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50 Years of Merchant Ivory - Spotlight
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Introduction to 50 Years of Merchant Ivory - Thursdays in September

In 1961, producer Ismail Merchant and director James Ivory formed Merchant Ivory Productions, a film company that would become highly celebrated for its elegant literary adaptations, which were produced on modest budgets yet achieved grandeur through the pair's ingenuity and imagination. The company, known for its close-knit family atmosphere, attracted some of the most illustrious talents in the film world, including screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, who scripted many of the Merchant Ivory films; such performers as Maggie Smith, Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson, Daniel Day-Lewis and Vanessa Redgrave; and an imposing array of designers and technicians.

"It is a strange marriage we have at Merchant Ivory," Merchant once remarked. "I am an Indian Muslim, Ruth is a German Jew and Jim is a Protestant American." The company was founded with the intent of making English-language films in India aimed at an international market, although it became more famous for Edwardian-era British dramas, often based on the works of Henry James and E.M. Forster. Among its masterpieces, shown in their TCM premieres, are adaptations of James's The Europeans (1979) and The Bostonians (1984); and Forster's Maurice (1987) and Howards End (1992).

Ivory and the late Merchant were personal as well as professional partners. The festival includes such early films as their first collaboration, The Householder (1963), with a script by Jhabvala, based on her own novel; and Shakespeare Wallah (1966). These are also among the numerous TCM premieres, which include short subjects and made-for-television films.

Also showing are such major Merchant Ivory successes as A Room with a View (1985), which won Oscars® for its art direction/set decoration, costume design and Jhabvala's screenplay (based on the Forster novel), along with five other nominations including those for Best Picture and Director; and The Remains of the Day (1993), which earned eight Oscar® nominations including Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actor (Hopkins) and Actress (Thompson).

by Roger Fristoe

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