“Death Wish” Director’s Mother blew £35m Fortune at Casinos

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The film world recently bid farewell to Michael Winner, who died at the age of 77. Winner was best known for directing the Death Wish trilogy, which helped make Charles Bronson a huge star. And while the Brit may have made his own fortune through directing films, he could’ve had inherited an even larger fortune.

Michael’s memoirs revealed how his mother, Helen, blew a large portion of the £35 million Winner family wealth through casino games. It all began at the London-based Crockford’s Club, where Helen Winner frequently played poker and bridge. She also gambled heavily in Cannes, France when the family moved there. Michael wrote about this with the following:

When her losses reached a million pounds, the casino let her eat there free of charge. By the time my poor father (George) turned 60, he’d had enough. He came to me and said: ‘I hope you don’t mind, Michael, but your mother and I are going to get divorced.

Michael was able to talk his parents out of getting divorced. However, this didn’t exactly stop his mother’s problem. In fact, Helen Winner once used Michael’s Bar Mitzvah as an opportunity to stage a poker tournament. The film director explained this in detail by writing:

After the dinner and speeches, a bevy of staff swept in carrying green baize card tables. Immediately, everyone divided into groups and started playing poker. I retired to my bedroom, which was being used as a cloakroom.

George Winner, who built the family’s wealth through his business deals, eventually died an early death. And Michael believed that stress caused by his mother’s gambling problem played a big role in George’s death.

Helen was still undeterred from playing casino games since she began selling all of her assets to accrue more gambling money. She even stooped low enough to sue Michael for shares in the family company that his father had left him. Despite all of his mother’s shortcomings, Michael never stopped loving her and even looked after Helen in her older years.

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