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Janet Suzman

Janet Suzman

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Also Known As: Died:
Born: February 9, 1939 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: South Africa Profession: Cast ... actor director
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BIOGRAPHY

A stunning, South African-born actress, Janet Suzman became and established star of the London stage from the late 1960s through her association with the Royal Shakespeare Company. The strong-featured actress with piercing blue eyes has made occasional film appearances since her debut as the mother of an autistic child in "A Day in the Death of Joe Egg" (1970; released in the USA in 1972). Perhaps Suzman's most notable role was her Oscar-nominated portrayal of the Russian Czarina in "Nicholas and Alexandra" (1971).

The granddaughter and niece of politically active South Africans, Suzman decided to pursue an acting career while attending the University of the Witwatersrand in her native Johannesburg. Accepted into several British drama schools, she opted to attend the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, where she trained under Iris Watson. Upon graduation, Suzman spent five months appearing with various regional repertory company (i.e., Ipswich, Manchester) where she was spotted by John Barton who invited the up-and-coming performer to join the Royal Shakespeare Company. Almost immediately, Suzman distinguished herself in "The Comedy of Errors" and was tapped to participate in the company's mammoth undertaking of what came to be know as "The War of the Roses" (1962-64). She won further praise in 1965 for her Portia in "The Merchant of Venice" and her Ophelia in "Hamlet". When her contract with the RSC expired, Suzman decided to concentrate on television work, debuting in the BBC series "Lord Raingo" in 1966. When Suzman rejoined the RSC in 1967, she soon became one of its leading players. (Among those she appeared alongside were Ben Kingsley, Patrick Stewart and Alan Howard.) She toured the USA as Beatrice in "Much Ado About Nothing" (1968-69) and appeared with the RSC in BBC productions of "Three Sisters" (1969), "Macbeth" and "Hedda Gabler" (both 1970). (Those three productions aired in the USA on PBS in 1975).

By this time, Suzman had starred with Alan Bates in "Joe Egg". After earning a surprise Academy Award nomination, the actress triumphed onstage in "Antony and Cleopatra" which was filmed and aired in the USA on ABC in 1974. Suzman continued to concentrate on stage work, although she accepted the occasional film role. She was the distraught mother of a kidnapped child in "The Black Windmill" (1974) and was one of the passengers in the all-star melodrama "Voyage of the Damned" (1976). Suzman was excellent as Frieda Lawrence to Ian McKellen's D H Lawrence in the biopic "Priest of Love" (1981). After a brief respite to give birth to her son, she returned to films as a Restoration aristocrat who hires an artist in Peter Greenaway's "The Draughtsman's Contract" (1982). As the decade wore on, Suzman began a secondary career as a stage director, helming a South African production of "Othello" in 1987 (later filmed for broadcast) and most recently, a well-received production of "The Cherry Orchard" (1997). As her directing work increased, she has made fewer onscreen appearances, although she was excellent in support of Michael Gambon in the Dennis Potter-scripted British miniseries "The Singing Detective" (1988) and as Donald Sutherland's wife in Euzhan Palcy's anti-apartheid drama "A Dry White Season" (1989).

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