Born On This very Day, March 8th, she was a longtime favorite at this house. Even by the zany standards of her own talented family's public profile & professional achievements, Lynn Redgrave, was an exceptional personality. Her death in 2010 seemed particularly cruel after the loss of both her niece, Natasha Richardson & her brother, Corin Redgrave, all within months of each other.
The third child of the actors Michael Redgrave (who was gay) & Rachel Kempson, Lynn was a gifted comic actor who received her first Oscar nomination for a delightful, clownish performance in the title role of Georgy Girl (1966), one of the defining movies of the swinging 1960s. She adopted this country for living & working. Less politically engaged than her older siblings, Vanessa & Corin, she was no less a remarkable talent.
Her 1991 television remake of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? with Lynn & Vanessa in the Bette Davis & Joan Crawford roles, was considered a gay sacrilege, but being a fan of the sisters, I thought it was swell.
Redgrave's legal battles & married life were the stuff of soap opera. In 1981 she sued Universal Television for wrongful dismissal, claiming she was not allowed to breast-feed her baby in her dressing-room during the filming of the CBS sitcom House Calls. The litigation lasted 13 years; she lost the suit & declared bankruptcy.
In 2000, Redgrave divorced her longtime husband/manager John Clark after he revealed that he had an affair with her personal assistant, & that her grandson Zachary was in fact Clark's own son by the assistant, who had married & later divorced their son Benjamin.
Redgrave battled with her weight & was a spokesperson for WeightWatchers in the 1980s. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002, had a mastectomy the following year & produced a journal of her recovery with photographs by her daughter Annabel.
Redgrave was one of the original 12 contract artists in Laurence Olivier's National Theatre, where she played flapper Jackie Coryton in Noël Coward's own 1964 revival of Hay Fever with Edith Evans, Robert Lang, Maggie Smith, Robert Stephens & Derek Jacobi. Coward: “That cast could play the Albanian telephone directory.”
She played Broadway & her films included: Tom Jones (1963), The Girl With Green Eyes (1964), Georgy Girl, Woody Allen's Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid To Ask (1972), & the title role in a low-budget version of Xaviera Hollander's The Happy Hooker (1975). One of her best screen roles was the jaded London hostess in Getting It Right (1989)
She gracefully moved to supporting roles in Shine (1996), & Gods & Monsters (1998), with Ian McKellen as gay film director James Whale. Her performance as Whale's longtime housekeeper is my personal favorite & she was nominated for an Oscar as Best Supporting Actress. I thought she was superb in David Cronenberg's Spider (2002), Peter Pan (2003) & astonishingly moving in her 5 minutes in Kinsey (2004).
I have always held that Lynn Redgrave was as great an actress as Vanessa. It just never really seemed like it.
In 2005, while living with her second cancer, Redgrave appeared on Broadway at the same time as both Natasha (in A Streetcar Named Desire) & Vanessa (in Hecuba), receiving the best reviews in the family & a Tony nomination for her performance in Somerset Maugham's The Constant Wife. Redgrave: "Every night, for a couple of hours, I wasn't a person with cancer. You almost feel like yourself when there's so much evidence, mainly the mirror, to show you you aren't. It was true 'Doctor Theatre'."
I cried with news that she had gone on to the great curtain call in the beyond. Lynn Redgrave is missed. She would have celebrated her 70th birthday today.