- A British theatrical family that has now produced three generationsof famous actors: Sir Michael Redgrave (1908 - 85); his daughters,Vanessa Redgrave (1937 - ) and Lynn Redgrave (1943 - 2010);his son, Corin Redgrave (1939 - 2010); Vanessa's daughters,Natasha Richardson (1963 - 2009) and Joely Richardson(1965 - ); and Corin's daughter, Jemma Redgrave (1965 - ).
Sir Michael Redgrave was the son of the actor RoyRedgrave and the actress Margaret Scudamore. His mother insisted thatat 6'2" he was too tall to be an actor so he became aschoolmaster and did not embark on his acting career until his midtwenties. In 1934 he joined the Liverpool Repertory Theatre, wherehe met and married the actress Rachel Kempson (1910 - 2003).Two years later they both joined the Old Vic, where Michael made hisLondon debut as the King of Navarre in Love's Labour Lost.He then worked with Sir John Gielgud at the Queen's Theatre.
During World War II Redgrave served in the Royal Navy andstarred in several wartime films. In 1943 he played Rakitin in Turgenev'sA Month in the Country, a role he repeated in 1949 for theOld Vic Company. During one matinée performance, he was playinga love scene with Valerie Taylor in a somewhat desultory fashion whenhe heard a lady in the stalls whisper pointedly to her friend, "Ilike her." Noted Redgrave "I was noticeably quickeron my cues after that."
In 1959, the year he was knighted, Redgrave found furtheracclaim in his own dramatization of Henry James's The Aspern Papers.Three years later he joined Olivier's company for the first ChichesterFestival, when he starred in the title role of Chekhov's UncleVanya. After a spell of ill health he returned to the stage in1971 in William Trevor's The Old Boys at the Mermaid Theatre;a year later he played Father in a production of John Mortimer's AVoyage Round My Father which toured Canada and Australia.
The birth of Vanessa Redgrave was announced from the stage ofthe Old Vic by Laurence Olivier. After studies at the Central School ofSpeech and Drama she made her professional debut (1957) at the FrintonSummer Theatre in The Reluctant Debutante. She made her firstLondon appearance in 1958, acting beside her father in N. C. Hunter'sA Touch of the Sun. In 1961 she won rapturous praise for herperformance as Rosalind in an RSC production of As You Like It.Her other early successes included playing Nina in a production ofChekhov's The Seagull directed by her then husband, Tony Richardson(1964). More recently she has appeared in Ibsen's John Gabriel Borkman at the Royal National Theatre (1996), O'Neill's Long Day's JourneyInto Night on Broadway (2003), and a one-woman show based on Joan Didion'sThe Year of Magical Thinking (2007) that appeared in both New Yorkand London. Her films include Isadora (1969) and Howards End (1992). Referring to her many political activities, which once included committed membership of the Workers' Revolutionary Party, her father commented:"There are some days when her politics drive me mad and other days when I see her touch greatness as an actress and am immensely proud."
Corin Redgrave began acting at the Royal Court in the early1960s and went on to take prominent roles in Ronald Millar's Abelardand Heloise (1971) and the RSC's Anthony and Cleopatra (1973),in which he played Octavius. For most of the 1970s and 1980s, however, hevirtually gave up acting to work for the Workers' Revolutionary Party. He made a return to TV and film work in the 1990s, when his roles included a part in Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994). The late 1990s saw amajor return to the West End stage in Tennessee Williams's prison dramaNot About Nightingales (1998) and in Coward's A Song at Twilight(1999), in which he appeared with his wife, Kikha Markham, and his sister Vanessa. In 2004 he took the title role in the RSC's King Lear. Corin's daughter Jemma Redgrave is mainly known for her work on TV but has appeared on stage in Three Sisters (1990) and Shaw's Major Barbara (1998).
Lynn Redgrave performed with the National Theatrecompany and made a number of successful films before moving to America in 1983. She returned to Britain in 1990 to star with her sister Vanessa and Vanessa's daughter Natasha Richardson in a highly publicized production of Chekhov's Three Sisters at the Queen's Theatre. Subsequent Broadwayproductions included Ibsen's The Master Builder (1992) and a much praised revival of Maugham's The Constant Wife (2005). In 1996 shepresented Shakespeare for My Father, a one-woman show reflectingher difficult relationship with Sir Michael Redgrave. Nightingale (2006)was another solo show drawing on aspects of her family history.
Natasha Richardson made her adult debut in a productionof The Seagull in 1985 at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith. Inthe 1990s she gave award-winning Broadway performances as the title characterin Anna Christie (1993) and as Sally Bowles in Cabaret (1998);her last stage role was Blanche Dubois in a revival of A Streetcar NamedDesire (2005). Her films included Patty Hearst (1988), The Parent Trap (1998), and Asylum (2005). Aged only 45, Natasha Richardsondied of head injuries sustained in a skiing accident.
Joely Richardson began acting in 1985, when she appearedwith her mother in the film Wetherby. She has also appearedon television, notably in Lady Chatterley's Lover (1993) and the USseries Nip/Tuck (2003 - 06), and in the films Drowning by Numbers (1988) and Maybe Baby (2000). Her London stage debut was in 1989. In 2002 she and Vannesa Redgrave played mother and daughter in a production of Lady Windermere's Fan at the Haymarket, London.