John Mackenzie (director)
|Born||John Leonard Duncan MacKenzie
22 May 1928
Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
|Died||8 June 2011
|Alma mater||University of Edinburgh|
John Mackenzie (22 May 1928 – 8 June 2011), was a Scottish film director who worked in British film from the late 1960s, first as an assistant director and later as an independent director himself. He has been described by critics as "a solid and reliable filmmaker with... frequent flairs of brilliance", but despite tackling such topics as the Hiberno-British struggle, or the assassination of John F. Kennedy he was generally not thought of as a political filmmaker.
Mackenzie was born in Edinburgh, Scotland on 22 May 1928 and educated at Holy Cross Academy. He studied History at Edinburgh University. He studied drama and joined Edinburgh's Gateway Theatre Company. He worked as a teacher and moved to London in 1960.
Mackenzie came at a relatively young age into the formative world of British cinema in the 1960s, with a ready interest in storytelling and narrative devices. Fortuitously for his career, Mackenzie began his career proper with the English director Ken Loach, acting as the latter's assistant director on such works as Up the Junction (1965) and Cathy Come Home (1966). This training allowed Mackenzie to begin a move into directing himself, as well as teaching him the skills of working on location with non-professional, local actors to a tight budget and schedule.
Directing, film and television
Initially, Mackenzie worked on television plays, following his apprenticeship with Loach. During this period he directed episodes of The Jazz Age and ITV Saturday Night Theatre. His first film was the television drama There Is Also Tomorrow (1969), followed by two feature films One Brief Summer (1970) and Unman, Wittering and Zigo, an adaptation of Giles Cooper's radio play (1971). Mackenzie still largely worked for television, aside from the independent production Made (1972), until in 1979 he directed the highly acclaimed A Sense of Freedom, a BAFTA-nominated film (released on television in the US in 1985). Freedom was surpassed, however, by Mackenzie's next film, the gangster piece The Long Good Friday, generally accepted as his masterpiece.
The Long Good Friday, starring Bob Hoskins and Helen Mirren, opened up opportunities to work in the United States. The Honorary Consul was adapted from Graham Greene's novel by Christopher Hampton. Also released as Beyond the Limit, the film re-united Mackenzie with Hoskins, as well as giving him the chance to direct Michael Caine and Richard Gere. Mackenzie's other films of this period include The Innocent (1985) and The Fourth Protocol (1987), with Michael Caine and Pierce Brosnan.
The greatest success that Mackenzie enjoyed in his American period was Ruby (1992), a biopic of Jack Ruby, the Texan nightclub owner who assassinated Lee Harvey Oswald. Ruby starred Academy Award-nominated Danny Aiello and Twin Peaks actor Sherilyn Fenn. Another film of this period was The Last of the Finest, a UK-US thriller starring Brian Dennehy. Mackenzie's returned to the UK in 1993.
Mackenzie died after suffering a stroke on 8 June 2011, just after his 83rd birthday. He is survived by his three daughters (Colyn, Katherine and Rebecca) by Wendy Marshall, whom he married in 1956 and who predeceased him.
As Assistant Director
As Director: Film
As Director: Television
- Eardley, Nick (11 June 2011). "Actor and film-maker John Mackenzie dies, aged 83". The Scotsman.
- "John Mackenzie". The New York Times.
- "Telegraph obituary". Telegraph.co.uk. 2011-06-13. Retrieved 2011-08-16.
- Canby, Vincent. "Ruby (1992) Review/Film: Ruby; Annals of an Assassin's Assassin". The New York Times.
- John Mackenzie at the Internet Movie Database
- John Mackenzie at the British Film Institute's Screenonline