Ken Russell, the British director whose daring and sometimes outrageous films often tested the patience of audiences and critics, died in London on Sunday, November 27, 2011, at age 84.
Russell became known for several biographies of composers (Tchaikovsky, Mahler, Elgar) and artists (Henri Gaudier-Brzeska). But he was best known for The Who's rock opera, "Tommy."
Russell had established himself by making short films for the BBC, focusing on profiles of artists and composers. "When there were no more live artists left, we turned to making somewhat longer films about dead artists such as Prokofiev," Russell once said. The films evolved from what he described as "boring little factual accounts" with staid montages of stills and newsreel footage, to evocative docudramas in which actors recreated historical figures.
By CBSNews.com producer David Morgan
Michael Caine, who played British spy Harry Palmer in "The Ipcress File" (1965) and "Funeral in Berlin" (1966), returned to the role in the Cold War thriller "Billion Dollar Brain" (1967) director Ken Russell's first feature film credit.
Ken Russell adapted D.H. Lawrence's "Women in Love" (1969), in which two best friends fall in love with two sisters. The film - controversial for its bold eroticism and nudity - starred Alan Bates and Jennie Linden.
"Women in Love" also starred Oliver Reed and Glenda Jackson.
Russell received Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for directing "Women in Love."
Glenda Jackson. and Oliver Reed in "Women in Love," directed by Ken Russell.
Reed was to become a regular fixture of director Ken Russell's films.
Richard Chamberlain starred as Peter Ilych Tchaikovsky in a tale of the composer struggling with homosexuality, in "The Music Lovers" (1970).
Ken Russell made a bigger splash in the film version of "The Boy Friend" - turning a piece of nostalgia set in a seedy British music hall into a campy homage to Busby Berkeley Hollywood.
"The Boy Friend" starred the model Twiggy.
"The Boy Friend" (1971), directed by Ken Russell.
A tale of sexually repressed nuns in 17th century France, "The Devils" (1971) starred Vanessa Redgrave and Oliver Reed.
Gemma Jones and Oliver Reed in Ken Russell's "The Devils" (1971).
In "Savage Messiah" (1972), director Ken Russell examined the life of French artist Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, played by Scott Antony. The film also starred Helen Mirren and Dorothy Tutin.
Another biographical film, "Mahler" (1974) was a metaphorical examination of the composer (played by Robert Powell), who relives memories of his life and love.
Russell's best known feature was the psychedelic film version of The Who's rock opera "Tommy" (1975), which boasted an all-star cast (Ann-Margret, Tina Turner, Eric Clapton, Jack Nicholson and Keith Moon, among others) and Dolby Labs' innovative "Quintophonic" stereo.
Roger Daltrey starred as the "deaf, dumb and blind kid" in The Who's rock opera "Tommy" (1975).
Ann-Margret, Roger Daltrey and Oliver Reed in Ken Russell's "Tommy" (1975).
Elton John played Local Lad singing of the wonders of the pinball wizard in "Tommy" (1975).
Tina Turner as the Acid Queen in Ken Russell's film version of The Who's rock opera "Tommy."
Roger Daltrey also starred in Ken Russell's rock fantasy "Lisztomania" (1975), whose ads promised, "It out-Tommy's 'Tommy'!"
Dancer Rudolf Nureyev starred as the smoldering silent screen star Rudolph Valentino in Ken Russell's "Valentino" (1977). The film also starred Leslie Caron, Carol Kane, Michelle Phillips and Felicity Kendal.
Ken Russell took over directing chores of "Altered States" when Arthur Penn exited. The sci-fi story, based on Paddy Chayefsky's novel, told a fantastic story about a professor (William Hurt) whose experiments with mind-altering drugs and an isolation tank lead to some very bad trips.
Russell wrote that he sampled "magic" mushrooms during the making of the film - which MIGHT explain some of the weirder scenes.
The film's visual effects and the hallucinogenic music by John Corigliano were notable, but not enough to convince screenwriter Chayefsky to take his name off the film - claiming the actors had delivered his scientific jargon too rapidly and loudly.
Blair Brown in "Altered States" (1980).
"Crimes of Passion" (1984) starred Kathleen Turner as a businesswoman who moonlights as a prostitute. Among the men she encounters is a somewhat deranged preacher played by Anthony Perkins.
"Gothic" (1986) is a fantasy recounting one of literature's most fabled nights: A storm-soaked visit to Lord Byron's country estate when Mary Shelley dreamed up the tale of "Frankenstein." The film starred Natasha Richardson, Gabriel Byrne and Julian Sands.
More gothic-fantasy fun was had in "Lair of the White Worm" (1988), starring Amanda Donohoe, about the odd doings at the excavation of a convent's ruins.
"Salome's Last Dance" (1988) is a recreation of a 1892 production of Oscar Wilde's play, staged at a brothel. The film starred Glenda Jackson, Stratford Johns, Nickolas Grace and the director Ken Russell.
Russell also appeared in bit parts in other directors' films, including "The Russia House."
Ken Russell returned to D.H. Lawrence territory with "The Rainbow" (1989), starring Sammi Davis.
Theresa Russell (no relation to director Ken Russell) starred in "Whore" (1991), a faux-documentary about a hooker's life.
Ken Russell directed many television films and documentaries in the 1990s, including the HBO drama "Prisoner of Honor," which recounted the French Dreyfus Affair. It starred Richard Dreyfuss.
Other films include "The Secret Life of Arnold Bax," "The Mystery of Dr. Martinu," "Dogboys," "In Search of the English Folk Song," "Mindbender," "Elgar: Fantasy of a Composer on a Bicycle," "Treasure Island," "Alice in Russialand," and the TV series "Lady Chatterley."
Director Ken Russell attends the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presents the 35th Anniversary of The Who's "Tommy" on May 21, 2010 in Beverly Hills, California.