Suzman, Janet

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SUZMAN, JANET (1939– ), actress. Born in Johannesburg, Suzman was educated at the University of Witwatersrand. She first appeared on stage in 1962 in Billy Liar, but her modulated voice and diction, elegance and authority led quickly to classical theater, where she specialized in Shakespeare and Classical and 19th-century theater. Her roles with the Royal Shakespeare included Portia, Rosalind, Ophelia, and Cleopatra. In 1976 she received the Evening Standard Award for her portrayal of Masha in Chekhov's The Three Sisters. Her many television appearances included participation in the bbc Shakespeare series along with such varying roles as Charlotte Bronte, Florence Nightingale, Edwina Mountbatten, and Clytemnestra. In films she portrayed Alexandra in Nicholas and Alexandra (1971), receiving an Academy Award nomination for best actress for her portrayal of the imperious czarina. In Peter Greenaway s film The Draughtman's Contract, her portrayal of the sensual, decadent aristocrat brought great critical acclaim. She turned increasingly to character roles and has directed for television (Othello) and the theater. She was a civil rights activist following in the footsteps of her aunt, Helen *Suzman.

[Sally Whyte]