Redgrave, Vanessa 1937–

views updated May 29 2018

REDGRAVE, Vanessa 1937–

(Vanessa Redgreiv)


Born January 30, 1937, in London, England; daughter of Sir Michael Scudemore (an actor) and Rachel (an actress; maiden name, Kempson) Redgrave; sister of Lynn Redgrave (an actress) and Corin Redgrave (an actor); married Tony Richardson (a director), April 29, 1962 (divorced, 1967); children: (with Richardson) Natasha Jane (an actress), Joely Kim (an actress); (with Franco Nero) Carlo Gabriel. Education: Trained for the stage at Central School of Speech and Drama, London, 1955–57.

Addresses: Manager— Marina Martin Management, Ltd., 8 Windmill St., London W1P 1HF, England. Agent— Agency for the Performing Arts, 9000 Sunset Blvd., Suite 1200, Los Angeles, CA 90069; International Creative Management, 8942 Wilshire Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90211. Publicist— Robert Garlock, PMK/HBH, New York, 650 Fifth Ave., 33rd Floor, New York, NY 10019.

Career: Actress, director, producer, writer, and music performer. United Nations Children's Fund, special representative for the arts; International Artists Against Racism, cofounder; Central School of Speech and Drama, member of board of governors, 1963—; involved with Amnesty International.

Member: Workers' Revolutionary Party.

Awards, Honors: Evening Standard Drama Award, actress of the year, and Variety Club of Great Britain Award, best actress, both 1961; Cannes Film Festival Award, Academy Award nomination, best actress, 1966, Golden Globe Award nomination, best motion picture actress in a musical/comedy, Film Award nomination, best British actress, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, 1967, all for Morgan!; Television Award, best television actress, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, Variety Club of Great Britain Award, best actress, and British Guild of Television Producers and Directors Award, all 1966; Commander, Order of the British Empire, 1967. Evening Standard Drama Award, actress of the year, 1967; Golden Laurel Award nomination, female new face, 1967; Golden Globe Award nomination, best motion picture actress—musical/comedy, 1968, for Camelot; Academy Award nomination and Cannes Film Festival Award, both best actress, 1968, National Society of Film Critics Award, best leading actress, 1969, British Film Critics' Guild Award, best actress, Golden Globe Award nomination, best motion picture actress—drama, 1969, all for Isadora; Golden Laurel Award nomination, female star, 1970; Academy Award nomination, best actress, 1971, Golden Globe Award nomination, best motion picture actress—drama, Special David Award, David di Donatello Awards, 1972, all for Mary, Queen of Scots; Academy Award, best supporting actress, Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award, best supporting actress, 1977, and Golden Globe Award, best supporting actress in a film, 1978, all for Julia; Emmy Award, best actress in a limited series or special, 1981, for Playing for Time; Academy Award nomination, best actress in a leading role, National Society of Film Critics Award, best actress, 1984, Golden Globe Award nomination, best performance by an actress in a motion picture—drama, 1985, New Delhi International Film Festival Award, best actress, all for The Bostonians; Laurence Olivier Award, actress of the year, Society of West End Theatre, 1984, for The Aspern Papers; National Society of Film Critics Award, best actress, 1985, for Wetherby; Emmy Award nomination, best supporting actress in a miniseries or special, 1986, for Peter the Great; Emmy Award nomination, best actress in a miniseries or special, 1986, Golden Globe Award nomination, best performance by an actress in a miniseries or motion picture made for TV, 1987, both for Second Serve; New York Film Critics Circle Award, best supporting actress, 1987, Golden Globe Award nomination, best motion picture actress in a supporting role, Film Award nomination, best actress in a supporting role, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, 1988, all for Prick Up Your Ears; fellow, British Film Institute, 1988; Golden Globe Award nomination, best performance by an actress in a miniseries or motion picture made for TV, 1989, for A Man for All Seasons; Evening Standard Award, best actress, 1991, for When She Danced; Emmy Award nomination, outstanding supporting actress in a miniseries or special, 1991, CableACE Award, best supporting actress in a television movie or miniseries, 1992, both for Young Catherine; Variety Club of Great Britain Award, 1992; Academy Award nomination, best supporting actress, 1993, for Howards End; Volpi Cup, best supporting actress, Venice Film Festival, 1994, Independent Spirit Award nomination, 1996, both for Little Odessa; Film Excellence Award, Boston Film Festival, 1995; Golden Globe Award nomination, best performance by an actress in a motion picture—comedy/musical, 1996, for A Month by the Lake; Golden Globe Award nomination, best performance by an actress in a miniseries or motion picture made for TV, 1998, for Bella Mafia; Blockbuster Entertainment Award nomination, favorite supporting actress—action/adventure, 1999, for Deep Impact; Donostia Lifetime Achievement Award, San Sebastian International Film Festival, 1999; Emmy Award, outstanding supporting actress, 2000, Golden Globe Award, best performance by an actress in a supporting role, Golden Satellite Award nomination, best performance by an actress, Screen Idol Award, female, L.A. Outfest, Screen Actors Guild Award, outstanding performance by a female actor, 2001, for If These Walls Could Talk 2; Excellence in Media Award, GLAAD Media Awards, 2001; Emmy Award, outstanding lead actress in a miniseries or a movie, 2002, Television Award nomination, best actress, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, Broadcasting Press Guild Award, best actress, Golden Globe Award nomination, best performance by an actress, Golden Satellite Award nomination, best performance by an actress, Screen Actors Guild Award nomination, outstanding performance by a female actor, 2003, all for The Gathering Storm.


Film Appearances:

(Film debut) Pamela Gray, Behind the Mask, GW, 1958.

Anne–Marie, La Musica, 1965.

Jane, Blow–Up, 1966.

Anne Boleyn, A Man for All Seasons, Columbia, 1966.

Leonie Delt, Morgan! (also known as Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment and A Suitable Case for Treatment), Cinema V, 1966.

Guinevere, Camelot, Warner Bros./Seven Arts, 1967.

Jacky, Red and Blue, 1967.

(In archive footage) The Story of Camelot, 1967.

Sheila, The Sailor from Gibraltar, Lopert, 1967.

Guest, Let's All Make Love in London (also known as Tonite Let's All Make Love in London and The London Scene), 1967.

Clarissa Morris, The Charge of the Light Brigade, United Artists, 1968.

Isadora Duncan (title role), Isadora (also known as The Loves of Isadora), Universal, 1968.

Nina, The Sea Gull, Warner Bros., 1968.

Sylvia Pankhurst, Oh! What a Lovely War, Paramount, 1969.

Daniel Deronda, 1969.

Mary, Dropout, 1969.

Flavia, A Quiet Place in the Country (also known as Un tranquillo posto di campagna and Un coin tranquille a la campagne), Lopert, 1970.

Narrator, The Body, Metro–Goldwyn–Mayer, 1970.

En mor med tvaa barn vaentandes sitt tredje (also known as A Mother with Two Children Expecting Her Third and Tvaabarnsmor, vaentande hennes tredje), 1970.

Title role, Mary, Queen of Scots, Universal, 1971.

Andromache, The Trojan Women, Cinerama, 1971.

Immacolata, La vacanza (also known as The Vacation and Vacation Dropout), Lion, 1971.

Sister Jeanne, The Devils (also known as The Devils of London), Warner Bros., 1971.

The Holiday, 1971.

Mary Debenham, Murder on the Orient Express, Paramount, 1974.

Ann, Out of Season (also known as Winter Rates), Athenaeum/EMI, 1975.

Title role, Julia, Twentieth Century–Fox, 1977.

Lola Deveraux, The Seven Percent Solution, Universal, 1977.

Narrator, The Palestinian, Battersby, 1977.

Agatha Christie (title role), Agatha, Warner Bros., 1979.

Helen, Yanks (also known as Yanks—Gestern waren wir noch Fremde), Universal, 1979.

Heddi Lindquist, Bear Island (also known as Alistair MacLean's Bear Island), Columbia, 1980.

Queen, Sing Sing, 1983.

Olive Chancellor, The Bostonians, Almi, 1984.

Nancy, Steaming, Columbia, 1985.

Jean Travers, Wetherby, Metro–Goldwyn–Mayer/United Artists Classics, 1985.

Mrs. Carlyle, Comrades, Curzon, 1987.

Peggy Ramsay, Prick Up Your Ears, Samuel Goldwyn, 1987.

Mrs. Garza, Consuming Passions, Samuel Goldwyn, 1988.

Voice of Mother Capulet, Romeo–Juliet, 1990.

(As Vanessa Redgreiv) English journalist, Pokhorony Stalina (also known as Stalin's Funeral), 1990.

Sister Crocifissa, A Breath of Life (also known as The Plague Sowers and Diceria dell'untore), 1990.

Miss Amelia, The Ballad of the Sad Cafe, Angelika, 1991.

Ruth Wilcox, Howards End, Sony Pictures Classics, 1992.

(In archive footage) Oscar's Greatest Moments, 1992.

Sister Agata, Sparrow (also known as Nisou no koi/Maria no namida and Storia di una capinera), 1993.

Kate Benson, A Wall of Silence (also known as Black Flowers and Un muro de silencio), 1993.

Irina Shapira, Little Odessa, Fine Line, 1994.

Lydia Madigan, Mother's Boys, Dimension Films, 1994.

Nivea del Valle, The House of the Spirits (also known as Aandernes hus, A casa dos espiritos, and Das Geisterhaus), Miramax, 1994.

Miss Bentley, A Month by the Lake, Miramax, 1995.

Max, Mission: Impossible, Paramount, 1996.

Herself, Looking for Richard, Fox Searchlight, 1996.

Lady Speranza Wilde, Wilde (also known as Oscar Wilde), Sony Pictures Classics, 1997.

Skelly (London), Deja Vu, Rainbow Releasing, 1997.

Elsa Lubing, Smilla's Sense of Snow (also known as Smilla's Feeling for Snow, Fraeulein Smillas Gespuer fuer Schnee, Froeken Smillas kaensla foer snoe, and Froken Smillas fornemmelse for sne), Fox Searchlight, 1997.

Clarissa Dalloway, Mrs. Dalloway (also known as Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway), First Look Pictures, 1997.

Robin Lerner, Deep Impact, Paramount, 1998.

Celebrity, Miramax, 1998.

Catherine Moore, Lulu on the Bridge, Trimark Pictures, 1998.

Mrs. Ruttenburn, Uninvited (also known as L'escluso), 1999.

Countess LaGrange, Cradle Will Rock, 1999.

Dr. Sonia Wick, Girl, Interrupted (also known as Durchgeknallt and Durchgeknallt—Girl, interrupted), Sony Pictures Releasing, 1999.

Kalsan, Mirka, 2000.

Maddy Bennett, A Rumor of Angels, 2000.

Voice, Children's Story, Chechnia, 2000.

Narrator, Die Erika and Klaus Mann Story (also known as Escape to Life), The Cinema Guild, 2000.

Priestess, The 3 Kings, Wandering Star, 2000.

Annalise Hansen, The Pledge, Warner Bros., 2001.

Mrs. Raskolnikov, Crime and Punishment, New Cannon, 2002.

Searching for Debra Winger, 2002.

Voice of the Greater Dane, Good Boy!, Metro–Goldwyn–Mayer, 2003.

Herself, Merci Docteur Rey (also known as Dr. Rey! and Merci … Dr. Rey!), 2004.

The heiress, The Keeper: The Legend of Omar Khayyam, Guide Company, 2004.

The White Countess, Sony Pictures Classics, 2004.

Magus's wife, May Day, British Lion, 2004.

Film Producer:

The Palestinians, Battersby, 1977.

Film Executive Producer:

Children's Story, Chechnia, 2000.

Stage Appearances:

(Stage debut) Clarissa, The Reluctant Debutante, Frinton Summer Theatre, Frinton, England, 1957.

Mrs. Spottsworth, Come On, Jeeves, Arts Theatre, Cambridge, England, 1957.

(London debut) Caroline Lester, A Touch of the Sun, Saville Theatre, 1958.

Sarah Undershaft, Major Barbara, Royal Court Theatre, London, 1958.

Principal boy, Mother Goose, Leatherhead Theatre, Surrey, U.K., 1958.

Helena, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Shakespearean Memorial Theatre Company, Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, Stratford–on–Avon, England, 1959.

Valeria, Coriolanus, Shakespearean Memorial Theatre Company, Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, 1959.

Rose Sinclair, Look on Tempests, Comedy Theatre, London, 1960.

Stella Dean, The Tiger and the Horse, Queen's Theatre, London, 1960.

Boletta, The Lady from the Sea, Queen's Theatre, 1961.

Rosalind, As You Like It, Royal Shakespeare Company, Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford–on–Avon, 1961, then Aldwych Theatre, London, 1962.

Katharina, The Taming of the Shrew, Royal Shakespeare Company, Aldwych Theatre, 1961, then Royal Shakespeare Theatre, 1962.

Imogen, Cymbeline, Royal Shakespeare Company, Royal Shakespeare Theatre, 1962.

Nina, The Seagull, Queen's Theatre, 1964.

Title role, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Wyndham's Theatre, London, 1966.

Gwendolen Harleth, Daniel Deronda, University Theatre, Manchester, England, 1969.

Susan Thistlewood, Cato Street, Young Vic Theatre, London, 1971.

Polly Peachum, The Threepenny Opera, Prince of Wales Theatre, London, 1972.

Viola, Twelfth Night, Shaw Theatre, London, 1972.

Cleopatra, Antony and Cleopatra, Bankside Globe Theatre, London, 1973.

Gilda, Design for Living, Phoenix Theatre, London, 1973.

Macbeth, Los Angeles, 1974, then 1975.

Ellida, The Lady from the Sea, Circle in the Square, New York City, 1976, then Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, 1978, later Round House Theatre, London, 1979.

The Aspern Papers, Royal Haymarket Theatre, London, 1984.

The Seagull, Queen's Theatre, 1985.

Chekhov's Women, Lyric Theatre, New York City, 1985.

The Seagull, 1985.

Ghosts, Young Vic Theatre, then Wyndham's Theatre, both 1986.

Antony and Cleopatra, Royal Haymarket Theatre, 1986.

The Taming of the Shrew, Royal Haymarket Theatre, 1986.

Nora, A Touch of the Poet, Young Vic Theatre, then Royal Haymarket Theatre, 1988.

Lady Torrance, Orpheus Descending, Royal Haymarket Theatre, 1988, then Neil Simon Theatre, New York City, 1989.

A Madhouse in Goa, Lyric Hammersmith Theatre, London, 1989.

Beside Herself, Circle Repertory Theatre, New York City, 1989.

Three Sisters, Queen's Theatre, 1990.

Collateral Damage: The Private Life of the New World Order, La Mama Experimental Theatre Club, New York City, 1991.

When She Danced, Globe Theatre, 1991.

Heartbreak House, Royal Haymarket Theatre, 1992.

Maybe, 1993.

Vita and Virginia, Union Square Theatre, New York City, 1994.

Brecht in Exile, Bridge Lane Theatre, Battersea, England, 1994.

New Statesman, Royal National Theatre, London, 1996.

John Gabriel Borkman, Royal National Theatre, 1997.

Cleopatra, Antony and Cleopatra, Joseph Papp Public Theater, New York City, 1997.

Sarah Bernhardt Comes to Town, Recital Theatre, Springfield, MA, 1998.

Not about Nightingales, Alley Theater Company, Houston, TX, 1998.

Prospero, The Tempest, Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, 2000.

Ranevskaya, The Cherry Orchard, Royal National Theatre, 2000.

Mrs. Erlynne, Lady Windermere's Fan, Theater Royal Haymarket, London, 2002.

Mary Cavan Tyrone, Long Day's Journey into Night, Plymouth Theater, New York City, 2003.

Stage Director:

Antony and Cleopatra, Joseph Papp Public Theater, New York City, 1997.

Television Appearances; Series:

Title role, A Picture of Katherine Mansfield, BBC, 1973.

Television Appearances; Miniseries:

Catherine Barkley, A Farewell to Arms, 1966.

Cosima von Bulow, Wagner, 1983.

Sophia, Peter the Great, NBC, 1986.

Empress Elizabeth, Young Catherine, TNT, 1991.

Graziella Luciano, Bella Mafia, 1997.

Countess Wilhelmina, Jack and the Beanstalk: The Real Story (also known as Jim Henson's "Jack and the Beanstalk: The Real Story"), CBS, 2001.

Lady Melbourne, Byron, BBC, 2003.

Television Appearances; Movies:

Rosalind, As You Like It, 1963.

Fania Fenelon, Playing for Time, CBS, 1980.

Leenie Cabrezi, My Body, My Child, ABC, 1982.

Richard Radley/Renee Richards, Second Serve (also known as I Change My Life), CBS, 1986.

Lady Alice More, A Man for All Seasons, TNT, 1988.

Lady Torrance, Orpheus Descending (also known as Tennessee Williams's "Orpheus Descending"), TNT, 1990.

Blanche Hudson, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (also known as What Ever Happened to …?), ABC, 1991.

Florence Latimer, They (also known as They Watch, The Lost Souls, and Children of the Mist), Show-time, 1993.

Dr. Angela Bead, Great Moments in Aviation (also known as Shades of Fear), 1993.

Anna Lenke, Down Came a Blackbird (also known as Ramirez), Showtime, 1995.

Nancy Shaffell, Two Mothers for Zachary, ABC, 1996.

Narrator, The Willows in Winter, 1996.

Edith Tree, "1961," If These Walls Could Talk 2, HBO, 2000.

Clemmie Churchill, The Gathering Storm (also known as The Lonely War), HBO, 2002.

Esther Huish, The Locket, CBS, 2002.

The Fever, HBO, 2004.

Television Appearances; Episodic:

"Christmas Special," Morecambe & Wise, 1973.

Wicked queen, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," Faerie Tale Theatre, Showtime, 1984.

"Wetten, dass…? aus Berlin," Wetten, dass..?, 1991.

Vicky's mother, "London, May," The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, 1992.

Que apostamos?, 1995.

Inside the Acgtors Studio, Bravo, 2002.

Question Time, 2003.

The Late Late Show, 2003.

BBC World News, BBC, 2003.

Dr. Erica Noughton, "Erica Noughton," Nip/Tuck, F/X, 2004.

Dr. Erica Noughton, "Christian Troy," Nip/Tuck, F/X, 2004.

Dr. Erica Noughton, "Manya Mabika," Nip/Tuck, F/X, 2004.

Dr. Erica Noughton, "Natasha Charles," Nip/Tuck, F/X, 2004.

Also appeared as interviewee, Changing Stages, PBS.

Television Appearances; Specials:

Helena, A Midsummer Night's Dream, 1962.

Maggie, Sally, 1964.

Sarah Cloyce, "Three Sovereigns for Sarah," American Playhouse, PBS, 1985.

Bring Me Sunshine: The Heart and Soul of Eric More-cambe, 1998.

Voice of Anna Larina, Widow of the Revolution: The Anna Larina Story (documentary), PBS, 2000.

Stars fur UNICEF, 2002.

Ronnie Barker: A BAFTA Tribute, BBC, 2004.

Also appeared in A Farewell to Arms.

Television Appearances; Awards Presentations:

Presenter, The 23rd Annual Tony Awards, 1969.

The 50th Annual Academy Awards, 1978.

The 11th Annual ACE Awards, 1990.

The 70th Annual Academy Awards, 1998.

The Orange British Academy Film Awards, E! Entertainment Television, 2002.

The 54th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, NBC, 2002.

The 57th Annual Tony Awards, CBS, 2003.

The Evening Standard Theatre Awards 2003, 2003.



Mary, Queen of Scots (original soundtrack), Decca, 1971.

Taped Readings:

Stravinsky: A Soldier's Tale, 1988.



Vanessa Redgrave: An Autobiography, Hutchinson, 1991, Random House, 1994.

Editor of Pussies and Tigers (writings by children), 1964.



Interview, February, 1991, p. 120; April, 1997, p. 118.

New York Times, September 17, 1989.

New York Times Magazine, February 16, 1997.

Theater Week, July 31, 1989, p. 14.

Redgrave, Vanessa

views updated May 18 2018


Nationality: British. Born: London, 30 January 1937; daughter of the actor Michael Redgrave and the actress Rachel Kempson; sister of the actress Lynn Redgrave and the actor Corin Redgrave. Education: Attended Queensgate School, London; Central School of Speech and Drama, London, 1954–57. Family: Married the director Tony Richardson, 1962 (divorced 1966), daughters: the actresses Natasha and Joely Richardson; one son, Carlo, by the actor Franco Nero. Career: Made London debut in A Touch of the Sun, 1958; made film debut in Behind the Mask, 1959; acted for a season with the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford upon Avon, 1959; appeared in the stage play The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, 1966; later stage work included roles in Antony and Cleopatra, 1973, Macbeth, 1975, The Seagull, 1985, and Orpheus Descending, 1988; produced the film The Palestinian, 1977; successfully sued the Boston Symphony for cancelling her concert series for political reasons, 1983; appeared in the TV mini-series Peter the Great, 1986, and Young Catherine, 1991. Awards: Cannes Film Festival Best Actress, for Morgan! A Suitable Case for Treatment, 1966; Cannes Film Festival Best Actress, National Society of Film Critics Best Actress, for Isadora, 1969; Best Supporting Actress Academy Award, Los Angeles Film Critics Association Best Supporting Actress, Best Motion Picture Actress in a Supporting Role Golden Globe, for Julia, 1977; Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Special Emmy Award, for Playing for Time, 1980; National Society of Film Critics Best Actress, for The Bostonians, 1984; National Society of Film Critics Best Actress, for wetherby, 1985; New York Film Critics Circle Best Supporting Actress, for Prick Up Your Ears, 1987; Venice Film Festival Volpi Cup-Best Supporting Actress, for Little Odessa, 1994; San Sebastian International Film Festival Donostia Lifetime Achievement Award, 1999. Address: 1 Ravenscourt Road, London W6, England.

Films as Actress:


Behind the Mask (Hurst) (as Pamela Gray)


Morgan! A Suitable Case for Treatment (Reisz) (as Leonie Delt); Blow-Up (Antonioni) (as Jane)


Red and Blue (Richardson) (as Jacky); Camelot (Logan) (as Guinevere); A Man for All Seasons (Zinnemann) (as Anne Boleyn); The Sailor from Gibraltar (Richardson) (as Sheila);The Charge of the Light Brigade (Richardson) (as Clarissa)


Isadora (Reisz) (as Isadora Duncan); The Sea Gull (Lumet)(as Nina); Un tranquillo posto di campagna (A Quiet Place in the Country) (Petri) (as Flavia); Tonight Let's All Make Love in London (Whitehead) (as guest)


Oh! What a Lovely War (Attenborough) (as Sylvia Pankhurst);La vacanza (The Vacation; Dropout) (Brass) (as Immacolata)


The Trojan Women (Cacoyannis) (as Andromache); The Devils (Russell) (as Sister Jeanne); Mary, Queen of Scots(Jarrott) (title role)


Murder on the Orient Express (Lumet) (as Mary Debenham)


Out of Season (Alan Bridges) (as Ann)


The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (Ross) (as Lola Deveraux)


Julia (Zinnemann) (title role); Agatha (Apted) (as Agatha Christie); The Palestinian (Battersby) (+ pr)


Yanks (Schlesinger) (as Helen); Bear Island (Sharp) (as Hedi Lindquist)


Playing for Time (Daniel Mann—for TV) (as Fania Fenelon)


My Body, My Child (Chomsky—for TV) (as Leenie Cabrezi)


Wagner (Palmer—for TV) (as Cosima)


The Bostonians (Ivory) (as Olive Chancellor)


Wetherby (Hare) (as Jean Travers); Steaming (Losey) (as Nancy); Three Sovereigns for Sarah (Leacock—for TV)(as Sarah Cloyce)


Second Serve (Page—for TV) (as Renee Richards); Comrades(Douglas) (as Mrs. Carlyle)


Prick Up Your Ears (Frears) (as Peggy Ramsay)


Consuming Passions (Foster) (as Mrs. Garza); A Man for All Seasons (Charlton Heston—for TV) (as Alice More)


Diceria dell'untore (The Plague Sowers) (Cino) (as SisterCrucifix); Romeo-Juliet (Acosta) (voice of Mother Capulet);A Breath of Life (Cino) (as Sister Crocifissa); Orpheus Descending (Hall—for TV) (as Lady Torrance)


Stalin's Funeral (Yevtuschenko); The Ballad of the Sad Café(Callow) (as Miss Amelia Evans); What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (Greene—for TV) (as Blanche Hudson); Behind the Mask (doc)


Howards End (Ivory) (as Ruth Wilcox)


Storia di una Capinera (Sparrow) (Zeffirelli) (as Sister Agata);The House of the Spirits (August) (as Nivea); Crime andPunishment (as Mrs. Raskolnikov); Un Muro de Silencio (A Wall of Silence) (Stantic) (as Kate Benson); They (They Watch) (Korty—for TV) (as Florence Latimer); Great Moments in Aviation (Kidron) (as Dr. Angela Bead)


Mother's Boys (Simoneau) (as Lydia); Little Odessa (Gray)(as Irina Shapira)


A Month by the Lake (Irvin) (as Miss Bentley); Down Came a Blackbird (Jonathan Sanger—for TV) (as Anna Lenke)


Mission Impossible (De Palma) (as Max); Looking for Richard (Pacino) (as herself)


Wilde (Gilbert) (as Speranza); Déjà Vu (Jaglom) (as Skelly);Smilla's Sense of Snow (August) (as Elsa Lubing); Mrs. Dalloway (Gorris) (as title role); Bella Mafia (Greene—mini for TV) (as Graziella Luciano)


Deep Impact (Leder) (as Robin Lerner); Lulu on the Bridge(Auster) (as Catherine Moore)


Uninvited (Carlo Gabriel Nero) (as Mrs. Ruttenburn); A Rumor of Angels (O'Fallon) (as Maddy); Mirka (Benhadj)(as Kalsan); Girl, Interrupted (as Dr. Wick) (Mangold);Cradle Will Rock (Robbins) (as Countess LaGrange)


If These Walls Could Talk 2 (Anderson, Coolidge, Heche—for TV) (as Edith Tree); The Pledge (Penn)


By REDGRAVE: book—

Vanessa Redgrave: An Autobiography, London, 1991.

By REDGRAVE: articles—

Interview with B. Lewis, in Films and Filming (London), October 1986.

"A Woman of Conscience," interview with Nicholas Wroe, in New Statesman & Society, 4 October 1991.

"Mission: Possible," interview with W. Shawn, in Interview, April 1997.

On REDGRAVE: books—

Redgrave, Deirdre, with Danaë Brook, To Be a Redgrave, London, 1982.

Kempson, Rachel, A Family and Its Fortunes, London, 1986.

Hare, David, Writing Left-Handed, London, 1991.

On REDGRAVE: articles—

Current Biography 1966, New York, 1966.

Haustrate, G., and W. Chmait, "Cinéma et Palestine," and "Oscar et protestations," in Cinéma (Paris), May 1978.

Corliss, Richard, "Vanessa Redgrave," in The Movie Star, edited by Elisabeth Weis, New York, 1981.

Ivory, James, "The Trouble with Olive," in Sight and Sound (London), Spring 1985.

Henry, William A. III, "Vanessa Ascending: The Pre-eminent Actress of Her Time Returns to Broadway," in Time, 9 October 1989.

Raymond, Gerard, "Redgrave on Redgrave," in Advocate, 12 February 1991.

Schiff, Stephen, "Who's Afraid of Vanessa Redgrave," in Vanity Fair (New York), July 1991.

Mury, Cécile, "La scandaleuse de Londres," in Télérama (Paris), 21 June 1995.

Slide, A., "Who's the Best Actress in Hollywood?" in Movieline (Chicago), November 1996.

* * *

Disappointing is the first word that comes to mind with regard to Vanessa Redgrave's film career. But that perhaps says more about our expectations than her achievements. Being part of one of Britain's great theatrical families may have been more of a burden than an asset, so it is a credit to her persistence and intelligence that she has not given up on acting entirely, or sunk to the depths of a Hayley or Juliet Mills. Yet in virtually all of her films there remains a lingering sense of something great, of a performer of truly passionate intensity going to waste.

In some cases, this can be squarely blamed on the directors with whom she worked. During her marriage to Tony Richardson, enduring The Sailor from Gibraltar and The Charge of the Light Brigade can only have hastened the divorce proceedings. And how could any performer communicate through the chaotic gore of The Devils? Redgrave almost succeeds in giving a startling performance, but is constantly thwarted by director Ken Russell's selfish grandiosity. Even her Academy Award-winning role in Julia, impressive as it is, cannot help but drown in the pale timidity of its surroundings, that Hollywood brand of liberal politics known as Zinnemannism. She demonstrably acts Jane Fonda off the screen; in fact, it is an embarrassingly one-sided contest—elegant intelligence versus radical pouting. But the film remains too pretty, too patronizing, and, crucially, too evasive about the women's relationship.

Many of Redgrave's films are limited by respectability, as if she were determined to prove her classical credentials. Hence she is adequately striking in The Sea Gull, lovingly embalmed by Sidney Lumet, and does what she can in the international stew of The Trojan Women. In Mary, Queen of Scots she succumbs to the tedious early 1970s vogue for Tudor costume drama, halfheartedly sparring with Glenda Jackson when they should be asking each other how they got into such a dull film in the first place.

In the 1960s Redgrave played female lead in two films central to the inflated ego of that decade—Blow-Up and Morgan. In both, she had to contend with a smothering male presence (Antonioni and David Warner respectively), but very nearly captures the hearts of the two films. Her Guinevere in Camelot is suitably beautiful but, not surprisingly, her intelligence rarely seems engaged by the text. Isadora at least put her in the epicenter of a film, giving Redgrave her best early career leading role as Isadora Duncan and offering her a substantial dramatic showcase.

It took considerable courage, given the hysterical misinterpretation of her political views in certain quarters of the United States, to take the lead role in the made-for-television drama Playing for Time, and her success in it is heartening. She is never less than moving in her role as concentration camp prisoner Fania Fenelon. But perhaps her finest film performance, though less celebrated than many, came in Yanks. It is one of the only straightforwardly romantic films she has appeared in, but it never equates romanticism with sloppiness. Redgrave's acting, free of the responsibilities of a crushing classical role or of the need to punch home political points, is the strong, subtle, emotional center of the text.

As she has aged, Redgrave has taken on an assortment of supporting character roles. She was a solid presence in two films in which her characters are at once dissimilar and alike: they may come from opposite classes, yet the fact that each is dying is a key element in the story. In Howards End, she is a highborn matriarch who wills her cherished estate to the character played by Emma Thompson; in Little Odessa, she is a nondescript Russian-Jewish woman whose husband has been unfaithful and whose oldest son has become a hitman. During the second half of the 1990s, Redgrave's highest-profile films have featured her in roles that virtually are cameos. In Girl, Interrupted, for example, she plays a very proper psychiatrist; in Cradle Will Rock, she is a wealthy, dizzy countess. She even appeared in a pair of mega-budget Hollywood actioners, adding a bit of humanity and depth to Deep Impact as the rejected mother of heroine Tea Leoni and quite a bit of pizzazz to Mission Impossible as a greedy, sexy information broker.

Meanwhile, Redgrave gave attractive star performances in two films that were far-less publicized. In A Month by the Lake, she is an amiable British woman who comes to Italy's Lake Como for a vacation prior to World War II and becomes intrigued by the idea of a romance with a stylish but impulsive, ultimately enigmatic middle-aged businessman. In Mrs. Dalloway, based on a novel by Virginia Woolf, Redgrave is especially fine as the title character, a moneyed middle-aged woman who comes off as stodgy and self-satisfied as she prepares to host an elegant party. She is contrasted to her youthful self in a series of flashbacks and, at this point in her life, it is noted that the vibrant young woman "could do so much, be so much." The story would be one-dimensional and predictable if the plight of its heroine made her nothing more than a victim of cruel sexism. What makes it so effective is that it is layered with emotion and nuance, and the fact that Clarissa Dalloway, as portrayed by Redgrave, is such a complex, fully developed character.

Her performances in films from Yanks through A Month by the Lake and Mrs. Dalloway are clear proof that if Redgrave's political commitments ever put an end to her acting career, it will be a significant loss. Yet even her political views, liked by few people and understood by fewer, seem somehow linked to the tenacity and conviction she has displayed in her films.

—Andy Medhurst, updated by Rob Edelman

Vanessa Redgrave

views updated Jun 11 2018

Vanessa Redgrave

The British actress Vanessa Redgrave (born 1937) has had a well-celebrated career as a theater, film, and television actress of substance. She is also a controversial, committed political activist.

VanessaRedgrave has been described as the "crown princess of a trans-Atlantic show business royal family." Her father was the noted classical actor Sir Michael Redgrave; her mother was a respected actress who performed under the name Rachel Kempson. Lynn Redgrave, the popular stage, screen, and television actress, and Corin Redgrave, an actor better known for his radical politics, were her siblings.

Born in London on January 30, 1937, Vanessa Redgrave was educated there, attending Queensgate School and later, 1955 to 1957, the Central School of Speech and Drama. (She joined the board of governors of the latter in 1963). Her first love was the dance. She initially trained for a career in ballet, but her height (she is nearly six feet tall) caused her to choose the stage instead. After some roles in stock she made her London theatrical debut in 1958 as the daughter of a schoolmaster, played by her father. Redgrave was married from 1962 to 1967 to the director Tony Richardson; they had two daughters, Joely and Natasha, both of whom became actresses. Redgrave also had a son Carlo, born in 1969. The father was the Italian actor Franco Nero, with whom she had a long relationship. He played Lancelot to her Guinevere in the film of the musical Camelot (1967).

During her acting career she undertook a wide variety of roles, including important parts in George Bernard Shaw's Major Barbara and Anton Chekov's The Seagull. She played leads in various Shakespeare plays, including The Taming of the Shrew, and was for a time a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company. In 1966 she originated the title role in the well-received dramatization of Muriel Spark's novel The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. During the 1970s her stage roles included Polly Peachum in The Three Penny Opera and Gilda in Noel Coward's Design for Living as well as parts in various Shakespeare plays. In the 1980s she again appeared in The Seagull and The Taming of the Shrew as well as other plays, including a dramatization of Henry James' The Aspern Papers. She also appeared in productions of Eugene O'Neill's A Touch of the Poet and a spirited revival of Tennessee Williams' Orpheus Descending.

Her reviews were not always euphoric, but generally she has been well-received by the critics, such as considering her as possibly "the greatest actress of the English-speaking theater." Her stage performances won her numerous awards, including the prestigious English Evening Standard Drama Award as Actress of the Year (1961, 1967) and the Laurence Olivier Award (1984).

Her screen career was more uneven, but not without distinction. Her film debut came in 1958, but she did not receive her first important movie role until 1966, as the dazzling ex-wife in Morgan. It was followed by an enigmatic role in Antonioni's Blow-Up, a confused blend of fantasy and reality set in "swinging London." She did not always choose her screen roles wisely, and among her more than 25 movies were pot boilers like Bear Island (1980), a weak adaptation of an adventure novel; The Devils (1971), an overheated version of an Aldous Huxley work about the excesses of religion in 17th-century London; and Steaming (1985), a failed attempt by Joseph Losey to film a feminist play. But Redgrave also had to her credit such films as Julia (1977), in which she played the fiery anti-Fascist eponymous heroine; The Bostonians (1984), a version of the James novel in which she played a betrayed feminist; Prick Up Your Ears (1987), a fascinating film about the career and death of homosexual writer Joe Orton in which she played his literary agent; and The Ballad of the Sad Cafe (1991), based on the novella of Carson McCullers.

Many of her directors commented on her ability before the cameras; Fred Zinneman said she "is being rather than acting." Redgrave garnered various awards for her film roles, including Academy Award nominations for her performances in Morgan, Isadora, and The Bostonians; an Academy Award as best supporting actress for Julia; and New York Film Critics Award, best supporting actress, for Prick Up Your Ears. She twice won the Cannes Film Festival Best Actress Award (Morgan, Isadora).

Her television credits also cover a wide range of roles and won her various awards. She appeared as the Wicked Queen in a "Faerie Tale Theatre" version of Snow White (1985), in a three-part "American Playhouse" dramatization of the Salem witchcraft trials (Three Sovereigns for Sarah, 1985), and in 1986 the nine-part miniseries Peter the Great (as his sister, for which she received an Emmy Award nomination). Redgrave also received an Emmy nomination for her role as a transsexual tennis pro and doctor (Second Serve, 1986). She won an Emmy for her performance in Playing for Time (1980) as Fania Fenelon, a Jewish musician who survives Auschwitz.

Jewish groups strongly criticized the casting of Redgrave as Fenelon because of her outspoken pro-Palestinian sympathies. In 1977 she had produced and narrated a tough anti-Israeli film, The Palestinians, and she had made clear her support for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). A woman of definite political beliefs, Redgrave was also active in "ban-the-bomb" groups. A member of England's left Radical Workers Revolutionary Party, she stood as their candidate for Parliament from Moss Side in 1979. She described her "leisure interest" as "changing the status quo." Her politics led to a suit Redgrave filed in 1984 after the Boston Symphony Orchestra canceled her contract to narrate a performance of Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex. A jury awarded her $100,000 damages for breach of contract but rejected her charges that the dismissal was for political reasons.

Before her political notoriety surfaced she was made (1967) a Commander, Order of the British Empire (C.B.E.).

Her single-minded commitment to political causes was notorious. By Redgrave's account, her daughter Natasha once pleaded with her to stop traveling and spending time on political causes and spend more time at home. Redgrave said "I tried to explain that our political struggle was for her future and that all the children of her generation." Undaunted by her daughter's emotional plea, Redgrave continued to spend most of her time on activism. Her theater and movie career suffered from her controversial causes leading to lesser and smaller roles being offered. Other acting assignments included: Howards Way (1995) with Emma Thompson; Two Mothers for Zachary (1996), a made for TV movie based on a famous child custody case, with Balerie Bertinellia; and Sense of Snow (1997), cameo role in Danish author Peter Hoeg's best-thriller of the same name. Redgrave demonstrated her vast theatrical talents, directing and acting in a 1997 Shakespearean mini-series, stagged at the Alley Theater in Houston, Texas. However one may respond to her political zealousness, she remains an actress of distinction.

Further Reading

She is included in various editions of Who's Who, Who's Who in the Theatre, and Celebrity Register. See also Benedict Nightingale, New York Times (September 17, 1989) and Frank Bruni, New York Times Magazine (Februray 1997). Redgrave wrote an autobiography, Vanessa Redgrave: An Autobiography (1995). □

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Vanessa Redgrave

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