Perry Henzell

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Perry Henzell
Born(1936-03-07)7 March 1936
Died30 November 2006(2006-11-30) (aged 70)
OccupationFilm director
SpouseSally Densham (1965–2006; his death)

Perry Henzell (7 March 1936 – 30 November 2006) was a Jamaican director. He directed the first Jamaican feature film, The Harder They Come (1972), co-written by Trevor D. Rhone and starring Jimmy Cliff.[1]

Life and career[edit]

Henzell, whose ancestors included Huguenot glassblowers and an old English family who had made their fortune growing sugar cane on Antigua, grew up on the Caymanas sugar cane estate near Kingston.[2] He was sent to Shrewsbury School in the United Kingdom at 14 and later attended McGill University in Montreal in 1953 and 1954.[3] He then dropped out of this school, choosing instead to hitchhike around Europe. He eventually got work as a stagehand at the BBC. He returned in the 1950s to Jamaica, where he directed advertisements for some years until he began work on The Harder They Come with co-writer Trevor D. Rhone.[4]

In 1965 he married Sally Densham.

Henzell also shot some footage for what was planned as his next film, No Place Like Home, in Harder's aftermath in 1974, but he went broke before he could finish the film. Fed up by this, and the lack of finance for further production, he went on to become a writer, publishing his first novel, Power Game, in 1982.[5] Both were meant to complete a planned trilogy of films centring on Ivanhoe Martin. The footage for No Place Like Home was lost. Years later, he came across editing tapes in a lab in New York. Just to have a sense of completion, he worked on the project. When he showed it to a few friends, their response was enthusiastic. He eventually was able to retrieve the original footage. A rough cut of No Place Like Home, which features music from Bob Marley, Toots and the Maytals, The Three Degrees, and Marcia Griffiths, was screened for the public at the 31st annual Toronto International Film Festival in September 2006 at the Cumberland Theatre; it was sold out. Film leads Carl Bradshaw (The Harder They Come, Smile Orange, Countryman) and Susan O'Meara attended and answered audience questions with Henzell after the screening. The film was also screened at the Flashpoint Film Festival at the beginning of December 2006 in Negril. A fully restored version was premiered in 2019.[6]

Henzell died of cancer on 30 November 2006, aged 70, and is survived by his widow Sally and three children: Justine, Toni-Ann and Jason.[7]


  1. ^ "Perry Henzell - Obituaries, News". The Independent. London. 2 December 2006. Retrieved 13 April 2011.
  2. ^ "Perry Henzell: 1936 - 2006". Chicago Tribune. 3 December 2006. Retrieved 13 April 2011.
  3. ^ "The Harder They Come filmmaker dies". MSNBC. Archived from the original on 28 September 2012. Retrieved 13 April 2011.
  4. ^ Katz, David (4 December 2006). "Obituary: Perry Henzell". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 12 April 2011.
  5. ^ "Perry Henzell, 70, Filmmaker of 'The Harder They Come,' Dies". The New York Times. 5 December 2006. Retrieved 13 April 2011.
  6. ^ Johnson, Richard (2019) "A labour of love: Lost Henzell film restored and premièred at former home", Jamaica Observer, 10 November 2019. Retrieved 24 November 2019
  7. ^ "Perry Henzell dies at 70". Jamaica Gleaner. 1 December 2006. Retrieved 21 November 2011.

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