, and they are as edgy and ‘out there’ as ever”.

Ken Russell died on 27 November 2011, at the age of 84, of natural causes.

Russell was born in Southampton, England, on 3 July 1927, the elder of two sons of Ethel (née Smith) and Henry Russell, a shoeshop owner. His father was distant and took out his rage on his family, so Russell spent much of his time at the cinema with his mother, who was mentally ill. He cited Die Nibelungen and The Secret of the Loch as two early influences.

He was educated at private schools in Walthamstow and at Pangbourne College, and studied photography at Walthamstow Technical College (now part of the University of East London). He harboured a childhood ambition to be a ballet dancer but instead joined the Royal Air Force and the Merchant Navy as a teenager. On one occasion he was made to stand watch in the blazing sun for hours on end while crossing the Pacific. His lunatic captain feared an attack by Japanese midget submarines despite the war having ended. He moved into television work after short careers in dance and photography.

His series of documentary ‘Teddy Girl’ photographs were published in Picture Post magazine in 1955, and he continued to work as a freelance documentary photographer until 1959. After 1959, Russell’s amateur films (his documentaries for the Free Cinema movement, and his 1958 short Amelia and the Angel) secured him a job at the BBC.

Russell was born in Southampton, England, on 3 July 1927, the elder of two sons of Ethel (née Smith) and Henry Russell, a shoeshop owner. His father was distant and took out his rage on his family, so Russell spent much of his time at the cinema with his mother, who was mentally ill. He cited Die Nibelungen and The Secret of the Loch as two early influences.

He was educated at private schools in Walthamstow and at Pangbourne College, and studied photography at Walthamstow Technical College (now part of the University of East London). He harboured a childhood ambition to be a ballet dancer but instead joined the Royal Air Force and the Merchant Navy as a teenager. On one occasion he was made to stand watch in the blazing sun for hours on end while crossing the Pacific. His lunatic captain feared an attack by Japanese midget submarines despite the war having ended. He moved into television work after short careers in dance and photography.

His series of documentary ‘Teddy Girl’ photographs were published in Picture Post magazine in 1955, and he continued to work as a freelance documentary photographer until 1959. After 1959, Russell’s amateur films (his documentaries for the Free Cinema movement, and his 1958 short Amelia and the Angel) secured him a job at the BBC.

Russell’s first feature film was French Dressing (1964), a comedy loosely based on Roger Vadim’s And God Created Woman; its critical and commercial failure sent Russell back to the BBC. One of his films there, in 1965, was Always On Sunday, a bio-pic of Le (Henri) Douanier Rousseau, the late 19th century French naive painter. This was followed by Dante’s Inferno about the painter and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti and the tortuous relationship with his wife Elizabeth. His second major commercial film was Billion Dollar Brain (1967), starring Michael Caine, based on author Len Deighton’s Harry Palmer spy cycle.

In 1969, Russell directed what is considered his “signature film”, Women In Love, an adaptation of D. H. Lawrence’s novel of the same name about two artist sisters living in post-World War I Britain. The film starred Glenda Jackson, Oliver Reed, Jennie Linden and Alan Bates. The film is notable for its nude wrestling scene, which broke the convention at the time that a mainstream movie could not show male genitalia. Women in Love connected with the sexual revolution and bohemian politics of the late 1960s. It received several Oscar nominations, including his only nomination for Best Director. The film was BAFTA-nominated for the costume designs of Russell’s first wife, Shirley; they collaborated throughout the 1970s. The colour schemes of Luciana Arrighi’s art direction (also BAFTA-nominated) and Billy William’s cinematography, which Russell used for metaphorical effect, are also often referred to by film textbooks.

Personal life

Russell converted to Roman Catholicism during the 1950s.

He was married four times. His first marriage, to Shirley Kingdon from 1958 to 1978, produced four sons and a daughter. He was married to Vivian Jolly from 1984 to 1991 (the wedding celebrant being Anthony Perkins, who had been ordained in the Universal Life Church); the couple had a son and daughter. He was married to Hetty Baynes from 1992 to 1997; the couple had a son. His first three marriages ended in divorce. He married Elize Tribble in 2001, and the marriage lasted until his death. His fourth wife and all of his children survived him.

LINKS: