Sunday, February 27, 2011

Out Spotlight

Today's Out Spotlight is a partnership in both love and work. Between them they have made 47 films and received six BAFTAS and six Academy Awards. Their partnership has it's own place
in the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest partnership in independent cinema history. Today's Out Spotlight is producer Ismail Merchant and director Jame Ivory.

Coming from worlds apart they found a partnership both on screen and off that lasted 44 years.

Born Ismail Noormohamed Abdul Rehman in Bombay, December 25 1936, Ismail Merchant was the son of Hazra and Noormohamed Haji Abdul Rehman. His father was a Mumbai Memon textile dealer. Growing up he spoke both Gujarati and Urdu at home, and learned Arabic and English at school. At the age of 11, his family was caught up in the 1947 partitioning of India, his father, president of the Muslim League, refused to move to Pakistan. Merchant later said that he carried the memories of the "butchery and riots" of the time into adulthood.

Merchant attended St. Xavier's College, Bombay (Mumbai) and it was there that he developed his love of film.
After graduation from St. Xavier's he traveled to the US to study at New York University, where he earned a MBA. While at NYU he supported himself by working as a messenger for the United Nations and used the opportunity to persuade Indian delegates to fund his film project. On the job training for a producer. He said of the time , "I was not intimidated by anyone or anything".

James Francis Ivory was born born June 7, 1928 in Berkeley, California, the son of Hallie Millicent and Edward Patrick Ivory, a sawmill operator and grew up in Klamath Falls, Oregon. Ivory was a film fan from a early age, but not of the films he would become famous for, but for disaster movies. He came to movie making later, first attending the University of Oregon, majoring in Architecture and Fine Arts and then pursuing film studies at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, where he directed his short film Four in the Morning in 1953.

Then he wrote, photographed, and produced Venice: Theme and Variations a half-hour documentary submitted as a thesis film for his degree in cinema at USC. The film was named by The New York Times in 1957 as one of the ten best non-theatrical films of the year. He graduated from USC in 1957

Ivory came to New York that year, and it was there, in 1961, that he met Merchant, at a screening of Ivory’s second film, a short documentary based on Indian miniatures, entitled The Sword and the Flute. Merchant introduced himself: they had a friend in common in the actor Saeed Jaffrey. He wanted to make films set in India for an international market, and in Ivory he found his collaborator and much more. Merchant completely disregarded Ivory’s inexperience directing actors, immediately began raising money for their first feature film together.

Later in 1961 they formed Merchant Ivory Productions. For the next 44 years, Merchant Ivory Productions produced 47 films. Their first film would be an adaptation of Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s novel The Householder. Jhabvala became the screenwriter for most of their productions. Some of their titles include The Bostonians, A Room with a View, Maurice, Mr & Mrs. Bridge, and Howard's End.

In 1961, Merchant made a short film, The Creation of Woman. It was shown at the Cannes Film Festival and received an Academy Award nomination.

In 1963, MIP premiered its first production, The Householder. It was the first Indian-made film to be distributed internationally by a major American studio, Columbia Pictures. But it wasn't until the 1970s that their partnership "hit on a successful formula for studied, slow-moving pieces. Merchant Ivory became known for their attention to period detail and the opulence of their sets". Their first success in this style was The Europeans.

Merchant Ivory had produced such films as A Room with a View, Maurice, Howard's End, Remains of the Day, Mr. & Mrs. Bridge, Jefferson in Paris,Surviving Picasso,The Golden Bowl, Le Divorce, The White Countess, and The City of Your Final Destination.

Merchant also directed in addition to producing. He directed a number of movies and two television features. For television, he directed a short feature entitled Mahatma and the Mad Boy, and a full-length television feature, The Courtesans of Bombay made for Britain's Channel Four. He made his film directorial debut with 1993's In Custody based on a novel by Anita Desai, and starring Bollywood actor Shashi Kapoor. Filmed in Bhopal, India, it won National Awards from the Government of India for Best Production Design and special award for the lead actor Shashi Kapoor. His second directing feature, "The Proprietor," starred Jeanne Moreau, Sean Young, Jean-Pierre Aumont and Christopher Cazenove and was filmed on location in Paris.

Of his partnership with Ivory and Jhabvala, Merchant once commented: "It is a strange marriage we have at Merchant Ivory . . . I am an Indian Muslim, Ruth is a German Jew, and Jim is a Protestant American. Someone once described us as a three-headed god. Maybe they should have called us a three-headed monster!"

Merchant was well known for his "lavish private parties" and for cooking for the cast of MIP productions. He was fond of cooking, and he wrote several books on the art including Ismail Merchant's Indian Cuisine; Ismail Merchant's Florence; Ismail Merchant's Passionate Meals and Ismail Merchant's Paris: Filming and Feasting in France.

He also wrote books on film-making, including a book about the making of the film The Deceivers in 1988 called Hullabaloo in Old Jeypur, and another about the making of The Proprietor called Once Upon a Time . . . The Proprietor. His last book was entitled, My Passage From India: A Filmmaker's Journey from Bombay to Hollywood and Beyond.

In 2002, Merchant was awarded the Padma Bhushan,the third highest civilian award in the Republic of India. He was also a recipient of The International Center in New York's Award of Excellence.

Merchant died in Westminster, London, on May 25, 2005, at age 68, following surgery for abdominal ulcers. It was in the middle of filming " The White Countess". They had come to do further shooting in London. He was buried in the Bada Kabrestan in Marine Lines, Mumbai, on May 28th, in keeping with his wish to be laid to rest with his ancestors.

Ivory grief stricken and threw himself into work. “I was badly shaken — that’s an understatement. But I knew we had to finish what we’d started The White Countess. He had also already begun work on The City of Your Final Destination. “I was overwhelmed with grief but I had to do it and I’m glad I did. It went on for months and months and months, but after we’d done the film I was in a better frame of mind."

Although relatively quiet about their relationship they were a true partnership on and off screen. Speaking after Merchant's death, Ivory was asked about his life had been since losing his partner. He adeptly spoke about in terms of their professional relationship, telling how difficult it is to make a film without his longtime partner. Each had strengths in their film making and areas where they deferred to the other. “The one thing I knew not to do — which I could not help doing — was to interfere in his financial arrangements. If there was some woebegone person who was working for us on a film, they’d come to me and say: ‘I’m only being paid $100 a week,’ or something. I’d go to Ismail and say: ‘So-and-so is being underpaid and it’s not fair.’ Maybe he’d believe that, and see they got a raise, but he’d rant and rave that I was getting in his hair. We had terrible fights about that.”

But Merchant could take the lead sometimes in the partnership, hurrying Ivory into a project he wasn’t that interested in. “That was the case with A Room with a View. We had paid for the rights and it was just sitting there. But Ruth Jhabvala and I were working on another screenplay and I said things like, ‘Oh, must we? I don’t want to do another period film right now.’ But we did it and thank God we did!”

And Merchant could be masterful taking care of things and then presenting it completed for Ivory. “He cast some big parts in the films without telling me — except they were people like James Mason and Maggie Smith. So who could complain?

For a couple who was quiet about their relationship, many wondered what motivated them to adapt E. M. Forster’s novel Maurice. “I just wanted to make it,” Ivory says. “I wasn’t making it for some self-revelatory reason. We didn’t really know what would happen when the film came out. And it turned out that its release coincided with the worst period of the AIDS crisis — people were being mowed down right and left. I think that discouraged the press from being censorious about it, and it was well-received, particularly here. (in the US) But it was curious that in England it was not so well received, and not well received by the gay critics — one knew who they were. They just couldn’t embrace it for what it was: a gay story with a happy ending. They didn’t want to be associated with it. I thought that was a remarkable example of hypocrisy in the press.”

Ivory continues to work with Merchant Ivory productions even after the passing of his beloved Ismail.

Merchant Ivory Productions

39 comments:

AUS10 said...

Marty, look, I can't do the movie. I'm still working on OTH.
about 2 hours ago via Twitter for BlackBerry®

Hey Natalie. Hey Colin. Mr. Franco. Miss Hathaway. You guys look great. about 2 hours ago via Twitter for BlackBerry®

Puttin the Dapper Dan in my hair... about 2 hours ago via Twitter for BlackBerry®

Putting my suit on...
about 2 hours ago via Twitter for BlackBerry®

Oscar the Grouch should be given a lifetime achievement award from the Academy. #oscars
about 8 hours ago via Twitter for BlackBerry®

AUS10 said...

I was just thrown off the red carpet by security. They are putting Geoffrey Rush in my seat.
6 minutes ago via Twitter for BlackBerry®

Jersey Tom said...

I wonder if Austin is tweeting from LA or NC. Maybe he will catch an after party with his woman and meet up with his old friend Jake. He probably hasn't seen him since Leadville:-)

Jersey Tom said...

I drove past the Wilmington exit on 95 North today. I had a feeling Austin would be no near around.

Music Lover said...

Great spotlight for Oscar day - and my favorite aria ever. Thx! :) Happy Oscar night!

the real m said...

The out spotlights are always so interesting. I look forward to them every week.

I am having 2nd thoughts about watching the Oscars. I tried the independent film awards last night but got bored within the 1st 10 minutes. No matter what they try to do, it's still just an insider awards ceremony. Boring, though I was happy to hear that the 2 supporting actors from Winters Bone won. I thought they both did a terrific job. I'll record the Oscars just in case so let me know if its worth watching.

AUS10 said...

I'm going around back to see if I can sneak in. Just saw Banksy tagging a wall. Stay tuned... 8 minutes ago via Twitter for BlackBerry®

AUS10 said...

OK I GOT IN!!! I yelled, "Natalie's water broke!". Everybody looked left, I went right and slipped in the door. Now I have to find a seat.
1 minute ago via Twitter for BlackBerry®

Special K said...

Just saw Busy with Michelle Williams in the crowd. She must be Michelle's date. Great to bring a bestie with you for your big night.

oscar said...

Busy went to the Oscars with Heath and Michelle in 2006, you can see her sitting in the front row with them , I think the video is on IHJ.

AUS10 said...

Its true. I had to put on a waiter's uniform. I am walking around passing out rolls. Waiting for Mark Walberg to go pee so I can sit down. 14 minutes ago via Twitter for BlackBerry®

Special K said...

Just have to say it Reese looks great.

tweet said...

Jake Gyllenhaal's having a beer at the bar, paying no attention to the show and chatting with a female friend.
9 minutes ago via Twitter for Android
AriKarpel

oscar twitpics said...

Jake, Busy, Michelle Williams, Hugh Jackman's wife

Jake and Michelle

michael k said...

And when is Jake Gyllenhaal going to show us his short subject? Or curved subject. Or burrito shaped subject. We're easy.
viewer comment by mkdlisted (via Twitter) @ 10:13 pm

tweet said...

The blow jobs and blunts lounge Jake Gyllenhaal, Timberlake, and Astronaut Franco have all been hanging out in must be righteous 7 minutes ago via Twitter for Mac
http://twitter.com/lukezim

austin tweets said...

# Just bumped into McConaughey backstage. He slipped me a flask and said, "Austin, take a pull baby." No lie. 28 minutes ago via Twitter for BlackBerry®

# And then I passed the flask to Coleen Atwood. Oops!! 25 minutes ago via Twitter for BlackBerry®

prairiegirl said...

Jake looked in his own words...amazing.

Pretty darn excellent.

I've enjoyed James Franco, but Anne, not so much. In the beginning she was kind of all over the place and being too loud. But seems to have settled down now and who can blame her? It must have been very nerve wracking to be up there.

Colin Firth looks awesome!!! And me without my Colin Firth avatar. Too lazy to change it back. I love Jessica Fletcher.

jason biggs said...

No joke here- Jake Gyllenhaal is one of the nicest dudes ever. And talented. I wanna be him. Or be inside him. 13 minutes ago via Twitter for iPhone

Special K said...

Jake looks so good. Double breasted Burberry tux is absolute perfection. He looked relax and having a little fun up there doing his presenting duties.

Somebody put up a picture of him and Amy backstage after they presented.

http://plixi.com/p/80549351

I think he was a little jealous of the dude who won. For the hair alone!

Special K said...

Looks like I was wrong about the Burberry and Jake is wearing head to toe Ferragamo.

Special K said...

Jake & Amy - Just Jared

prairiegirl said...

Jake looks great. I really liked Amy Adams' dress.

AUS10 said...

Wow. They called Billy Crystal in to take over!!!
about 1 hour ago via Twitter for BlackBerry®

the real m said...

I have not been watching so am about to check out the links provided to see how Jake looked. I started following Franco on twitter though and he has been sending out pictures all night, including having his phone recording in his pocket as he walked at one point. A good perspective from which to watch. He has a bunch of photos up and looks a bit tired. I bet he did not sleep at all last night.

prairiegirl said...

I think the Oscars were a real snooze-fest; Jake about the only bright spot.

Franco & Anne did an okay job, but sorry - I would take a controversial Ricky Gervais any day over a snoozefest.

And Austin has ceased twittering in the past hour or so. Isn't that interesting...

Gorgeous said...

Looks like I was wrong about the Burberry and Jake is wearing head to toe Ferragamo.

It fit him beautifully. He looked magnificent, tall and slim.

Gorgeous said...

Anne has an every-girl quality about her personality and sincerely happy to be there; although every girl wishes they could be that gorgeous. I hope she will be playing Judy Garland, because I definitely get that from her. The spoof she did about Hugh Jackman was cute. :)

Mila Kunis looked amazing, as did Natalie (loved her earrings). Loved Reese's dress too. Congrats to Christian Bale, Melissa Leo couldn't have not won, and there's just something cute about Jesse Eisenberg.

et more Gorgeous said...

I saw not one, but two trailers for SC during the presentation, and did I say how magnificent Jake looked in that tux, especially in that quick back shot as they cut to a commercial? *swoon*

after party said...

Jake Gyllenhaal, Amanda Seyfried, and @janefonda just arrived. Not together, alas. That would be interesting. #vfoscars
8 minutes ago via TweetDeck Retweeted by 4 people

vanityfairmag

the real m said...

Well most of the Oscar reviews seem pretty bad so I'm glad I did not watch. I never watched Brothers & Sisters when it was on originally but I watched the first season on reruns recently and got hooked. I just did a netflix instant play marathon and watched 13 episodes of season 2 over the past 2 days. This is what happens when there are hardly any slash stories being posted on DC forum. Hopefully we will get lots of Jake pictures tomorrow.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
prairiegirl said...

This is what happens when there are hardly any slash stories being posted on DC forum.

And probably the BBM end of it may be about dead for good but for a few ongoing stories. I think that's just the way it goes - the end of a slash period. All good things must come to an end.

Probably why I've lost my muse and am not inspired to write is readers who have gone off to other venues. And I don't feel bad about it either; Cowboy Up Jack & Ennis can just lounge by the tree in slash eternity - kind of a nice way for them to sit a spell, I think.

prairiegirl said...

Well, while I didn't particularly enjoy the Oscars themselves, I still had a very good time watching them. Undoubtedly enjoyed the Red Carpet Show more although it was disappointing that Jake didn't go that route this year. Oh well, it was still fun to watch everyone else.

Totally worth it to wait for Jake to come on and he did look spot on dashing. Best looking of the night and I have to say it was fun to be on Twitter, watching all the comments.

I couldn't get on for awhile; kept trying & trying. Finally got on and I stayed there! LOL. Don't lose that browser!

And I was so happy to see Colin Firth win. Is that man just debonair or what? His distinguished looks, his beautiful accent and that stride of his. I absolutely love the way he walks. I've seen it in Bridget Jones and Pride and Prejudice and it just doesn't change. He has a beautiful, long-limbed stride. If a man can walk beautifully, Colin Firth can and does.

Just beautiful.

prairiegirl said...

What an image. Mark Darcy walking away as the bell of a toast rings in Bridget Jones' Diary. And running up the stairs in the same movie. Wow. So graceful - like he was running on air. All long legs and long arms - controlled.

**SIGH**.

Gorgeous said...

And I was so happy to see Colin Firth win. Is that man just debonair or what?

Yes. There's a scene in King's Speech with him with his shirt collar loosened and his hair mussed up that is just so elegant and sexy (unfortunately he's very distraught in it). He's a very very attractive, dignified man. I'm so glad he won, he and everyone connected with King's Speech did a fantastic job. Bravo.

As much as I wanted Tom Hooper to win for Best Director, I was torn about David Fincher's winning for Best Director, I was surprised how much I liked The Social Network. The soundtrack is very haunting, and Jesse Eisenberg was just so good in it, so full of himself but beneath that, some insecurity. The soundtrack captured it amazingly.

Glad to see Inception pick up some awards, Chris Nolan and Emma Thomas are a great couple, and he's a fantastic artist and director. He elevates the action film to an entirely new level, can't wait for his next one.

Gorgeous said...

And I should not forget to mention how adorable Michelle Williams looked. She's really coming into her own, and was fantastic in BV. As was Ryan Gosling, where was he?

I wish The Kids are All Right had gotten more recognition, a very emotional film. I haven't seen Winter's Bone nor 127 Hours, and hope to. I absolutely loved The Fighter; Christian Bale and Melissa Leo's performances were amazingly good. I know that I wasn't happy with Mark Wahlberg's comments about BBM, but he's redeemed himself with Micky Ward. So vulnerable that you just want to take him in your arms and make it all better, as Amy Adams did. She was fantastic. I enjoyed the Oscars, always do. :)

correction department said...

Boring, though I was happy to hear that the 2 supporting actors from Winters Bone won. I thought they both did a terrific job.

sorry, but Melissa Leo and Christian Bale both won the supporting Oscars for "The Fighter." No one from Winter's Bone was nominated in the supporting actress category, Jennifer Lawrence was nominated for best actress.

destiny said...

Jake did look really handsome last night. And loved Mila's dress, I thought it was the prettiest one of the night, and she looked great too.

The awards themselves were boring, no surprises. I was really hoping Fincher would win for director; The King's Speech is a good film, but there is nothing special about the directing.

Just watched Winter's Bone Saturday night, it is really good, and the performances are amazing, as good if not better than those in The Fighter.