The cult of celebrity is a fairly new aberration. The name Michael White is unlikely to mean anything to you but at one time he was one of the most famous people in theatre/film circles in London. Director Gracie Otto stumbled across him during a Cannes Festival in the late ’90s. Her curiosity was peaked by the number of famous people queuing up to speak to this seemingly normal elderly man. It transpired that he’d been attending the festival since 1968 and had a most remarkable story.
During the 1960s he revolutionised theatre. Through the swinging sixties London had a tendency to be very inward looking. Not Michael White. As an independent theatre producer his interests lay elsewhere. In a conservative era where every play still had to be approved, he was the only person prepared to push the boundaries. He has an eternal fascination with the new and brought avant-garde theatre from around the world to the capital. White is probably best remembered for The Rocky Horror Show, and although he later went on to produce the feature film, signed away the rights for a song.
Indeed, today he’s far from being a wealthy man. White has never been interested in chasing the money. A natural gambler, he’s spent a career risking his own money, and that of others, on a whim. His natural trust and an insatiable thirst for the zeitgeist lead him to become a trailblazer in theatre and then film. Whilst this has won him countless friends it has left him almost penniless. Amongst his production credits are Monty Python and the Holy Grail and The Comic Strip Presents…
Gracie Otto follows his life from childhood to the presents. What becomes quickly apparent, and is attested to by the number of famous faces interviewed, is just how many friends he’s made along the way. Despite failing health, which he refuses to admit, Michael White is still partying and living life to the full today. The Last Impresario is a fascinating documentary about the most famous person you’ve never heard of.
The Last Impresario is released by Dogwoof and is out in selected cinemas from Friday.