He died in a London hospital this afternoon, his office said. The cause of death was unclear, but a spokesman said the Indian-born producer had suffered from stomach problems over the past year…
Along with his creative partner James Ivory, he made such acclaimed period films such as Howards End, A Room With A View and Remains of the Day…
Merchant was born in Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, in December 1936 and educated in New York. [BBC]
Merchant… had been unwell for some time and recently underwent surgery for abdominal ulcers, according to Indian television reports.
Merchant and Ivory, an American, made some 40 films together and won six Oscars — four for best picture — since forming their famous partnership in 1961 with German-born screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. [MSNBC]
Merchant left behind his family as well as long-time partner James Ivory. He focused on producing but also directed one of my favorite films, Muhafiz (In Custody). (Has anyone truly lived until they’ve seen Shabana Azmi sing a ghazal Umrao Jaan-style?) His partner and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala helped Merchant churn out a lengthy body of work.
Update: The LAT says Merchant revived his genre:
Merchant not only adapted great books by Henry James, E.M. Forster and V.S. Naipaul, but also helped establish the careers of a new wave of renowned English actors, including Hugh Grant (“Maurice”), Helena Bonham-Carter (“A Room with a View”) and Emma Thompson (“Howards End”)… The Merchant-Ivory model was soon widely imitated, as filmmakers as diverse as Martin Scorsese (“The Age of Innocence”) and Ang Lee (“Sense and Sensibility”) turned their cameras toward classic books.