Lynn Redgrave died Sunday, May 2, ’10, at her home in Connecticut. She had been fighting breast cancer for seven years.
The two-time Oscar nominee, four-time BAFTA Award nominee, two-time SAG Award nominee, New York Film Critics award winner, two-time Golden Globe winner, daughter of Michael Redgrave and Rachel Kempson, and sister of Vanessa Redgrave and Corin Redgrave, was 67.
Lynn’s death is the third in the Redgrave acting dynasty in a little over a year: Corin Redgrave died only a month ago, while Natasha Richardson, daughter of Vanessa Redgrave and the late Oscar-winning director Tony Richardson, died in March 2009 following a skiing accident.
Lynn Redgrave’s two Oscar nods were for Silvio Narizzano’s Georgy Girl (1966) in which she played the title’s kooky ugly duckling lusted after by her father’s boss (James Mason), and, thirty-two years later – the fifth longest gap between Oscar nominations for acting – in the supporting category for Bill Condon’s Gods and Monsters (1998, right).
In the latter film, Redgrave was the humorously outspoken German housekeeper of Hollywood filmmaker James Whale (played by Ian McKellen).
Also for Georgy Girl, Redgrave shared with Elizabeth Taylor (for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) the New York Film Critics Society’s Best Actress Award. That same year, Taylor took home the Best Actress Oscar, leaving Lynn and fellow nominee Vanessa (for Morgan) empty-handed.
That, by the way, was the second time siblings were nominated for an Oscar in the same acting category. A quarter of a century earlier, Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine had been both in the running for, respectively, Hold Back the Dawn and Suspicion. Fontaine won that year.
But unlike de Havilland and Fontaine, the two Redgrave sisters seemed to get along just fine. About the 1966 nominations, Lynn told the press, “I’d be thrilled if Vanessa won it and I know Vanessa would feel the same way if I got the big prize.”
Even so, Lynn seemed to be different than the rest of the Redgraves. “They were all so brilliant and so beautiful. So naturally I was shy. I should think I’m the least educated in all the family,” she remarked at the time.
More than three decades later, Lynn would tell The Associated Press, “Vanessa was the one expected to be the great actress. It was always, ‘Corin’s the brain, Vanessa the shining star, oh, and then there’s Lynn.'”
The New York Times, however, disagreed, raving that in Georgy Girl Lynn was “funny as Judy Holliday in Born Yesterday, touching as Julie Harris in Member of the Wedding, haunting as Giulietta Masina in La Strada,” while The New Yorker remarked that “it is a measure of her success in the role that James Mason, in a stunning portrayal, fails to steal the picture from her.” [Quotes found in Mason Wiley and Damien Bona’s Inside Oscar]
Lynn Redgrave Dies
Though less renowned than Vanessa Redgrave, the London-born (March 8, 1943) Lynn appeared in dozens of other movies and television productions, most notably Nicholas Sgarro’s The Happy Hooker (1975), in which she played a character – the title role – that was actually not that different from her Georgy.
Also of note was David Greene’s made-for-TV movie What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1991), in which she and sister Vanessa were two reclusive former stars living in a decaying mention. Lynn had the old Bette Davis role as the aged Baby Jane; Vanessa was the invalid played in the 1962 original by Joan Crawford.
Among Lynn’s other better-known films and TV movies are Cy Howard’s comedy Every Little Crook and Nanny (1972), opposite veteran Victor Mature; the TV movie My Two Loves (1986), excellent as a lesbian in love with Mariette Hartley; Peter Pan (2003), as Aunt Millicent; Bill Condon’s Kinsey (2004), superb as one of Alfred Kinsey’s patients (Kinsey was played by Liam Neeson, Natasha Richardson’s husband); and James Ivory’s poorly received The White Countess (2006), starring Richardson and also featuring Vanessa.
Lynn also guested in numerous television shows, from The Love Boat to Ugly Betty, and received an Emmy nomination for her series House Calls (1979-1981).
Onstage, Lynn Redgrave worked under the likes of Noel Coward and Laurence Olivier, and later starred in numerous plays, most notably George Bernard Shaw’s Mrs. Warren’s Profession, the autobiographical one-woman show Shakespeare for My Father, and W. Somerset Maugham’s The Constant Wife. She received Tony nominations for all three.
In another autobiographical one-woman (reading) show, Nightingale (2009), Redgrave read about the life of her grandmother (Beatrice Kempson), while mentioning her own failing health and the end of her 32-year marriage to actor-director John Clark (Jagged Edge, Blood Frenzy), who had fathered a child with Nicolette Hannah, his then assistant and the future wife of his and Lynn’s son Benjamin Clark.
“I can’t forgive him,” Redgrave told The Times of London in 1999. “There’s no way we can be back together. There’s no wavering on my part.”
Also on the private front, Redgrave once acknowledged she suffered from bulimia and served as a spokeswoman for Weight Watchers. In 2004, she and daughter Annabel Clark wrote Journal: A Mother and Daughter’s Recovery from Breast Cancer.
About her relationship with father Michael Redgrave, Lynn once said, “I didn’t really know him. I lived in his house. I was in awe of him and I adored him, and I was terrified of him and I hated him and I loved him, all in one go.”
As quoted in The Guardian, upon learning of Lynn Redgrave’s death director Michael Winner remarked, “She [right, in The Happy Hooker] was a phenomenal actress, she could do comedy, tragedy – anything really – with absolute ease. I cast her in her first film as an extra in Shoot To Kill in 1960. Even then you could see she had a bubbly quality. I couldn’t at the time have predicted she would go on to have the huge success she did though.”