Merchant-Ivory Collaborating Team


James Ivory was born in Berkeley, California and educated at the University of Oregon, where he majored in Architecture and Fine Arts. His first film, which he wrote, photographed and produced, was Venice: Theme and Variations (1957), a half-hour documentary made as a thesis film for a degree in cinema from the University of Southern California.

In 1961, Ivory teamed up with Ismail Merchant to form Merchant Ivory Productions, with their films for the most part directed by Ivory and produced by Merchant. Ivory’s first theatrical feature for the newly formed company was The Householder (1963), based on an early novel by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. Jhabvala also wrote the script, her first in what was to become an ongoing collaboration with Merchant Ivory. The Householder holds the distinction of being the first Indian film to be distributed worldwide by a major American Company, Columbia Pictures.

The seventeen theatrical films that Ivory has made for Merchant Ivory Productions include the classic Shakespeare Wallah (1965); adaptations of three Henry James novels The Europeans (1979), The Bostonians (1984) and The Golden Bowl (2000); and A Room With a View (1986), Maurice (1987) and Howard’s End (1992), from the novels by E.M. Forster. A trio of Ivory’s English films—A Room with a View, Howards End and The Remains of the Day (1993), based upon the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro—earned Merchant Ivory twenty-five Academy Award® nominations, including three for Best Picture and Best Director.

In 1995, James Ivory was given the D.W. Griffith Award from the Directors Guild of America, their highest life achievement prize. He subsequently directed Surviving Picasso (1996), A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries (1998), Le Divorce (2003) and The White Goddess (2005), the final film to be produced by Ismail Merchant prior to his death that year.


Although Ismail Merchant was born in Bombay, India, he lived and worked for most of his life in the West, completing his education at New York University, where he earned his Master’s Degree in Business Administration.

Merchant’s first film was a theatrical short–The Creation of Woman-which was nominated in 1961 for an Academy Award® and was an official entry from the United States at the Cannes Film Festival that same year. While en route to the festival, Merchant met filmmaker James Ivory and the two formed a partnership, Merchant Ivory Productions. With a plan to make English-language theatrical features in India for the international market, Merchant Ivory’s first four features were Indian films: The Householder (1963), Shakespeare Wallah (1966), The Guru (1969) and Bombay Talkie (1970). Soon, though, Merchant Ivory was shooting films in England, Asia, the United States, and elsewhere around the world.

For more than forty years, Merchant Ivory Productions has endured as one of the most productive collaborations in cinema, frequently adapting novels by such literary giants as Henry James, E. M. Forster, and Kazuo Ishiguro. Among the more than forty films produced by Merchant for the company are The Wild Party (1975), The Europeans (1979), A Room With A View (1986), Maurice (1987), Slaves of New York (1989), Mr. & Mrs. Bridge (1990), Howards End (1992), The Remains of the Day (1994), Jefferson in Paris (1995), Surviving Picasso (1996), A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries (1998), The Golden Bowl (2002) and Le Divorce (2003).

Along with helming two television productions on his own, Merchant directed four features: In Custody (1994), The Proprietor (1996), Cotton Mary (1999), and The Mystic Masseur (2003).

Ismail Merchant died on May 25, 2005 at the age of 68 after a brief illness in a London hospital, where he was working on what was to be his final Merchant Ivory production, The White Countess (2005).