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John Mackenzie, 1928 - 2011

The Daily

"People who talk wistfully of the 'golden age of British television drama' are often accused of viewing the past through the rosy lens of nostalgia," writes Ronald Bergan in the Guardian. "But a clear-eyed examination of the era proves that such slots as the BBC's The Wednesday Play (1964-70) and Play for Today (1970-84) were unsurpassed as breeding grounds for talented directors such as John Mackenzie, who has died after a stroke aged 83. Like most of his contemporaries who gained their experience by working in television — Philip Saville, Michael Lindsay-Hogg, Ken Loach, Mike Newell, Michael Apted and Mike Leigh — Mackenzie went on to make feature films, notably his superb London-based gangster picture, The Long Good Friday (1980)."

Paul Gallagher has posted a documentary on the making of The Long Good Friday at Dangerous Minds, preceded by a deeply appreciative introduction: "It started when producer Barry Hanson asked writer Barrie Keefe, one night, what film he'd like to see? Keefe said he wanted to see an American gangster film set in the East End of London. There was nothing like it on at the cinema, so Hanson told Keeffe to write it. The result was The Long Good Friday, a movie regularly voted the greatest British gangster film, and one of the best British films, of all time. High praise for a movie that was nearly re-cut, dubbed and pumped out onto TV by its original parent company, ITC, who hated it. I was lucky enough to see The Long Good Friday, when it was screened at the Edinburgh Film Festival in 1980 as the highlight to a mini-retrospective of director John MacKenzie's work. It had an indelible effect."

"Mackenzie was viewed by his peers as one of Scotland's most-talented filmmakers," reports Nick Eardley in the Scotsman. "Niall Fulton, senior programmer at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, said: 'He was a formidable character, had a superb intellect and, without a doubt, one of the most important filmmakers to come out of Scotland. John made a huge contribution to Scottish cinema and easily ranks alongside the finest in British cinema.'"

In 2006, Time Out London spoke with Mackenzie about why he thought the appeal of The Long Good Friday had endured.

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