Michael Winner obituary: ‘When I die it will say Death Wish director, not calm down dear’

The film director, food critic and all-round British icon is remembered for his infamous brush with Hampstead foodies and his work to see justice for murdered PC Keith Blakelock after the Broadwater Farm riots.

“When I die, which could be tomorrow, it will say ‘Death Wish director dies’, not ‘calm down dear’ dies.”

So said Michael Winner (1935-2013), the film director, food critic and all-round British icon who died this week of liver failure aged 77.

From humble beginnings growing up in a ‘modest’ house in Willesden, and being a Jewish boy educated at a Quaker boarding school, Mr Winner became one of the youngest ever columnists for the Evening Standard, writing about film stars aged just 13.

He decided (after doing badly in his Cambridge degree in law and economics) to work in film and went on to be a commercially successful director, making more than 30 pictures.

He became a character in the public eye, doing things people didn’t usually do.

Mr Winner famously turned down an OBE for his services to film, remarking: “An OBE is what you get if you clean the toilets at King’s Cross Station.”

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He used this same articulate and direct style to be an outspoken restaurant critic, writing his Winner’s Dinners column for the Sunday Times from 1994 until 2012 when he had to stop because of ill health.

He won readers over because he was never afraid to say what was rubbish. He admitted last year that he rarely ate out because “most restaurants are crap”.

Last year he provoked the ire of Ham&High foodies when he claimed there were no good restaurants in Hampstead.

He was also a lothario and confessed that his life’s ambition was at one point to “make love to every woman in the world”.

Charity also came into Winner’s life, albeit later.

He established the Police Memorial Trust in 1984, dedicated to honouring police officers who died in the call of duty – and was personally involved with the campaign for justice for Pc Keith Blakelock, who was killed in the Broadwater Farm riots in 1985 when stationed as a beat bobby in Muswell Hill.

Whether you loved him or loathed him, Mr Winner had a rare gift. In an era when people in the public eye self-censor their opinions for fear of recrimination, he was one of the few who genuinely said what he thought.

Mr Winner leaves behind his wife, Geraldine Lynton-Edwards.