The writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, who has died aged 85, achieved her greatest fame late in life, and for work she had once dismissed as a hobby – listing “writing film scripts” as a recreation in Who’s Who. Her original screenplays and adaptations of literary classics for the film producer Ismail Merchant and the director James Ivory were met with box-office and critical success. The trio met in 1961, and almost immediately became collaborators, as well as close and lifelong friends.
Soon after Merchant and Ivory themselves met (in New York), Merchant proposed that they make a film of Jhabvala’s early novel The Householder (1960). The pair then went to Delhi and asked her to sell them the book and write a screenplay of it in eight days flat. Over the next five decades, she wrote 23 screenplays. The collaborations included adaptations of EM Forster’s A Room with a View (1985) and Howards End (1992), for both of which Jhabvala won Academy Awards; and Henry James’s The Bostonians (1984) and Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day (1993). Jhabvala’s two Oscars put her in the incongruous company of Bette Davis and Elizabeth Taylor – journalists reported how odd the gilt statuettes looked in her plain New York flat.