Filmmaker Ismail Merchant, who with partner James Ivory became synonymous with such visually splendid and literate costume dramas as A Room With A View and Howard’s End, died Wednesday surrounded by friends and family at a hospital following surgery for abdominal ulcers, the team’s London production office said, according to published reports. He was 68.
The Bombay-born producer had spent most of his life in the West. The American-born Ivory did the directing on the more than 40 Merchant-Ivory movies, German-born screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala handled most of their scripts. Merchant-Ivory’s first independent production was 1963’s The Householder, based on Prawer Jhabvala’s novel.
Besides being a shrewd businessman, Merchant was also an accomplished gourmet cook – as was attested to by his 1990 Mr. & Mrs. Bridge star, Paul Newman.
Newman has joked that instead of being paid for his acting role, he was fed.
Other Merchant-Ivory movies included Maurice, The Bostonians and Remains of the Day, which garnered Oscar nominations for leading actors Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson.