British film director, whose work in the cinema and on television has made controversial use of violence and the macabre.
Russell, who was born in Southampton, had a varied career before becoming a director. After attending Pangbourne Nautical College he served in the Merchant Navy (1945) and the Royal Air Force (1946–49). He then turned to the theatre, becoming a dancer with the Ny Norsk Ballet (1950) and an actor with the Garrick Players (1951), after which he worked as a freelance photographer (1951–57), contributing to such journals as Picture Post. His first venture into films, as a prize-winning amateur, was with Amelia and the Angels (1957) and Lourdes (1958). These successes led to his BBC television films, including Elgar (1962), Isadora Duncan (1966), and A Song of Summer (1968), a film biography of Delius. Russell made an equally successful impact on the large screen with his third feature, Women in Love (1969), adapted from D. H. Lawrence's novel. The Music Lovers (1971), a rather eccentric presentation of Tchaikovsky's adult life, The Devils (1971), adapted from Aldous Huxley's The Devils of Loudun, Mahler (1974), Valentino (1977), Gothic (1986), and The Rainbow (1989), another Lawrence adaptation, were among the films that followed. His other productions included the operas The Rake's Progress (1982) in Florence, Madame Butterfly (1983) in Spoleto, and Faust (1985) in Vienna. He published an autobiography, A British Picture, in 1989.
Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945) — Music Theatre.