Director James Ivory’s producing partner Ismail Merchant has died
Ismail Merchant, longtime movie producer and sometime director, died today in London. The cause of death was not immediately made available. Merchant was 68.
Ismail Merchant and James Ivory movies
Ismail Merchant (born in Mumbai on Dec. 25, 1936) and his partner, American director James Ivory, were responsible for several classy productions made in the last four decades. Among those are Heat and Dust (1981), starring Julie Christie as a woman traveling through India; the psychological drama Quartet (1981), with Maggie Smith, Alan Bates, and Isabelle Adjani; and the dramatic comedy Mr. and Mrs. Bridge (1990), with Paul Newman and Best Actress Academy Award nominee Joanne Woodward.
Additionally, the Merchant-Ivory duo earned Best Picture Oscar nominations for three of their films: A Room with a View (1986) with Helena Bonham-Carter as the socially defiant heroine in this film adaptation of E.M. Forster’s novel; Howard’s End (1992), another Forster adaptation, which earned Emma Thompson a Best Actress Oscar; and the socio-psychological study The Remains of the Day (1993) starring Oscar nominees Thompson and Anthony Hopkins. German-born, English-raised screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala was a frequent collaborator.
In the last decade, however, the prestige of the Merchant-Ivory productions has declined dramatically, with films such as A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries (1998) and Le Divorce (2004) finding little favor from either critics or audiences.
Ismail Merchant also directed a handful of movies, including the well-received In Custody (1994). His last directorial effort was the Trinidad-set The Mystic Masseur (2001).
Ismail Merchant: Health issues
In recent years, Merchant had been suffering from health problems, being forced to undergo surgery as treatment for stomach ulcers. At the time of his death, Merchant and Ivory were in London shooting The White Countess, from a script by Kazuo Ishiguro (author of the novel The Remains of the Day), and starring Ralph Fiennes, Natasha Richardson, Lynn Redgrave, and Vanessa Redgrave.
According to a family spokesperson, Merchant’s body will be buried in Mumbai.