Merchant Ivory Productions
Merchant Ivory Productions is a film company founded in 1961 by producer Ismail Merchant (d. 2005) and director James Ivory. Their films were for the most part produced by Merchant, directed by Ivory, and 23 (of the 44 total films) were scripted by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (d. 2013) in some capacity, all but two of those with solo credit. The films were often based upon novels or short stories, particularly the work of Henry James, E. M. Forster, and two novels by Jhabvala herself.
The initial goal of the company was "to make English-language films in India aimed at the international market." The style of Merchant Ivory films set and photographed in India became iconic. The company also went on to make films in England and America.
Some actors and producers associated with Merchant Ivory include Leela Naidu, Madhur Jaffrey, Aparna Sen, Shashi Kapoor, Jennifer Kendal, Hugh Grant, James Wilby, Rupert Graves, Simon Callow, Anthony Hopkins, Glenn Close, Uma Thurman, Emma Thompson, Vanessa Redgrave, Natasha Richardson, Ralph Fiennes and Helena Bonham Carter.
Of this collaboration, 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!"
The expression "Merchant-Ivory film" has made its way into common parlance, to denote a particular genre of film rather than the actual production company. While 1965's Shakespeare Wallah put this genre on the international map, its heyday was the 1980s and 1990s with such films as A Room with a View and Howards End. A typical "Merchant-Ivory film" would be a period piece set in the early 20th century, usually in Edwardian England, featuring lavish sets and top British actors portraying genteel characters who suffer from disillusionment and tragic entanglements.
Compiled works from Merchant Ivory Productions
- "Ismail Merchant", The Times, 26 May 2005.
- Kaur, Harmanpreet. "The Wandering Company: Merchant-Ivory Productions and Post-Colonial Cinema", Projectorhead Film Magazine, 10 Jan 2013.
- LaSalle, Mick. "Merchant-Ivory's final film a refined delight. Naturally.", San Francisco Chronicle, 13 January 2006.
- Ebert, Roger. "Ismail Merchant: In Memory", 26 May 2005.