Winner's wayward but winning ways
There is something of a moral in the life story of Michael Winner, who died this week at the age of 77. Lurk around long enough and – however badly you treat the servants – you will inevitably become something of a national treasure.
For most of his career, the film director and food critic served as a poisonous punch-line to bad jokes. He was famously rude. His films were notoriously awful. Yet a glance at the cast list of his later pictures offers evidence that, in private, he could be the most charming of men.
Parting Shots, his appropriately named final film, featured, among others, Ben Kingsley, John Cleese, Diana Rigg, Felicity Kendal, Bob Hoskins, Oliver Reed and Joanna Lumley. They weren’t doing it for the money. They certainly weren’t drawn in by the brilliance of the script.
As Lumley said last week: “He was a truly loyal man, generous and funny and I loved him dearly. People just liked him. When he wasn’t being a monster he was adorable. He was a real monstre sacré – though really more of the sacré than the monster.”
Sure enough, by the time of his death, thanks in part to those insurance commercials, Mr Winner had become more beloved than Paddington Bear. The world is now a less colourful place.