Merchant Ivory - Classics, Celluloid And Class

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2014040620150517 (R3)

Style, flair, individuality, ideas... and stars. The filmic output of the remarkable three-person association of creative talents that is collectively known as 'Merchant Ivory' has endured since the early 1960s.

For The Sunday Feature, Laurence Scott re-assesses the team's output. From their early success 'Shakespeare Wallah', through the trio of big English hits - 'A Room with a View', 'Howards End' and 'The Remains of the Day' - as well as less popular, but equally stylish American and French-based movies, Merchant Ivory pictures have always combined visual sophistication with stupendous acting talent. Yet despite their many triumphs, 'Merchant Ivory' became for some critics a tainted brand, redolent of a sort of big-house costume drama that epitomised all that was wrong with British cinema. Why? And were the criticisms fair?

Merchant Ivory was a unique combination of cinema talents, 'a three-person marriage' in the words of one of their biggest stars, Helena Bonham-Carter: James Ivory directed, his late partner Ismail Merchant produced, and most of the films were written by the screenwriter and novelist Ruth Prawer-Jhabvala.

While he was in London recently preparing his latest film Jim Ivory talked over three days with Laurence Scott, and explored his lifetime of film-making.

Also in the programme, alongside Helena Bonham-Carter whose career was largely launched by the team, is veteran Indian actress Madhur Jaffrey, who brought Jim and Ismail together and starred in a number of their Indian films, and novelist and screenwriter Kazuo Ishiguro. Plus, the man who as a schoolboy got Ivory and Merchant to star in his home movies (we savour the broadcast premiere) and went on to run the company, Richard Macrory.

Producer: Simon Elmes

First broadcast 06/04/2014.

20140406

Style, flair, individuality, ideas... and stars. The filmic output of the remarkable three-person association of creative talents that is collectively known as 'Merchant Ivory' has endured since the early 1960s.

For The Sunday Feature, Laurence Scott re-assesses the team's output. From their early success 'Shakespeare Wallah', through the trio of big English hits - 'A Room with a View', 'Howards End' and 'The Remains of the Day' - as well as less popular, but equally stylish American and French-based movies, Merchant Ivory pictures have always combined visual sophistication with stupendous acting talent. Yet despite their many triumphs, 'Merchant Ivory' became for some critics a tainted brand, redolent of a sort of big-house costume drama that epitomised all that was wrong with British cinema. Why? And were the criticisms fair?

Merchant Ivory was a unique combination of cinema talents, 'a three-person marriage' in the words of one of their biggest stars, Helena Bonham-Carter: James Ivory directed, his late partner Ismail Merchant produced, and most of the films were written by the screenwriter and novelist Ruth Prawer-Jhabvala.

While he was in London recently preparing his latest film Jim Ivory talked over three days with Laurence Scott, and explored his lifetime of film-making.

Also in the programme, alongside Helena Bonham-Carter whose career was largely launched by the team, is veteran Indian actress Madhur Jaffrey, who brought Jim and Ismail together and starred in a number of their Indian films and novelist and screenwriter Kazuo Ishiguro. Plus, the man who as a schoolboy got Ivory and Merchant to star in his home movies - we savour the broadcast premiere - and went on to run the company, Richard Macrory.

Producer: Simon Elmes.