Lynn Redgrave, 1943 - 2010

The Auteurs Daily

"Lynn Redgrave, an introspective and independent player in her family's acting dynasty who became a 1960s sensation as the freethinking title character of Georgy Girl and later dramatized her troubled past in such one-woman stage performances Shakespeare for My Father and Nightingale, has died. She was 67." Michael Kuchwara and Hillel Italie for the AP: "Her death comes a year after her niece Natasha Richardson died from head injuries sustained in a skiing accident and just a month after the death of her older brother, Corin Redgrave."

In October, just before the premiere of Nightingale, in which Lynn Redgrave revisited the life of her maternal grandmother, Beatrice Kempson, Felicia R Lee interviewed her for the New York Times and wrote of her "newfound clarity and peace" which "came after she had had a mastectomy and chemotherapy for breast cancer in 2003 and had plunged back into work.... A founding member of Britain's National Theater (now the Royal National Theater), Ms Redgrave also possesses a great range: she has done Shakespeare and Shaw and has worked on Broadway, off-Broadway and around the world. Her roles have included the aristocratic Olga Belinskya in the 2005 Merchant/Ivory production The White Countess and an appearance on Oct 16 in ABC's Ugly Betty as Olivia, an eccentric jewelry designer.... Many people told her that their therapists sent them to see Shakespeare for My Father, her first play, she said. That one-woman show about her lonely childhood and her strained relationship with her father was produced around the world, coming to Broadway in 1993. Ms Redgrave says that performing the play resolved her issues with her father."

Then in November, the NYT's Charles Isherwood reviewed Nightingale: "Late in the show she imagines her grandmother's grudging admiration for her daughter Rachel Kempson, who became a celebrated actress and married the equally celebrated actor Michael Redgrave. 'Lady Redgrave,' Beatrice muses coolly. 'So strange to hear her called that. To remember that little pinched face, the little sticky hands clinging to my dress. Now a lady. A married woman. A star.'" Still, he found "we want to spend more time in the company of [Lynn] Redgrave herself."

The NYT's Dave Itzkoff quotes the family's statement: "Our beloved mother Lynn Rachel passed away peacefully after a seven year journey with breast cancer. She lived, loved and worked harder than ever before. The endless memories she created as a mother, grandmother, writer, actor and friend will sustain us for the rest of our lives. Our entire family asks for privacy through this difficult time."

See also her official site and the Wikipedia entry.

Updates: Listening (7'57"). Via Nathaniel R, Michele Norris's 2005 interview with Lynn and Vanessa Redgrave for NPR.

Robert Cashill: "Despite her fair share of accolades she never quite had the same career as her sister Vanessa, but she was always more likable — and I have to say a better stage actress, much less inclined to dominate or impress."

The Guardian posts a photo gallery.

"Her films included such oddities as Woody Allen's 1972 version of a sex manual, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask) and the title role in a low-budget version of Xaviera Hollander's The Happy Hooker (1975)," writes Michael Coveney, whose fine obit for the Guardian actually focuses on her remarkable work in the theater. Still: "One of her best screen roles was the jaded London hostess in Getting It Right, adapted by Elizabeth Jane Howard from her own novel, in 1989. She had fine and graceful supporting appearances in Shine (1996), opposite Geoffrey Rush as the tortured pianist, and in Gods and Monsters (1998), with Ian McKellen as the eccentric film director James Whale. Her performance as Whale's longtime housekeeper was nominated for a best supporting actress Oscar. Later on, she appeared in such diverse films as the romantic comedy The Next Best Thing (2000), David Cronenberg's Spider (2002), Peter Pan (2003) and Kinsey (2004). The occasional glimpses and rare stage appearances only served to whet the appetite. For surely, in her own and very different way, Lynn was as great an actress as Vanessa. It just never really seemed like it."

 

Via Peter Knegt

 

"Vanessa seemed so cool, serious, and deliberate," writes the Boston Globe's Wesley Morris. "Lynn was the one you wanted to accompany shopping for records and knee-highs. Vanessa was the sister you wanted to rescue from psychos with your awesome camera skills.... It was only in the late 1990s that Redgrave made a major commitment to film work, which defies the usual direction for a middle-aged actress." In Cronenberg's "best, least-seen film, Spider, where she played the heartless caretaker of a halfway house that Ralph Fiennes's schizophrenic called home. At the movies, it's arguable that she was even better in the latter half of her career than she was in the first."

The Telegraph describes a turning point: "She trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama, then, aged 18, joined the Royal Court Theatre as a general dogsbody. She made her debut as Helena in A Midsummer Night's Dream, directed by her future brother-in-law Tony Richardson, appeared in Twelfth Night, toured with Dundee Rep in Billy Liar and made her West End debut in The Tulip Tree, starring Celia Johnson. As director of the rumbustious Tom Jones, Richardson cast her in the minor role of the barmaid Susan. Her performance, which consisted of a scene in which she runs across the set screaming 'Rape!', impressed Sir Laurence Olivier who invited her to audition for the new National Theatre Company."

"She had none of the political radicalism that drew Vanessa and Corin into active involvement in far left causes," notes the Times, "and while their careers were based on the classical theatre, she mixed stage roles with television sitcoms and talk shows. Of all the Redgraves, Lynn, with her toothy smile, had the most flair for comedy.... Part of a 'swinging London' cycle, Georgy Girl caught the mood of the period but soon dated. The same could be said of Smashing Time (1967), a raucous farce scripted by George Melly with Redgrave and [Rita] Tushingham as young women from the north living it up in the capital. Redgrave had better roles in the army comedy, The Virgin Soldiers (1969), and The National Health (1973), a mordant view of hospital life adapted from Peter Nichols's stage play."

"Lynn Redgrave will always be most fondly remembered by some as an emblematic icon of 60s British cinema," writes Joe Leydon. "So much so, in fact, that when filmmaker Randal Kleiser (Grease, The Blue Lagoon) made Getting It Right, a 1989 dream project he crafted as his valentine to movies of the Swinging London era, he eagerly cast Lynn Redgrave as a sultry 'older woman,' a trendy socialite who seduces the virginal young hero with all the intense, nimble-witted enthusiasm of someone pursuing a stimulating after-dinner conversation. It should be noted that Redgrave had a nude scene in the lightly delightful romantic comedy. It should also be noted that she looked pretty smokin' hot. She had come a long way from Georgy Girl. But she remained, as ever, a formidable screen presence."

Updates, 5/4: Redgrave's daughter, Annabel Clark, a photography student at Parsons School of Design, documented her mother's treatment for breast cancer; a series of photographs appeared in the New York Times Magazine in 2004.

For the Guardian, Ben Walters selects clips from some of his favorite performances.

John Coulthart on Smashing Time: "Austin Powers is a fake, baby, this is the real thing." Do follow his links to those clips.

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