Corin Redgrave Dies: Actor, Left-Wing Social Activist

Corin RedgraveCorin Redgrave, member of the British acting dynasty, fell ill on Easter Sunday and died Tuesday, April 6, at St. George's Hospital in London. He was 70. Redgrave had been in poor health for several years, having survived both prostate cancer and a massive heart attack in 2005.

Though less famous than sisters Vanessa Redgrave and Lynn Redgrave, or their father, Michael Redgrave, Corin did star in numerous stage productions and appeared in a few films as well.

His mother was actress Rachel Kempson, who was featured in a handful of British films. His daughter is actress Jemma Redgrave. One niece, actress Natasha Richardson, died last year following a skiing accident. Another niece, Joely Richardson, has starred in numerous movies and television shows.

Corin Redgrave's wife, actress Kika Markham, released a statement on Tuesday that said: “Corin was at the heart of our family and so many friends. We will miss him so very much. We know we share our loss with so many others, who will also deeply feel Corin's death.”

Besides his acting, Corin Redgrave (born on July 16, 1939, in London) was also known for his left-wing politics, which he apparently inherited from his socialist father. Like Vanessa, Corin helped to found the Workers Revolutionary Party in the early '70s. He also spoke for the independence of Palestine and, more recently, for the the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq and for the closing of Guantanamo.

Later in life, Redgrave stated that his political views did interfere with his ability to find acting gigs, but, according to a London Times report, “not to any extent that I would wish to make a history of.” He added that “there was a period when I didn't work for the [Royal Shakespeare Company] - perhaps because they thought there would be political trouble.”

Redgrave was absent from the RSC for about two decades, from the early '70s to the mid-'90s. He also claimed that for years the BBC wouldn't hire him.

About his performance in the title role of a 2004 RSC production of King Lear, The Guardian's Michael Billington wrote that Redgrave “climbed Mount Lear and through a mixture of energy, intelligence and thoughtful husbanding of his resources got as close to the summit as one could hope.” Michael Redgrave had played that same role half a century earlier.

Besides tackling Shakespeare, Redgrave also worked in plays by Anton Chekhov, Tennessee Williams, Alan Ayckbourn, and many others.

In 1993, Corin and Vanessa founded the Moving Theater Company so as to stage plays with a social or political message. One of their most notable efforts was a 1998 staging of Tennessee Williams' Not About Nightingales, about inmates at odds with abusive prison guards, which played in London (earning Corin an Olivier Award), New York, and Houston.

Corin Redgrave's film work, almost invariably in brief supporting roles, was less notable than that of either Vanessa or Lynn. He had a minor part in Fred Zinnemann's Oscar-winning A Man for All Seasons (1966), in which Vanessa had a cameo as Anne Boleyn; was one of the many stars featured in Richard Attenborough's Oh! What a Lovely War (1969); and supported Leslie Caron and Bulle Ogier in Eduardo de Gregorio's Sérail (1976).

Among his other notable film roles are those in the Oscar-nominated In the Name of the Father (1993) and Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994), and as Sir Walter Elliot in Roger Michell's well-received adaptation of Jane Austen's Persuasion (2005).

Corin's television efforts included Trial and Retribution, The Forsyte Saga, The Woman in White, and a recent adaptation of Henry James' The Turn of the Screw. (Michael Redgrave had a cameo in Jack Clayton's 1961 film version, The Innocents, starring Deborah Kerr.)

One of Corin Redgrave's last stage appearances was last year, at London's Jermyn Street theatre in a play based on the life of blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo.

Redgrave also authored a book of memoirs: Michael Redgrave, My Father (1995), in which the author candidly and respectfully discusses his father's bisexuality. Publishers Weekly called the book “a charming, witty and, ultimately, very moving account of one of the great actors of the English stage and screen by someone who knew him intimately.”

In 2004, Corin Redgrave told the Los Angeles Times: “If artists, actors, musicians and writers just felt they ought to be celebrities and shut up, then the world would be a pretty awful place.”

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