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Filmmaker Michael Winner dies at 77

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 21, 2013 at 12:41 pm •  Published: January 21, 2013
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A lover of the high life who collected antiques and rare first editions, Winner had a second career as restaurant critic with the long-running "Winner's Dinners" column in the Sunday Times newspaper. His acerbic verdicts got him barred from some eateries, and his highest praise was to declare a meal "historic."

"He could be very witty but also uncompromising in his demands for good service, which resonated with readers," said Martin Ivens, acting editor of The Sunday Times.

"He was also not afraid to laugh at himself and rejoiced in the huge postbag of letters which poked gentle fun at him — often he would forward particularly insulting letters that had been sent straight to him for inclusion alongside his column."

In later years he was famous for a series of insurance ads with the catchphrase "Calm down, dear!" Prime Minister David Cameron once used the phrase to a female lawmaker in the House of Commons, prompting howls of outrage.

He also founded and helped fund a campaign to erect a London memorial to police officers killed in the line of duty.

Winner had experienced health problems since getting a bacterial infection from bad oysters in 2007. He wrote his final column in December, but refused to say goodbye forever.

"Who knows, after Christmas I might make a comeback," he wrote. "How many times did Sinatra do it?"

His wife, a former dancer who met Winner in 1957 and married him two years ago, said he was "a wonderful man, brilliant, funny and generous. A light has gone out in my life."

Monty Python comedian John Cleese said Winner had been "the dearest, kindest, funniest and most generous of friends. I shall miss him terribly."

And TV mogul Simon Cowell said he, too, would miss a good friend.

"Laughter was never far away when Michael was around, and he is someone who the more I got to know, the fonder I got of him," Cowell said.