Merchant Ivory Productions
Founded1961
FounderIsmail Merchant
James Ivory

Merchant Ivory Productions is a film company founded in 1961 by producer Ismail Merchant (1936–2005) and director James Ivory (b. 1928). Merchant and Ivory were life and business partners from 1961 until Merchant's death in 2005. During their time together, they made 44 films. The films were for the most part produced by Merchant and directed by Ivory, and 23 of them were scripted by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (1927–2013) in some capacity. The films were often based upon novels or short stories, particularly the work of Henry James, E. M. Forster, and Jhabvala herself.

The initial goal of the company was "to make English-language films in India aimed at the international market". The style of Merchant Ivory films set and photographed in India became iconic. The company also went on to make films in the United Kingdom and America.[citation needed]

Some actors and producers associated with Merchant Ivory include Maggie Smith, Leela Naidu, Madhur Jaffrey, Aparna Sen, Shashi Kapoor, Jennifer Kendal, Hugh Grant, James Wilby, Rupert Graves, Simon Callow, Anthony Hopkins, Glenn Close, Uma Thurman, Emma Thompson, Vanessa Redgrave, Natasha Richardson, Ralph Fiennes, Colin Firth, Richard Hawley and Helena Bonham Carter.[citation needed]

Of this collaboration, Merchant once commented: "It is a strange marriage we have at Merchant Ivory... I am an Indian Muslim, Ruth is a German Jew, and Jim is a Protestant American. Someone once described us as a three-headed god. Maybe they should have called us a three-headed monster!"[1]

The expression "Merchant–Ivory film" has made its way into common parlance, to denote a particular genre of film rather than the actual production company. While 1965's Shakespeare Wallah put this genre on the international map,[2] its heyday was the 1980s and 1990s with such films as A Room with a View (1985) and Howards End (1992). A typical "Merchant–Ivory film" would be a period piece set in the early 20th century, usually in Edwardian England, featuring lavish sets and top British actors portraying genteel characters who suffer from disillusionment and tragic entanglements. The main theme often surrounded a house, which took on a particular importance in many Merchant Ivory films.[3][4]

History

Merchant Ivory Productions was founded in 1961 by Ismail Merchant and James Ivory[5] in India to produce English language films.[6]

After early, modest successes with films such as The Householder, Shakespeare Wallah, and Bombay Talkie, Merchant and Ivory suffered a lean period during the 1970s. Films such as Jane Austen in Manhattan and The Wild Party failed to find an audience. Their fortunes revived dramatically in 1979 when they made an adaptation of Henry James' novel The Europeans. Their film Heat and Dust (1983) was an art-house hit in Europe, particularly in England. However, it was not until their work together on A Room with a View (1985) that they broke out from the art house into broader success.

In 1985, Merchant Ivory Productions was signed by film distributor Cinecom International Films in order to gave Cinecom access to the 11 Merchant Ivory productions at that time as Cinecom had to increase its distribution schedule.[7] In 1986, Merchant Ivory and Cinecom begin their co-production lineup with the film The Deceivers.[8] In 1987, after 25 years as an independent producer, Merchant Ivory Productions would declined offers by Hollywood power brokers and deep-pocketed investors, mesmerized by the success of the triple-Oscar winning A Room with a View, to take the company public.[9]

Around 1990, they moved their productions to England and the United States. Ruth Prawer Jhabvala became their frequent collaborating writer.[6] Major film studios sought them out; Disney signed Merchant Ivory Productions to a three-year distribution deal in 1991.[10][11]

In October 2015, Cohen Media Group acquired the Merchant Ivory brand and library, 21 films and 9 documentaries including worldwide distribution, for restoration and rerelease as a part of the Cohen Film Collection. Ivory would be creative director on the films' restoration, re-release and promotion.[6]

Members

James Ivory

Ivory was known for often directing the productions. He received three Academy Award nominations for his work but never won. He received his first Oscar at the age of 89 for his screenplay for Call Me by Your Name, becoming the oldest person to win an Oscar for writing.

Academy Awards

Year Film Category Result
1986 A Room with a View Best Director Nominated
1993 Howards End Nominated
1994 The Remains of the Day Nominated
2018 Call Me by Your Name Best Adapted Screenplay Won

Ismail Merchant

Merchant was known for producing the films. Despite four nominations, he never won.

Academy Awards

Year Film Category Result
1960 The Creation of a Woman Live Action Short Film Nominated
1986 A Room with a View Best Picture Nominated
1993 Howards End Nominated
1994 The Remains of the Day Nominated

Ruth Prawer Jhabvala

Jhabvala was known for adapting the screenplays. She received three nominations, with two wins.

Academy Awards

Year Film Category Result
1986 A Room with a View Best Adapted Screenplay Won
1993 Howards End Won
1994 The Remains of the Day Nominated

Richard Hawley

Hawley started in 1987 as Ivory's first assistant director on Slaves of New York. He was involved in every project to some degree thereafter. In 1994, he started co-running the company with Merchant and departed in 2009 after completion of The City of Your Final Destination.

Year Film Involvement
1989 Slaves of New York First assistant director
1995 Jefferson in Paris First assistant director
Unit production manager
1996 The Proprietor Associate producer
1998 Side Streets Executive producer
A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries Executive producer
First assistant director
Unit production manager (USA)
1999 Cotton Mary Producer
North American distribution executive
2000 The Golden Bowl Executive producer
2001 The Mystic Masseur Producer
2003 Le Divorce Co-producer
2005 Heights Producer
Soundtrack producer
The White Countess Co-producer
Music producer
2009 The City of Your Final Destination Co-producer
Production manager

Filmography

Compiled works from Merchant Ivory Productions.

Year Title Director Producer Screenwriter Source Material Other notes
1963 The Householder[6] James Ivory Ismail Merchant Ruth Prawer Jhabvala adapted from the novel of the same name by Jhabvala the first Merchant Ivory adaptation of a novel by Jhabvala
1965 Shakespeare Wallah[6] original story
1969 The Guru Ruth Prawer Jhabvala and James Ivory
The Night of Counting the Years Shadi Abdel Salam Roberto Rossellini Shadi Abdel Salam the first Merchant Ivory film without Merchant, Ivory, or Jhabvala
1970 Bombay Talkie James Ivory Ismail Merchant Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
1972 Savages Ismail Merchant, Joseph J.M. Saleh (executive), and Anthony Korner (associate) George W. S. Trow and Michael O'Donoghue based on an idea by James Ivory
1975 The Wild Party Ismail Merchant Walter Marks based on the poem by Joseph Moncure March
Autobiography of a Princess Ruth Prawer Jhabvala original story
1977 Roseland anthology film
1978 Hullabaloo Over Georgie and Bonnie's Pictures TV film
1979 The Europeans based on the novel by Henry James the first Merchant Ivory adaptation of a novel by James
1980 Jane Austen in Manhattan Libretto "Sir Charles Grandison" by Jane Austen & Samuel Richardson, based on the play "Sir Charles Grandison, or The Happy Man" by Austen
1981 Quartet based on the novel by Jean Rhys
1983 The Courtesans of Bombay Ismail Merchant Ismail Merchant, James Ivory, and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala original story TV film
Heat and Dust James Ivory Ruth Prawer Jhabvala[10] based on the novel by Jhabvala the second Merchant Ivory adaptation of a novel by Jhabvala
1984 The Bostonians based on the novel by Henry James the second Merchant Ivory adaptation of a novel by James
1985 A Room with a View based on the novel by E. M. Forster the first Merchant Ivory adaptation of a novel by Forster
1986 My Little Girl Connie Kaiserman Ismail Merchant (executive producer), Thomas F. Turley (line producer) Connie Kaiserman and Nan Mason original story
1987 Maurice James Ivory Ismail Merchant James Ivory and Kit Hesketh-Harvey based on the novel by E. M. Forster the second Merchant Ivory adaptation of a novel by Forster
1988 The Deceivers Nicholas Meyer Michael Hirst based on the novel by John Masters
The Perfect Murder Zafar Hai H. R. F. Keating and Zafar Hai based on the novel by Keating
1989 Slaves of New York James Ivory Ismail Merchant, Gary Hendler, Fred Hughes (associate), and Vincent Fremont (associate) Tama Janowitz based on a collection of stories by Janowitz
1990 Mr. & Mrs. Bridge Ismail Merchant Ruth Prawer Jhabvala based on Mrs. Bridge and Mr. Bridge by Evan S. Connell
1991 The Ballad of the Sad Café Simon Callow Michael Hirst based on the play by Edward Albee adapted from the novel by Carson McCullers
Street Musicians of Bombay Richard Robbins Wahid Chowhan, Ismail merchant (executive, uncredited), Shahnaz Vahanvaty (associate) n/a original story documentary
1992 Howards End James Ivory Ismail Merchant Ruth Prawer Jhabvala based on the novel by E.M. Forster the third adaptation of a novel by Forster
1993 In Custody Ismail Merchant Wahid Chowhan, Paul Bradley (executive), and Donald Rosenfeld (executive) Shahrukh Husain and Anita Desai based on the novel by Desai
The Remains of the Day James Ivory Ismail Merchant, Mike Nichols, and John Calley Ruth Prawer Jhabvala[10] and Harold Pinter (uncredited) based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro
1995 Feast of July Christopher Menaul Henry Herbert, Christopher Neame, Ismail Merchant (executive) and Paul Bradley (executive) Christopher Neame based on the novel by H. E. Bates
Jefferson in Paris James Ivory Ismail Merchant, Humbert Balsan, Paul Bradley and Donald Rosenfeld Ruth Prawer Jhabvala historical fiction
1996 The Proprietor Ismail Merchant Humbert Balsan and Donald Rosenfeld Jean-Marie Besset and George W. S. Trow original story
Surviving Picasso James Ivory Ismail Merchant and David L. Wolper Ruth Prawer Jhabvala based on the book Picasso: Creator and Destroyer by Arianna Huffington
1998 Side Streets Tony Gerber Bruce Weiss, Ismail Merchant (executive), Tom Borders (executive), and Gregory Cascante (executive) Tony Gerber and Lynn Nottage original story
A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries James Ivory Ismail Merchant Ruth Prawer Jhabvala based on the novel by Kaylie Jones
1999 Cotton Mary Ismail Merchant and Madhur Jaffrey Nayeem Hafizka, Richard Hawley, Paul Bradley (executive), and Gil Donaldson (associate) Alexandra Viets original story
2000 The Golden Bowl James Ivory Ismail Merchant Ruth Prawer Jhabvala based on the novel by Henry James the third Merchant Ivory adaptation of a novel by James
2001 The Mystic Masseur Ismail Merchant Nayeem Haffizka and Richard Hawley Caryl Phillips based on the novel by V. S. Naipaul
2002 Merci Docteur Rey Andrew Litvack Ismail Merchant Andrew Litvack original story
2003 Le Divorce James Ivory Ismail Merchant and Michael Schiffer James Ivory and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala based on the novel by Diane Johnson
2005 Heights Chris Terrio Richard Hawley, James Ivory, and Ismail Merchant Amy Fox and Chris Terrio original story by Fox
The White Countess James Ivory Ismail Merchant Kazuo Ishiguro original story Ismail Merchant's final film
2007 Before the Rains Santosh Sivan Mark Burton, Paul Hardart, Tom Hardart, Doug Mankoff, and Andrew Spaulding Cathy Rabin adapted from the "Red Roofs" segment of the film Yellow Asphalt, written and directed by Danny Verete the only remake by Merchant Ivory and the last Merchant Ivory film made without James Ivory or Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
2009 The City of Your Final Destination James Ivory Paul Bradley and Pierre Proner Ruth Prawer Jhabvala based the novel by Peter Cameron the final Merchant Ivory film

Academy Award wins and nominations

Year Category Nominee Project Result Ref.
1979 Best Costume Design Judy Moorcroft The Europeans Nominated [12]
1984 Best Actress Vanessa Redgrave The Bostonians Nominated [13]
Best Costume Design Jenny Beavan, John Bright Nominated
1986 Best Picture Ismail Merchant A Room with a View Nominated [14]
Best Director James Ivory Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Denholm Elliott Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Maggie Smith Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Ruth Prawer Jhabvala Won
Best Cinematography Tony Pierce-Roberts Nominated
Best Production Design Gianni Quaranta, Brian Ackland-Snow
Brian Savegar, Elio Altamura
Won
Best Costume Design Jenny Beavan, John Bright Won
1987 Best Costume Design Jenny Beavan, John Bright Maurice Nominated [15]
1990 Best Actress Joanne Woodward Mr. and Mrs. Bridge Nominated [16]
1992 Best Picture Ismail Merchant Howards End Nominated [17]
Best Director James Ivory Nominated
Best Actress Emma Thompson Won
Best Supporting Actress Vanessa Redgrave Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Ruth Prawer Jhabvala Won
Best Cinematography Tony Pierce-Roberts Nominated
Best Production Design Gianni Quaranta, Brian Ackland-Snow
Brian Savegar, Elio Altamura
Won
Best Costume Design Jenny Beavan, John Bright Nominated
Best Original Score Richard Robbins Nominated
1993 Best Picture Ismail Merchant The Remains of the Day Nominated [18]
Best Director James Ivory Nominated
Best Actor Anthony Hopkins Nominated
Best Actress Emma Thompson Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Ruth Prawer Jhabvala Nominated
Best Production Design Gianni Quaranta, Brian Ackland-Snow
Brian Savegar, Elio Altamura
Nominated
Best Costume Design Jenny Beavan, John Bright Nominated
Best Original Score Richard Robbins Nominated
2017 Best Picture Luca Guadagnino, Emilie Georges,
Peter Spears, Marco Morabito
Call Me by Your Name Nominated [19]
Best Actor Timothée Chalamet Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay James Ivory Won
Best Original Song Mystery of LoveSufjan Stevens Nominated

Footnotes

  1. ^ "Ismail Merchant" Archived 21 November 2008 at archive.today, The Times, 26 May 2005.
  2. ^ Kaur, Harmanpreet. "The Wandering Company: Merchant-Ivory Productions and Post-Colonial Cinema" Archived 10 June 2013 at the Wayback Machine, Projectorhead Film Magazine, 10 January 2013.
  3. ^ LaSalle, Mick. "Merchant-Ivory's final film a refined delight. Naturally" Archived 25 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine, San Francisco Chronicle, 13 January 2006.
  4. ^ Ebert, Roger. "Ismail Merchant: In Memory" Archived 16 July 2012 at the Wayback Machine, 26 May 2005.
  5. ^ Fristoe, Roger. "Introduction to 50 Years of Merchant Ivory". Turner Classic Movies. Archived from the original on 26 March 2016. Retrieved 15 March 2019.
  6. ^ a b c d e McNary, Dave (12 October 2015). "'Howards End,' Merchant Ivory Library Bought by Cohen Media Group". Variety. Archived from the original on 15 April 2017. Retrieved 15 March 2019.
  7. ^ Robbins, Jim (10 July 1985). "Cinecom Acquires Ancillary Sales Rights to 11 Merchant Ivory Pics". Variety. p. 4.
  8. ^ Cohn, Lawrence (12 March 1986). "Merchant Ivory, Cinecom Teaming On Coproductions". Variety. p. 5.
  9. ^ Gold, Richard (22 April 1987). "Merchant Ivory Resists Offers From Hollywood To Go Public". Variety. pp. 4, 7.
  10. ^ a b c "Ismail Merchant". Telegraph Obituaries. 25 May 2005. Archived from the original on 21 January 2019. Retrieved 15 March 2019.
  11. ^ "Disney Buys Miramax In Leap Toward Industry Lead – 60 Movies A Year Goal For Studio". Seattle Times. AP. 1 May 1993. Archived from the original on 13 April 2019. Retrieved 15 March 2019.
  12. ^ "52nd Academy Awards". Oscars.org. Retrieved 27 February 2024.
  13. ^ "57th Academy Awards". Oscars.org. Retrieved 27 February 2024.
  14. ^ "59th Academy Awards". Oscars.org. Retrieved 27 February 2024.
  15. ^ "60th Academy Awards". Oscars.org. Retrieved 27 February 2024.
  16. ^ "63rd Academy Awards". Oscars.org. Retrieved 27 February 2024.
  17. ^ "64th Academy Awards". Oscars.org. Retrieved 27 February 2024.
  18. ^ "65th Academy Awards". Oscars.org. Retrieved 27 February 2024.
  19. ^ "90th Academy Awards". Oscars.org. Retrieved 27 February 2024.