Ken Russell

Email a Friend

British film director Ken Russell is in New York for a series of screenings and appearances at Lincoln Center.  For this edition of the Fishko Files, WNYC’s Sara Fishko spoke to Russell about his movie- run through music history...

Ken Russell is known for his arresting films, full of shocking imagery, which often prominently feature music and the lives of musical figures.


  • Here's a clip from Lisztomania - a film Russell wrote and directed in 1975, loosely-based on composer Franz Liszt's life. Russell portrayed Liszt as a rock star of his time.  Roger Daltrey of The Who played Liszt in the movie.


  • The Music Lovers is a 1970 film directed and produced by Russell, based on the life and career of  Tchaikovsky. Russell says Tchaikovsky is his favorite composer, and that his Piano Concerto No. 1 is his favorite piece of music. Here's a scene from the film.


  • Song of Summer, a black-and-white film that Russell directed while at the BBC, dramatized the final six years of composer Frederick Delius' life.  Russell drew inspiration from a written work: Eric Fenby's memoir Delius As I Knew Him. The film depicts thecomposer in his final years, when he was both paralyzed and blind. In this clip, watch a scene featuring Max Adrian as Delius, Christopher Gable as Fenby, Maureen Pryor and Elizabeth Ercy.



Russell has also made many films on other subjects.

  • Women In Love, Russell's adaptation of D.H. Lawrence's book of the same name, has been Russell's biggest critical sucess.  Russell was nominated for the Best Director Academy Award. The film was nominated for Best Cinematography, Best Director, and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Another Medium. Glenda Jackson won the Academy Award for Best Actress in her role. Here's a sequence from the film.


  • Russell's 1971 film The Devils was based on the book The Devils of Loudon by Aldous Huxley, and on the 1960 play The Devils by John Whiting. The film features Vanessa Redgrave in this clip from the film.



  • Russellmania, a series featuring Ken Russell's films, begins on Friday, July 30th at Lincoln Center's Walter Reade Theater. Every day through August 5th one of Russell's films will be screened, with Russell appearing for a Q&A after many of the screenings. Click here for more details and ticket information.


  • See a collection of Ken Russell's films from the BBC here.


Mix Engineer: Wayne Shulmister and Jim Briggs

Assistant Producer: Laura Mayer

Newsroom Managing Editor: Karen Frillmann