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Glenda Jackson: 2-Time Best Actress Oscar Winner + Former MP Comeback via Emile Zola

Glenda Jackson
Glenda Jackson: Actress and former Labour MP.

Two-time Oscar winner and former Labour MP Glenda Jackson returns to acting

Ramon Novarro biography Beyond Paradise

Two-time Best Actress Academy Award winner Glenda Jackson set aside her acting career after becoming a Labour Party MP in 1992. Four years ago, Jackson, who represented the Greater London constituency of Hampstead and Highgate, announced that she would stand down the 2015 general election – which, somewhat controversially, was won by right-wing prime minister David Cameron’s Conservative party.[1] The silver lining: following a two-decade-plus break, Glenda Jackson is returning to acting.

Now, Jackson isn’t – for the time being – returning to acting in front of the camera. The 79-year-old is to be featured in the Radio 4 series Emile Zola: Blood, Sex and Money, described on their website as a “mash-up” adaptation of 20 Emile Zola novels collectively known as “Les Rougon-Macquart.”[2]

Part 1 of the three-part Radio 4 series will be broadcast daily during an “intensive and addictive week” beginning on Saturday, Nov. 21. The two other week-long installments will follow at six-month intervals.

‘Emile Zola: Blood, Sex and Money’

Emile Zola: Blood, Sex and Money is thus described on the BBC / Radio 4 site:

… [It’s] a multi-stranded immersive experience that draws us into 19th century France and the tragic, farcical reign of Napoleon III, as it marches forward towards a modern, industrialised society. The ride will be pacey, challenging, exciting. Zola’s work shocked our great-great-grandparents and he will shock us again.

Emile Zola is arguably literature’s greatest whistleblower. He tells the truth about the society he sees around him, taking a sharp look at organisations, professions and people in power, regardless of whom he offends and whose interests he crosses. This is an unflinching portrait of society, the frankness and fury of which is still relevant to contemporary Britain.

Indeed, if Emile Zola were around today – whether in France, the U.K., or elsewhere – in all likelihood he’d be either in prison, in hiding, or under the careful watch of government agencies.[3]

104-year-old Adelaide Fouque

In Emile Zola: Blood, Sex and Money, Glenda Jackson will play 104-year-old, nursing-home-bound Adelaide Fouque a.k.a. Tante Dide (Aunt Dide), who, decades earlier, “gave birth to two dynasties that dominated French society: one rich, powerful, obsessive and corrupt; the other poor, vulnerable, weak and depraved.”

These colorful folks are the Rougons and the Macquarts.

The drama takes place inside Fouque’s mind, as she ponders, “What did I bring into this world? Wolves… I have raised a family of Wolves… I have watched their years. I will tell their story. Crime by crime. Blood by blood.”

Glenda Jackson Emile Zola
Glenda Jackson to play an Emile Zola character for Radio 4. Pictured with Ashley Margolis, Fenella Woolgar and Robert Lindsay.

Glenda Jackson’s Emile Zola: Blood, Sex and Money co-stars are:

  • Robert Lindsay (Grace of Monaco).
  • BAFTA TV Award winner Georgina Campbell (Murdered by My Boyfriend).
  • Fenella Woolgar (Mr. Turner).
  • Ian Hart (Professor Quirinus Quirrell in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone).
  • Ashley Margolis (the TV show Hollyoaks).

Glenda Jackson and the future

But besides Emile Zola and Radio 4, what else does the future hold for the former Labour MP?

“Will you stop trying to get me to decide what the future holds,” she recently snapped at Ham&High‘s Tim Lamden. “I don’t know! I keep saying to people, ‘I’ll sit down and take a deep breath.’ I haven’t been in a position where I haven’t been working for more than 60 years.”

Even so, a return to either the stage or the screen – or both – remains a possibility. “It would depend on what it was,” she told Lamden. “But I don’t think you can necessarily go back.”

Perhaps as long as the offer doesn’t involve her playing some Meryl Streep admirer in a sequel to The Iron Lady, there’s a chance. After all, regarding her entry into politics, Jackson explained to Lamden, “Anything that I could have done that was legal to get rid of Margaret Thatcher and her government I was prepared to do.”

That was when the then former actress defeated Tory candidate Oliver Letwin – ironically, as Lamden remarks, “now one of David Cameron’s closest allies in government.”

In case you’re wondering, Jackson’s favorite actors are fellow two-time Oscar winner Marlon Brando (On the Waterfront, The Godfather) and one-time Oscar winner Paul Scofield (A Man for All Seasons). The former sent her a note of congratulations at the time she beat Letwin for the Hampstead and Highgate seat.

Glenda Jackson movies

Back in her day, Glenda Jackson was the sort of actress – whether at her most subtle or at her most ostentatious – who would have made the dinosaurs in Jurassic World, Arnold Schwarzenegger and his fellow weapon-toting Terminator Genisys cast members, and all the superheroes (and supervillains) in The Avengers: Age of Ultron cower in awe.

She won her two Best Actress Academy Awards for the following:

  • Women in Love (1969).
    Director: Ken Russell.
    Cast: Alan Bates. Oliver Reed. Glenda Jackson. Jennie Linden. Eleanor Bron. Alan Webb.
  • A Touch of Class (1973).
    Director: Melvin Frank.
    Cast: Glenda Jackson. George Segal. Paul Sorvino. K Callan.

The former was an artistically daring critical – and to some extent commercial (thanks to some man-on-man nude wrestling) – sensation. The latter was a disappointingly bland mainstream effort, and, unsurprisingly, a major box office hit.

In addition, Jackson received two other Best Actress Oscar nominations.

  • Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971).
    Director: John Schlesinger.
    Cast: Peter Finch. Glenda Jackson. Murray Head. Peggy Ashcroft. Tony Britton. Maurice Denham. Bessie Love. Vivian Pickles.
    Winner: Jane Fonda for Alan J. Pakula’s Klute.
  • Hedda (1975).
    Director: Trevor Nunn.
    Cast: Glenda Jackson (as Hedda Gabler). Peter Eyre. Timothy West. Jennie Linden. Patrick Stewart. Constance Chapman.
    Winner: Louise Fletcher for Milos Forman’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
Glenda Jackson Mary Queen of Scots
Glenda Jackson in ‘Mary, Queen of Scots,’ with Vanessa Redgrave.

Below are a few other notable Glenda Jackson films.

  • The Boy Friend (1971).
    Director: Ken Russell.
    Cast: Twiggy. Christopher Gable. Glenda Jackson (stealing scenes in a role akin to that of Bebe Daniels in 42nd Street). Max Adrian. Tommy Tune. Murray Melvin. Antonia Ellis. Georgina Hale. Barbara Windsor. Moyra Fraser.
  • Mary, Queen of Scots (1971).
    Director: Charles Jarrott.
    Cast: Vanessa Redgrave. Glenda Jackson (as a post-Bette Davis, pre-Cate Blanchett Elizabeth I). Patrick McGoohan. Timothy Dalton. Nigel Davenport. Trevor Howard. Daniel Massey. Ian Holm. Andrew Keir. Tom Fleming. Maria Aitken. Richard Denning.
  • The Romantic Englishwoman (1975).
    Director: Joseph Losey.
    Cast: Glenda Jackson. Michael Caine. Helmut Berger. Michael Lonsdale. Béatrice Romand. Kate Nelligan. Nathalie Delon.
  • House Calls (1978).
    Director: Howard Zieff.
    Cast: Walter Matthau. Glenda Jackson. Art Carney. Richard Benjamin. Candice Azzara. Dick O’Neill. Thayer David. Anthony Holland. Reva Rose. Brad Dexter.
  • Stevie (1978).
    Director: Robert Enders.
    Cast: Glenda Jackson. Mona Washbourne. Alec McCowen. Trevor Howard. Emma Louise Fox.
  • HealtH (1980).
    Director: Robert Altman.
    Cast: Carol Burnett. Glenda Jackson. James Garner. Lauren Bacall. Paul Dooley. Donald Moffat. Henry Gibson. Diane Stilwell. MacIntyre Dixon. Alfre Woodard. Ann Ryerson. Dick Cavett. Dinah Shore.
  • The Patricia Neal Story (1981, TV).
    Director: Anthony Harvey. Anthony Page.
    Cast: Glenda Jackson (as Patricia Neal). Dirk Bogarde (as Roald Dahl). Ken Kercheval. Jane Merrow. John Reilly. Mildred Dunnock. Sydney Penny. Christopher Murray. James Hayden (as Martin Sheen). Cameos: Patricia Neal. Rock Hudson.
  • Salome’s Last Dance (1988).
    Director: Ken Russell.
    Cast: Glenda Jackson (delightfully chewing on the scenery in a supporting role). Stratford Johns. Imogen Millais-Scott. Nickolas Grace. Douglas Hodge. Denis Lill. Russell Lee Nash. Ken Russell (billed as Alfred Russell). David Doyle. Warren Saire.
  • King of the Wind (1990).
    Director: Peter Duffell.
    Cast: Richard Harris. Glenda Jackson (her last film role to date). Frank Finlay. Jenny Agutter. Nigel Hawthorne. Navin Chowdhry. Anthony Quayle. Peter Vaughan. Ian Richardson. Neil Dickson. Barry Foster. Ralph Bates. Jill Gascoine. Joan Hickson.

Besides her Academy Award wins and nominations, Glenda Jackson was shortlisted for the following:

  • Eight Golden Globes, winning one (A Touch of Class).
  • Four Emmys, winning two – both for her performance as Elizabeth I in the 1971 miniseries Elizabeth R. (Curiously, the same year she played the Virgin Queen in Mary, Queen of Scots on the big screen.)
  • Five BAFTAs (film and TV), winning one (Sunday Bloody Sunday).
  • Two David di Donatello Awards, co-winning both times (Mary, Queen of Scots, shared with Vanessa Redgrave; Hedda, shared with Isabelle Adjani for The Story of Adele H).

Other Glenda Jackson award wins include:

  • Montreal World Film Festival (Stevie).
  • National Board of Review (Women in Love, Stevie).*
  • National Society of Film Critics (Women in Love).
  • New York Film Critics Circle (Women in Love, Stevie).*
  • San Sebastián Film Festival (A Touch of Class, tied with Françoise Fabian for Happy New Year).

* Stevie played briefly in Los Angeles for Academy Award consideration in 1978, but it would reach New York City screens only in 1981.

Iris Murdoch on Radio 4

As an aside: in other Radio 4 news, in August Jeremy Irons will star as theater director Charles Arrowby in a two-part adaptation of Iris Murdoch’s Booker Prize-winning novel The Sea, The Sea. Additionally, Helen McCrory will play Murdoch in a presentation of Robin Brooks’ Murdoch’s Dream.

Judi Dench received a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her portrayal of the older Iris Murdoch in Richard Eyre’s 2001 drama Iris, also featuring Best Supporting Actor Oscar winner Jim Broadbent (as John Bayley) and Best Supporting Actress nominee Kate Winslet (as the youthful Iris).

‘Glenda Jackson Returning to Acting’ notes

[1] As a result of redistricting, in 2010 Hampstead and Highgate became the reformatted constituency of Hampstead and Kilburn. That year, Glenda Jackson won the general election with a mere 42 votes ahead of the runner-up candidate.

But, however marginally, Hampstead and Kilburn has remained a Labour constituency. This year’s winner was Tulip Siddiq.

[2] The “Les Rougon-Macquart” literary series, published between 1871 and 1893, includes many of the best-known Emile Zola novels. Among them:

  • Nana (1880).
    On film, Nana was played by the likes of Catherine Hessling (1926, for husband-director Jean Renoir), Anna Sten (1934, with great fanfare for producer Samuel Goldwyn and directors Dorothy Arzner and George Fitzmaurice), and Martine Carol (1955, for director Christian-Jaque), among others.
  • Pot-Bouille (1882).
    In 1957, Julien Duvivier directed the film version (a.k.a. Lovers of Paris), starring Gérard Philipe, Dany Carrel, and Anouk Aimée.
  • Au Bonheur des Dames (1883).
    Julien Duvivier directed the 1930 film version, starring Dita Parlo.
  • Germinal (1885).
    Yves Allégret directed the 1963 version featuring Jean Sorel. Three decades later, Claude Berri directed Gérard Depardieu and Miou-Miou.
  • La Bête Humaine (1890).
    Jean Renoir’s updated 1938 film version starred Jean Gabin, Simone Simon, and Fernand Ledoux.
    Fritz Lang’s failed 1954 Hollywood remake, Human Desire, starred Glenn Ford, Gloria Grahame, and Broderick Crawford.
  • L’Argent (1891).
    Marcel L’Herbier’s classic 1928 adaptation featured Pierre Alcover, Marie Glory, and Brigitte Helm.*

* Robert Bresson’s L’Argent (1983) is actually based on a Leo Tolstoy story.

[3] Emile Zola (1840–1902) has been the subject of several films, most notably William Dieterle’s Best Picture Academy Award winner The Life of Emile Zola (1937), about Zola’s outrage over the unjust espionage conviction of Jewish army officer Alfred Dreyfus.

In the Warner Bros. release, Paul Muni starred as Zola, while Best Supporting Actor Oscar winner Joseph Schildkraut played Dreyfus.


Glenda Jackson filmography info via the IMDb.

Glenda Jackson picture via the BBC Radio website.

Image of Emile Zola: Blood, Sex and Money actors Glenda Jackson, Ashley Margolis, Fenella Woolgar, and Robert Lindsay via Radio 4.

Image of Vanessa Redgrave and Glenda Jackson in Mary, Queen of Scots: Universal Pictures, via The Independent.

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1 comment

Bill B. -

Surprising news, She was a great talent. I had forgotten about The Patricia Neal Story. She was perfect for the role. Surprised there is no mention of Marat/Sade, The gonzo The Music Lovers or the darkly humorous Nasty Habits, but you are right about A Touch of Class. As good as she was as an actress, and she’s not bad in this thing, but this is surely one undeserved Oscar.


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