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Hampstead MP pays tribute to Ken Russell ‘one of the greatest directors ever’

PUBLISHED: 11:21 30 November 2011

Director Ken Russell, who has died aged 84. Picture: Fiona Hanson/PA Wire

Director Ken Russell, who has died aged 84. Picture: Fiona Hanson/PA Wire

PA Wire/Press Association Images

Described as one of the most influential directors in the history of cinema, there has been no shortage of tributes flooding in to the sometimes controversial but always original film-maker Ken Russell.

The British director, who died at the age of 84 at his home in Lymington, Hampshire, on Sunday (November 27) following a series of strokes, had a long and varied career which spanned more than five decades.

Making a series of powerful and visually unique films, he was often described as eccentric for his vibrant imagination that was displayed both on and off screen.

He created many powerful and captivating roles for women in his films, providing a platform for actresses like Vanessa Redgrave, Twiggy and Hampstead and Kilburn MP, Glenda Jackson - who won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in one of his best known films, Women in Love.

The 1969 movie follows the lives of two couples living in a mining town in pre-war England.

Ms Jackson told the Ham&High of the directors “incredible talent and imagination” and also blasted the British film industry for not giving him enough recognition.

She said: “He was a genius. I think he was probably one of the greatest British directors we have ever had and he fundamentally changed cinema not only in his country but the world.

“It is disgraceful the way in which he has been largely ignored by the industry for the past fifteen years when he broke down so many boundaries and completely transformed British cinema to what it has become.

“It was wonderful to work with him and I am very sad he has gone.

“I’m sure there will be lots of nice things said about him now he is dead, but he should have had the recognition and credit he deserved while he was alive.

“The British film industry simply chose to ignore him. He is often branded as a nutter but he wasn’t at all, he just had a much greater imagination and a damn sight more passion than the rest of them.”

Drawing on England for his inspiration for many of his films, there is no doubt that Mr Russell had no qualms about challenging authority and pushing the boundaries.

His 1971 film, The Devils, which depicted an orgy in a cathedral, sent shock waves through the Catholic church and the film was banned in several countries, and heavily edited for release in others.

His many directing projects spanned many genres from 1975 rock opera Tommy, to the 1980 science fiction film Altered States, and he could always be relied upon to shock and entertain his audience.

In recent years he continued to work on projects and even had a turn at the other side of the camera for Channel Four’s Celebrity Big Brother.

The director was married four times and leaves behind five children.


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