Ken Russell dies

Legendary British director Ken Russell has died at the age of 84, having passed away in his sleep yesterday afternoon.

Famed for his work on the likes of Women In Love , Crimes Of Passion and Tommy , Russell was one of British cinema’s more colourful characters. His films frequently courted controversy, with the Oliver Reed-starring The Devils meeting widespread outrage at its portrayal of sexual frenzy in the unlikely setting of a nunnery.

Confronted by a critic from the Evening Standard who described the film as “monstrously indecent”, Russell reacted in a fashion entirely in keeping with his reputation as a British eccentric, clouting him over the head with a rolled up newspaper.

Russell’s one and only Oscar nomination came for his adaptation of DH Lawrence’s Women In Love , a film made infamous by its nude wrestling scene between stars Oliver Reed and Alan Bates. Russell had initially been wary of including the scene, conscious of the stir likely to be caused by a double dose of full-frontal male nudity. However, legend has it that a furious Reed wrestled Russell to the floor until he agreed to include it, and history was made.

Alongside his big-screen projects, Russell was also an acclaimed director of television, with an adaptation of another Lawrence title, Lady Chatterley’s Lover , among his more famous works. Another storm of controversy duly followed, with Sean Bean’s love scenes with Joely Richardson described as “too long” and “too rough” by the Broadcasting Standards Council.

Still, Russell never did pay much mind to the press, and continued to make projects his way until well into his old age. The landscape of British cinema will be a far duller place without him.

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