Merchant Ivory Productions

Merchant Ivory Productions
Industry Film production
Founded 1961
Founder Ismail Merchant
James Ivory
Headquarters London, United Kingdom

Merchant Ivory Productions is a film company founded in 1961 by producer Ismail Merchant (d. 2005) and director James Ivory. 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 (d. 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 England 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 and Howards End. 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.[3][4]


Compiled works from Merchant Ivory Productions

Year Title Screenwriter Other notes
1963 The Householder Ruth Prawer Jhabvala screenplay, adapted from the novel by Jhabvala
1965 Shakespeare Wallah 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 based on the novel by Jhabvala
1984 The Bostonians Ruth Prawer Jhabvala based on the novel by Henry James
1985 A Room with a View Ruth Prawer Jhabvala based on the novel by E. M. Forster
1986 My Little Girl Connie Kaisermanoriginal; 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
1993 The Remains of the Day Ruth Prawer Jhabvala based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro
1994 In Custody Shahrukh Husain and Anita Desai based on the novel by Desai
directed by Ismail Merchant
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 PicassoRuth 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
2008 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 Make the Wiseguys Weep Richard Menello directed by Raymond De Felitta


  1. "Ismail Merchant", The Times, 26 May 2005.
  2. Kaur, Harmanpreet. "The Wandering Company: Merchant-Ivory Productions and Post-Colonial Cinema", Projectorhead Film Magazine, 10 January 2013.
  3. LaSalle, Mick. "Merchant-Ivory's final film a refined delight. Naturally", San Francisco Chronicle, 13 January 2006.
  4. Ebert, Roger. "Ismail Merchant: In Memory", 26 May 2005.

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