Jackson, Glenda (1936—)

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Jackson, Glenda (1936—)

British actress and politician. Born in Birkenhead, Cheshire, England, on May 9, 1936; eldest of four daughters of Harry Jackson (a bricklayer turned

building contractor) and Joan Jackson; attended Hoylake Church School and West Kirby Country Grammar School for Girls; graduated with honors from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, London; married Roy Hodges (an actor-director), in 1958 (divorced); children: one son, Daniel.

Selected theater:

made stage debut at Worthing in Separate Tables (February 1957); made London debut as Ruby in All Kinds of Men (Arts Theater, September 1957); appeared as Alexandra in The Idiot (Lyric, Hammersmith Theater, March 1962), Siddie in Alfie (Mermaid Theater, London, June 1963); joined theRoyal Shakespeare Company in 1964; appeared in the experimental Theater of Cruelty (January 1964); appeared as Princess of France in Love's Labour's Lost (RSC, 1965), Ophelia in Hamlet (RSC, August 1965), Charlotte Corday in Marat/Sade (RSC, November 1965); made New York debut in same role (Martin Beck Theater, December 1965); appeared as Masha in The Three Sisters (Royal Court Theater, London, April 1967), Tamara in Fanghorn (Fortune Theater, London, November 1967), Katherine Winter in Collaborators (Duchess Theater, London, April 1973), Solange in The Maids (Greenwich Theater, London, February 1974), the title role in Hedda Gabler (Aldwych Theater, London, July 1975), then toured U.S. and Australia in the role; appeared as Vittoria Corombona in The White Devil (Old Vic, July 1976); the title role in Stevie (Vaudeville Theater, London, March 1977); the title role in Rose (Duke of York's Theater, London March 1980); appeared in Strange Interlude (1984), The House of Bernarda Alba (1986), Macbeth (1988); appeared in the title role in Mother Courage (Citizens Theater, Glasgow, May 1990); appeared as Christine Mannon in Mourning Becomes Electra (Citizens Theater, Glasgow, April 1991).


This Sporting Life (1966); The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade (Marat/Sade for short, 1967); Tell Me Lies (1968); Negatives (1968); Women in Love (1969); The Music Lovers (1971); Sunday, Bloody Sunday (1971); Mary Queen of Scots (1971); The Boy Friend (1971); Triple Echo (1973); A Bequest to the Nation (The Nelson Affair, 1973); A Touch of Class (1973); The Maids (1974); The Romantic Englishwoman (1975); The Devil is a Woman (UK/It., 1975); Hedda (1975); The Incredible Sarah (1976); Nasty Habits (1976); House Calls (US, 1978); Stevie (Can., 1978); The Class of Miss MacMichael (1978, released in US, 1979); Hopscotch (US, 1980); Giro City (And Nothing But the Truth, 1982); Return of the Soldier (1983); Turtle Diary (1985); Beyond Therapy (US, 1987); Business as Usual (1987); Salome's Last Dance (1988); The Rainbow (1989).

Distinguished by her flinty personality and an intense approach to her craft, British actress Glenda Jackson has always viewed acting as hard work. "I was taught to earn my pleasures and to earn through work," she has said. "To work at my best I have to be interested, and what interests me more than anything are the difficulties the work presents. Even if I am working in rubbish, the strictures I place on myself make the acting difficult." In reviewing Jackson in her breakthrough movie Women in Love, Stanley Kauffmann (New Republic, April 18, 1970) also noted that she had no interest in the trappings of stardom. "She is not an actress in order to be loved," he wrote, "but in order to act."

The eldest of the four daughters of a bricklayer, Jackson was born in 1936 in Birkenhead, Cheshire, England, and raised in a working-class home. As a girl, she aspired to become a ballet dancer but eventually grew too tall. She left school at 16, taking a job at a drugstore and spending her evenings performing in amateur productions at the local YMCA. On a whim, she applied for a scholarship at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London and was accepted. "I had no real ambitions about acting," she later told Peter Buckley (twa ambassador, July 1971). "But … I knew there had to be something better than the bloody chemist's shop." Although she graduated with honors from RADA, Jackson's career got off to a slow start. During the 1950s, she acted and stage-managed for various repertory companies in England and Scotland; she also married Roy Hodges, a fellow actor. Between acting assignments, Jackson worked as a waitress, receptionist, and file clerk to help make ends meet.

In 1963, after three previous unsuccessful auditions, Jackson was accepted into the Royal Shakespeare Company and spent her first season with the company's experimental Theater of Cruelty, under the direction of Peter Brook. During her early days at Stratford, Jackson became known for her quirky characterizations. As Ophelia in Hamlet, she was described by critic Hugh Leonard as "a regular man-eater: a highly sexed young woman, cracking under the strain of a disintegrating love affair." Her unconventional approach to the role prompted another critic to suggest that the production be retitled "Ophelia." In 1964, Jackson received international acclaim playing Charlotte Corday in Peter Weiss' avant-garde psychological drama The Persecution and Assassination of Jean Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade, a play-within-a-play better known by its shortened title Marat/Sade. Directed by Peter Brook, the play was brought to New York in December 1965, where it won the Drama Critics' Circle Award and four Tony awards. Although the role in Marat/Sade was pivotal for Jackson (she won a Tony nomination and a Variety poll award as the most promising new actress of 1965–66), she found the play distasteful. "I loathe and detest everything about this production," she told Rex Reed in a New York Times interview, "We all loathe it.… It's a play that breeds sickness, with no release for the tension." The play was also filmed with the original cast and released by United Artists in 1967. In the meantime, Jackson returned to London, appearing as Masha in The Three Sisters (1967) and as Tamara Fanghorn in Fanghorn (1967), a play described by Michael Billington as "an arbitrary mixture of Iris Murdoch and J.M. Barrie: a piece of black whimsy."

Having made an auspicious screen debut in Marat/Sade, Jackson's film career blossomed with her Oscar-winning performance in Women in Love (1970), a screen adaptation of the D.H. Lawrence novel directed by Ken Russell and costarring Oliver Reed. Her portrayal of the liberated sculptress Gudrun Brangwen (whom Lawrence reportedly modeled on the writer Katherine Mansfield ), was praised as intelligent, sensual, and self-assured. "She bursts upon the screen like a young sturdier version of Katharine Hepburn , with all of her animal magnetism," wrote Arthur Knight (Saturday Review, March 21, 1970). "It was a magnificent performance." In addition to an Oscar, Jackson won the Variety Award of Great Britain for the Best Film Actress of 1970, as well as the Best Actress award from the New York Film Critics and the National Society of Film Critics in the United States. Following a stunning performance in a second Ken Russell film, The Music Lovers (1971), Jackson broke away from her usual neurotic characters to play a cultured divorcée in Sunday, Bloody Sunday (1971), based on an original screenplay by Penelope Gilliat. She then captured a second Oscar for her performance in her first comedy, A Touch of Class (1973), which was followed by a riveting portrayal of Queen Elizabeth I in Mary Queen of Scots (1971), a role she also played in the BBC television six-part biography, "Elizabeth R." Later television credits include her portrayal of actress Patricia Neal in "The Patricia Neal Story" (1981) and that of Elena Bonner in "Sakharov" (1984).

Jackson returned to the stage in 1973 in the unsuccessful Collaborators, followed by a turn as Solange in Genet's The Maids. In 1976, her portrayal of Vittoria Corombona (Vittoria Accoramboni ) in The White Devil was seen as overwhelmingly cynical by David Zane Mairowitz, who reviewed the play for Plays and Players. "Once again, Jackson gives the impression she knows the entire plot from the outset, so that we never get Vittoria's freshness or vitality," he wrote. Jackson went on to great success in the title role of Stevie (1977), about the eccentric English poet Stevie Smith , and also starred in the film version in 1978. Returning to the RSC, Jackson played the Egyptian queen Cleopatra VII in Antony and Cleopatra and, in 1980, won acclaim as a discontented, middleaged teacher in Andrew Davies' Rose, which also played on Broadway the following year.

Jackson's later career included the leading role in Bothe Strauss' controversial play Great and Small (1983), centering on a middle-aged bag lady, and the lead in a London revival of Eugene O'Neill's five-hour marathon Strange Interlude, which also enjoyed a Broadway run in 1985. In New York again in 1988, she portrayed Lady Macbeth (Gruoch ) and, in 1990, played the title role in Brecht's Mother Courage in Glasgow and London. "Glenda Jackson makes of the heroine a snarling, caustically snappish fish-wife," wrote Joe Farrell in Plays and Players, "who punches out her intolerant contempt for those around her in a rasping, metallic voice. More than any other actor, she has a remarkable ability to make every line count, to give equal value to each successive mood."

In person, Jackson is slightly less formidable than on stage, although Vera Lustig , who interviewed the actress in a backstage dressing room for a 1990 article in Plays and Players, was still intimidated. "It's somewhat unnerving to meet at close quarters that famous salty drawl, those narrowed, scrutinising eyes and that chin puckered as though eating a sour fruit," she wrote. Though Jackson's marriage to Roy Hodges ended in divorce, she remained devoted to her son, Daniel, born in 1969. Like many working mothers, she felt a sense of guilt over being away from home so much while he was growing up. "I've had to learn to live with that guilt and hope that it doesn't become too punitive," she said.

Throughout her long career, Jackson suffered from extreme stage fright. "The longer I carried on, the greater the fear became." In 1990, she gave up the stage, transferring her energy to the political arena. A staunch Socialist, she was a parliamentary candidate for the Labour Party in 1990 and elected a Labour member of Parliament for Hampstead and Highgate in 1992; she then served seven years in the House of Commons. Jackson was also London's junior transport minister under Prime Minister Tony Blair until 1999, when she resigned to make a bid to become London's first directly elected mayor.


Farrell, Joe. "Mother Courage," in Plays & Players. July 1990, p. 32.

Hartnoll, Phyllis, and Peter Found. The Concise Oxford Companion to the Theater. Oxford and NY: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Katz, Ephraim. The Film Encyclopedia. NY: Harper-Collins, 1994.

Lustig, Vera. "Who's Afraid…?," in Plays & Players. May 1990.

Moritz, Charles, ed. Current Biography 1971. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1971.

Morley, Sheridan. The Great Stage Stars. London: Angus & Robertson, 1986.

"Star Tracks," in People Weekly. May 25, 1998, p. 16.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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Jackson, Glenda (1936—)

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