Merchant Ivory Productions

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Merchant Ivory Productions
FounderIsmail Merchant
James Ivory Edit this on Wikidata

Merchant Ivory Productions is a film company founded in 1961 by producer Ismail Merchant (1936—2005) and director James Ivory (b. 1928). Their films were for the most part produced by Merchant, directed by Ivory, and 23 (of the 44 total films) were scripted by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (1927—2013) in some capacity, all but two of those with solo credit; the films were often based upon novels or short stories, particularly the work of Henry James, E. M. Forster, and two novels by 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.

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 and Helena Bonham Carter.

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. Also, the main theme often surrounds a house. Houses take on a particular importance in many Merchant Ivory films.[3][4]


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

Around 1990, they moved their productions to England and the United States. Ruth Prawer Jhabvala became their frequent collaborating writer.[6] Major film studio sought them out with Disney signing Merchant Ivory Productions in 1991 to a three year distribution deal.[7][8]

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]


Compiled works from Merchant Ivory Productions

Year Title Screenwriter Other notes
1963 The Householder[6] Ruth Prawer Jhabvala screenplay, adapted from the novel by Jhabvala
1965 Shakespeare Wallah[6] Ruth Prawer Jhabvala screenplay
1969 The Guru Ruth Prawer Jhabvala screenplay
The Night of Counting the Years Shadi Abdel Salam written and directed by Shadi Abdel Salam
1970 Bombay Talkie Ruth Prawer Jhabvala screenplay
1972 Savages George W. S. Trow and Michael O'Donoghue written by
1975 The Wild Party Walter Marks based on a poem by Joseph Moncure March
Autobiography of a Princess Ruth Prawer Jhabvala written by
1977 Roseland Ruth Prawer Jhabvala story and screenplay
1978 Hullabaloo Over Georgie and Bonnie's Pictures Ruth Prawer Jhabvala TV (story)
1979 The Five Forty-Eight Terrence McNally based on the story by John Cheever
The Europeans Ruth Prawer Jhabvala based on the novel by Henry James
1980 Jane Austen in Manhattan Ruth Prawer Jhabvala written by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
1981 Quartet Ruth Prawer Jhabvala based on the novel by Jean Rhys
1983 The Courtesans of Bombay Ismail Merchant, James Ivory and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala TV feature; directed by Ismail Merchant
Heat and Dust Ruth Prawer Jhabvala[7] based on the novel by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
1984 The Bostonians Ruth Prawer Jhabvala based on the novel by Henry James
1985 A Room with a View Ruth Prawer Jhabvala[7] based on the novel by E. M. Forster
1986 My Little Girl Connie Kaiserman original; directed by Kaiserman
1987 Maurice James Ivory & Kit Hesketh-Harvey based on the novel by E. M. Forster
1988 The Deceivers Michael Hirst based on the novel by John Masters
The Perfect Murder H. R. F. Keating and Zafar Hai based on the novel by Keating
1989 Slaves of New York Tama Janowitz based on collection of stories by Janowitz
1990 Mr. & Mrs. Bridge Ruth Prawer Jhabvala based on novels by Evan S. Connell
1991 The Ballad of the Sad Cafe Michael Hirst play by Edward Albee
(based on novel by Carson McCullers)
directed by Simon Callow
Street Musicians of Bombay directed by Richard Robbins
1992 Howards End Ruth Prawer Jhabvala based on the novel by E. M. Forster; nominated for nine Academy Awards winning three[6]
1993 In Custody Shahrukh Husain and Anita Desai based on the novel by Desai
directed by Ismail Merchant
The Remains of the Day Ruth Prawer Jhabvala[7] based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro
1995 Feast of July Christopher Neame based on a novel by H. E. Bates
Jefferson in Paris Ruth Prawer Jhabvala written by J. T. Hyndman
1996 The Proprietor Jean-Marie Besset and George W. S. Trow directed by Ismail Merchant
Surviving Picasso Ruth Prawer Jhabvala screenplay (based on the book by Arianna Huffington)
1998 Side Streets Tony Gerber, Lynn Nottage directed by Tony Gerber
A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries Ruth Prawer Jhabvala based on the novel by Kaylie Jones
1999 Cotton Mary Alexandra Viets directed by Ismail Merchant
2000 The Golden Bowl Ruth Prawer Jhabvala based on the novel by Henry James
2001 The Mystic Masseur Caryl Phillips based on a novel by V. S. Naipaul
2002 Merci Docteur Rey Andrew Litvack directed by Andrew Litvack
2003 Le Divorce Ruth Prawer Jhabvala & James Ivory based on the novel by Diane Johnson
2005 Heights Amy Fox directed by Chris Terrio
The White Countess Kazuo Ishiguro screenplay
2007 Before the Rains Cathy Rabin directed by Santosh Sivan
2009 The City of Your Final Destination Ruth Prawer Jhabvala screenplay (based on book by Peter Cameron)
2017 Call Me by Your Name James Ivory based on the novel by André Aciman, directed by Luca Guadagnino
2020 Make the Wiseguys Weep Ric Menello, Neil Jesuele based on a book by David Evanier


  1. ^ "Ismail Merchant" Archived 21 November 2008 at, 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 f 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. ^ a b c d "Ismail Merchant". Telegraph Obituaries. 25 May 2005. Archived from the original on 21 January 2019. Retrieved 15 March 2019.
  8. ^ "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.

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