Doing It Right the Hard Way

The radiant Howards End caps 30 years of Merchant Ivory filmmaking: on the cheap, but with style

Their company name, Merchant Ivory, is discreetly suggestive, like the first line of a haiku, or like their films. Merchant (Ismail, 55, Bombay-born): the getter, the peddler, the producer, the indefatigable fund raiser from private and government pockets in the U.S., Britain, India and Japan. Ivory (James, 63, Berkeley-born): the begetter, the director of films as smooth, durable, precious and endangered as an elephant's tusk.

With novelist-screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, 64 -- a German-born Polish Jew who escaped to England when she was 11, then lived in Delhi with her Indian architect husband for 25 years until relocating in New York...