Winner passes away
by: Caroline Westbrook - Last updated: 2013-01-21
Film director and media personality Michael Winner, best known for the 70s movie Death Wish as well as his career as a restaurant critic, has died aged 77.
Winner's wife Geraldine confirmed that Winner had passed away at his Kensington home after succumbing to liver cancer.
His health had declined in recent years, revealing last summer that doctors had given him less than two years to live.
Winner was born in Hampstead in 1935, the son of a Polish mother, Helen, and Russian father, George - and made no secret of his 'love-hate' relationship with his mother, who gambled and sold her way through much of the money left to him by his father after his death in 1975.
After studying law and economics at Cambridge he began his career as a journalist for NME and the Evening Standard, as well as an assistant director for the BBC - before making the move into movies with his 1960 debut Shoot To Kill.
He made a string of movies in the 1960s including I'll Never Forget What's'isname, Hannibal Brooks and The Jokers - all of which starred Oluver Reed - although it was his vigilante thriller Death Wish, starring Charles Bronson, which put him on the map as a filmmaker.
The movie, released in 1974, proved controversial due to its subject matter and violent content, with Bronson as a man avenging the murder of his wife by taking the law into his own hands - but it was successful enough to spawn two sequels.
However Winner's film output had declined in recent years, with later work including revenge thriller Dirty Weekend - in which a beleaguered woman launches a violent crusade against men - and his final movie, 1999's Parting Shots, which starred singer Chris Rea as a photographer who goes on a killing spree after being told her has only weeks to live.
In later years Winner was more renowned for his work as a restaurant critic - including his column in the Sunday Times, which he ceased writing only a month ago.
He also became infamous for his appearance in the long-running ad campaign for the insurance company Esure - featuring the classic tagline 'Calm down dear, it's only a commercial'.
Away from the media Winner was also responsible for founding the Police Memorial Trust following the murder of PC Yvonne Fletcher outside the Libyan Embassy in London in 1984.
The aim of the trust was to ensure that plaques are erected in memory of police officers who are killed in the line of duty.
Although Winner had a colourful romantic life - including a long-time relationship with actress Jenny Seagrove - he only married for the first time in 2011.
His wife, Geraldine, who nursed him through his final illness, had known him for decades, having first met him when he was 21 and she was just 16.
She called Winner 'brilliant, funny and generous,' and added: "A light has gone out of my life."