Oscar Artists: Jhabvala, Ruth Prawer—Oscar-Winner Scribe (Room With a View, Howards End) Dies at 85

Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Oscar-winning screenwriter and novelist, who collaborated for five decades with the team of James Ivory and Ismail Merchant and won Oscars for “A Room With a View” in 1986 and “Howards End” in 1992, died of a pulmonary disorder in New York. She was 85.

Born in Germany, Ruth moved to Britain with her family during the Nazi regime. After marrying an Indian architect and moving to New Delhi, she began to write about her life there. She drew on her experiences for the novel “Heat and Dust” about a young woman living in India in the 1920s, which won the Booker Prize and was adapted for the 1983 James Ivory film.

Ruth collaborated with Merchant and Ivory on films that were often literary adaptations, including “Mr. and Mrs. Bridge,” starring Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward (in their last joint appearance on screen), “The Remains of the Day,” “Quartet,” “The Golden Bowl” and “A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries.”

Producer Ismail

Merchant first called her in 1961 to ask the novelist, who had never written a screenplay, about adapting her novel “The Householder,” which would be Indian producer Merchant’s first film and his off-screen companion James Ivory’s first narrative picture. The film came out in 1963, and the trio went on to work together for nearly 50 years, often on adaptations of novels by Henry James and E.M Forster.

“When Ruth writes something, she does it with a very fine comb, so there is no question of the pitfalls or traps that people often fall into,” Merchant said in 2001.

Ruth was also Oscar-nominated for “The Remains of the Day,” from the Kazuo Ishiguro novel about a butler in an English manor house. The high-profile film starred Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson in Oscar-nominated performances.

Her writing was marked by detailed evocation of the lives of foreigners in India, and she often took on novels about people caught in socially-constricted worlds.

Her only original screenplay was 1995′s “Jefferson in Paris,” starring Nick Nolte, which was both an artistic and commercial flop.

Ismail Merchant, who was James Ivory’s lover for years, died in 2005.

Jhabvala’s last screenplay was James Ivory’s 2009 film, “The City of Your Final Destination,” which was also an artistic disappointment.

With all the ups and downs, the trio of Jhabvala, Merchant and Ivory represents one of the longest, most fruitful collaborations in film history.