Breaking: Ken Russell is dead

Breaking: Ken Russell is dead


norman lebrecht

November 28, 2011

A member of the family has just informed me that the film director Ken Russell died yesterday afternoon, peacefully in his sleep.

He was 84.

Ken made his name with a series of films and fantasies about great composers: Elgar, Delius, Mahler, Liszt and more.

He went on to make feature films – Women in Love (1969), The Devils (1971) and Tommy (1975), always with an assertive music component and an uncomplicated narrative line.

Among many achievements that spring to mind, he made British cinema less insular and self-referential. He was also a leading creative force in the history of British television.

He will be widely mourned.

photo: (c) Everett/Rex (all rights reserved)


  • Paul Mann says:

    So sad to read about Ken Russell. He was a hero of mine. Often that shock of white hair was to be seen on the front row of the concert hall in Poole for Bournemouth SO Concerts, including for an Elgar 2 of mine. I remember feeling all the way through that performance that it was all for him, as thanks for that wonderful old BBC film… My first job, in the early nineties, was as a company pianist and conductor for Northern Ballet. At one stage, Christopher Gable was going to get Ken to direct a Dracula ballet. It never got off the ground, but he had a great idea for how the show should open…It would start as a normal ballet, with dancers in tutus and Giselle-like music. Then, when it had gone for slightly too long and people were starting to wonder about the Dracula ballet they thought they’d come to see, one of the dancers would fall over very badly and start bleeding profusely. The ASM would come onstage and ask the audience if there was a doctor in the house. At that moment, the lights would change, there’d be a screech from the orchestra, and Dracula would stand up in the audience. Typical Ken, and such a regret that it never happened!