Michael Redgrave


Actor
Michael Redgrave

About

Also Known As
Sir Michael Redgrave, Michael Scudenmore Redgrave
Birth Place
Bristol, England, GB
Born
March 20, 1908
Died
March 21, 1985
Cause of Death
Complications From Parkinson's Disease

Biography

A British legend of stage and screen, Michael Redgrave made his name with a seemingly endless string of theatrical triumphs that included an amazing mastery of the great Shakespearean roles. A global ambassador for the British theatrical tradition and its potential to be among the highest of the art forms, Redgrave was eventually knighted for his services, along with his contemporaries L...

Family & Companions

Rachel Kempson
Wife
Actor. Married from July 18, 1935 until his death.
Noel Coward
Companion
Playwright, actor. Had relationship in the late 1930s.
Edith Evans
Companion
Actor. Had relationship in the late 1930s.

Bibliography

"Michael Redgrave: My Father"
Corin Redgrave, Richard Cohen Books (1995)
"In My Mind's Eye: An Autobiography"
Michael Redgrave, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (1983)
"The Mountebank's Tale"
Michael Redgrave (1959)
"Face or Mask"
Michael Redgrave (1958)

Notes

In March 2000, the Redgrave family turned over Sir Michael's archive to the Theatre Museum in Covent Garden.

Lynn Redgrave's autobiographical book, "This Is Living" (Dutton, 1991) traced her eating problems to her father's bisexuality which she learned of as an adult.

Biography

A British legend of stage and screen, Michael Redgrave made his name with a seemingly endless string of theatrical triumphs that included an amazing mastery of the great Shakespearean roles. A global ambassador for the British theatrical tradition and its potential to be among the highest of the art forms, Redgrave was eventually knighted for his services, along with his contemporaries Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud. He also achieved a sterling reputation as a first-rate film actor, debuting in Alfred Hitchcock's "The Lady Vanishes" (1938) before earning an Oscar nomination for "Mourning Becomes Electra" (1947). He won Best Actor from the Cannes Film Festival for his star turn as a bitter teacher in "The Browning Version" (1951), which many felt ranked among the greatest screen performances of all time, and was BAFTA-nominated for "The Night My Number Came Up" (1955) and "Time Without Pity" (1957). He would go on to star in such classics as "The Innocents" (1961) and "Uncle Vanya" (1963) before retiring from acting when symptoms of Parkinson's disease became too great. When he passed away in 1985, the thespian left behind an unparalleled family acting dynasty that included his children Vanessa, Corin and Lynn, and grandchildren Natasha and Joely Richardson. His name synonymous with theatrical excellence and artistic integrity, Michael Redgrave reigned as one of its most respected actors of stage and screen.

Born March 20, 1908 in Bristol, England, Michael Scudamore Redgrave was the son of actors Margaret Scudamore and Roy Redgrave, although his father abandoned the family when Redgrave was an infant. Intelligent, sensitive and artistic, he became a teacher but never abandoned his love of literature and theater; he not only staged many plays at his school, but starred in them as well. Although Redgrave was either bisexual or homosexual and would later carry on secret affairs with several men, he came to an arrangement with actress Rachel Kempson and the two married in 1935, a year after he made his professional theatrical acting debut. Redgrave would go on to become one of the true British legends of the stage, famous for his polished performances in a variety of roles, particularly his Shakespearean triumphs in such masterpieces as "Love's Labours Lost," "As You Like It," "Hamlet" and "Macbeth."

In the 1950s, he completed several acclaimed stints in the Stratford-upon-Avon Shakespeare Memorial Theatre and was considered by many to be one of the most gifted and powerful interpreters of the Bard's work. Along with Laurence Olivier, Ralph Richardson and John Gielgud, Redgrave shone as one of the era's most gifted actors, all of whom would later be knighted for their services to the theater. He made his film debut as a train passenger caught up in a delicious mystery in Alfred Hitchcock's "The Lady Vanishes" (1938) and went on to work steadily on the big screen in such films as "Stolen Life" (1939), "Thunder Rock" (1942) and "Dead of Night" (1945). He was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for his masterful turn as the fragile brother of the ruthless Lavinia (Rosalind Russell) in the film adaptation of Eugene O'Neill's classic "Mourning Becomes Electra" (1947).

Even more impressive, however, was his electrifying star turn in the Anthony Asquith/Terence Rattigan collaboration "The Browning Version" (1951), which also contained overtones of classical Greek tragedy. Playing a beaten-down, embittered teacher who, upon his retirement, realizes that it was not the students who failed him but the other way around, Redgrave was nothing short of magnificent, confronting his repression and failure in an unforgettably powerful monologue. For his work, he won Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival. Continuing to succeed on both the stage and screen, Redgrave earned a Best British Actor BAFTA nomination for the harrowing psychological thriller "The Night My Number Came Up" (1955), which dealt with the idea of fate and predestination via one fateful plane trip. The actor earned another BAFTA nod for his turn as an alcoholic father desperate to prove his son innocent of a murder charge in "Time Without Pity" (1957) and continued to book important roles in such enduring projects as "The Importance of Being Earnest" (1952), "1984" (1956), "The Quiet American" (1958), "The Innocents" (1961) and "Uncle Vanya" (1963), repeating his stage triumph onscreen in the latter.

He narrated "The Great War" (BBC, 1964) and continued to land film and theatrical roles, but he was increasingly plagued by the symptoms of Parkinson's disease, which made it impossible for him to memorize lines. His final theatrical role was in 1979's "Close of Play" and his final screen appearance came in "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" (1975). On March 21, 1985, he died of complications related to Parkinson's. Nevertheless, he left behind a distinguished legacy as an exceptional actor as well as the patriarch of the famed Redgrave acting dynasty that included wife Rachel Kempson and their children Vanessa, Corin and Lynn Redgrave, as well as his grandchildren Natasha and Joely Richardson, who all achieved artistic prominence. In fact, the very name "Redgrave" came to be synonymous with the best British acting and theatrical traditions, due in great part to the world-class talent and character of Michael Redgrave.

By Jonathan Riggs

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

The Go-Between (1971)
Leo Colston
Nicholas and Alexandra (1971)
[Serge] Sazonov
Goodbye Gemini (1970)
James Harrington-Smith
David Copperfield (1970)
Mr Peggotty
Oh! What a Lovely War (1969)
Gen. Sir Henry Wilson
Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969)
The Headmaster
Battle of Britain (1969)
Air Vice Marshal Evill
Assignment K (1968)
Harris
The 25th Hour (1967)
Defense counsel
Palaces of a Queen (1967)
Narrator
The Heroes of Telemark (1966)
Uncle
The Hill (1965)
Medical officer
Young Cassidy (1965)
W. B. Yeats
The Heroes of Telemark (To Be Deleted) (1965)
Uncle
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962)
The governor
No, My Darling Daughter! (1961)
Sir Mathew Carr
The Innocents (1961)
The Uncle
Shake Hands with the Devil (1959)
The General
The Wreck of the Mary Deare (1959)
Mr. Nyland
The Quiet American (1958)
Thomas Fowler
Behind The Mask (1958)
Sir Arthur Benson Gray
Law and Disorder (1958)
Percy Brand
The Happy Road (1957)
General Medworth
Time Without Pity (1957)
David Graham
1984 (1956)
as O'Connor of the Inner Party
Nineteen Eighty-Four (1956)
Mr. Arkadin (1955)
Burgomil Trebitsch
The Sea Shall Not Have Them (1955)
Air Commodore Waltby
Mr. Arkadin (Comprehensive Version) (1955)
Burgomil Trebitsch
Mr. Arkadin (Corinth Version) (1955)
Oh... Rosalinda! (1955)
The Dam Busters (1955)
Dr B N Wallis
The Night My Number Came Up (1955)
Air Marshal Hardie
The Green Scarf (1954)
Deliot
The Importance Of Being Earnest (1952)
Jack Worthing
The Magic Box (1951)
The Browning Version (1951)
Secret Beyond the Door (1948)
Mark Lamphere
Mourning Becomes Electra (1947)
Orin Mannon
Fame Is the Spur (1947)
The Captive Heart (1946)
The Way to the Stars (1945)
David Archdale
Dead of Night (1945)
Sons of the Sea (1942)
Charles MacIver
Thunder Rock (1942)
The Remarkable Mr. Kipps (1941)
[Arthur] Kipps, as a man
Jeannie (1941)
Stolen Life (1939)
Alan McKenzie
The Stars Look Down (1939)
David Fenwick; Davey Fenwick
A Window in London (1939)
Peter
The Lady Vanishes (1938)
Gilbert
Climbing High (1938)
Nicky Brooke

Cast (Special)

Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1973)
Danvers
Ruggles of Red Gap (1957)
Alfred Ruggles

Life Events

1921

Amateur acting debut in a walk-on part in "Henry IV, Part 2" at Stratford-on-Avon

1934

Professional acting debut at the Liverpool Playhouse in "Counsellor at Law"

1936

Joined the Old Vic in the fall; debuted there in "Love's Labour's Lost"

1938

First credited film appearance in Alfred Hitchcock's "The Lady Vanishes"

1939

Co-starred in "Stolen Life"

1941

Had title role in the Carol Reed directed, "Kipps"

1941

Played opposite wife Rachel Kempson in "Jeannie"

1945

Played a ventriloquist driven mad by his dummy in "Dead of Night"

1945

Starred in London production of "Jacobowsky and the Colonel"

1946

Second screen teaming with wife in "The Captive Heart"

1947

Earned Best Actor Oscar nomination as Orin Mannon in the film adapation of Eugene O'Neill's "Mourning Becomes Electra"; film not released in Great Britain until 1952

1948

Broadway debut in "Macbeth"

1948

Acted in Fritz Lang's "Secret Beyond the Door"

1951

Won particular praise for his turn as a schoolteacher in "The Browning Version"

1952

Played Jack Worthing in the screen adaptation of Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest"

1954

Acted opposite Rachel Kempson as husband and wife in "The Sea Shall Not Have Them"

1955

Reprised London role in "Tiger at the Gates" on Broadway; earned Tony nomination

1956

Appeared in the film version of George Orwell's "1984"

1957

US TV debut in the title role of "Ruggles of Red Gap"

1958

Co-starred with daughter Vanessa in the London production of "A Touch of the Sun"

1958

Had title role in "Hamlet" at the Moscow Art Theatre

1958

Played lead in "Behind the Mask"

1959

Starred in and wrote the play "The Aspern Papers"

1962

Directed by then son-in-law Tony Richardson in "The Lonliness of the Long-Distance Runner"

1962

Enjoyed a stage triumph as Vanya in the Chichester Festival production of "Uncle Vanya"

1967

Starred in the ABC biographical drama "Mr. Dickens of London"

1968

Cast as the grandfather in "Heidi" (NBC)

1968

Portrayed Prospero in a BBC production of "The Tempest"

1969

Played the school headmaster in the musical remake of "Goodbye, Mr. Chips"

1971

Appeared as the older version of Dominic Guard's character Leo in "The Go-Between"

1979

Final theatre appearance as Jasper in Simon Gray's "Close of Play"; directed by Harold Pinter

Photo Collections

Dead of Night - Lobby Cards
Here are a few Lobby Cards from the British anthology horror film Dead of Night (1945). Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.

Videos

Movie Clip

Happy Road, The (1957) - Hold Your Positions Stopped at a military road-block in rural France, American dad Mike (producer-director Gene Kelly) and French mom Suzanne (Barbara Laage), chasing their boarding-school runaway kids (Bobby Clark, Janine Duval) are handed off to a Brit commander (Michael Redgrave), who turns out to be clueless, Colin Mann and Harry Locke in support, in The Happy Road, 1957.
Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner, The (1962) - You've Got To Run Opening with Smith (Tom Courtenay) beginning his voice-over, credits, then en route to the borstal, in Tony Richardson's The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner, 1962, from Alan Sillitoe's story and screenplay.
Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner, The (1962) - Do Your Worst The "Guv'nor" (Michael Redgrave) with staff, receiving new inmates including Bosworth (John Thaw, later TV's Inspector Morse) and Smith (Tom Courtenay), then briefing new house master Brown (Alec McCowen), in Tony Richardson's The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner, 1962.
Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner, The (1962) - Stacey's Gone Away Borstal boys overseen by Craig (Ray Austin) and Fenton (Anthony Sagar) stage a mess hall brawl, later reviewed by the Governor (Michael Redgrave) and staff, in Tony Richardson's The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner, 1962.
Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner, The (1962) - And Did Those Feet... Reformatory governor (Michael Redgrave) scolding his charges before a concert, Smith (Tom Courtenay) et al finishing with "Blake's Jerusalem," as a colleague is apprehended, in Tony Richardson's The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner, 1962.
Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner, The (1962) - I'm The Gaffer Now First the Governor (Michael Redgrave) giving a tour, then inmate Smith (Tom Courtenay) in a flashback, featuring his mother (Avis Bunnage) and her boyfriend (Raymond Dyer), in Tony Richardson's The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner, 1962.
Lady Vanishes, The (1938) - Tooth For A Toothbrush Soon-to-be-married traveler Iris (Margaret Lockwood), snowed-in at an Alpine chalet, discovers, in the person of Gilbert (Michael Redgrave, his first scene), the consequences of complaining about the noise upstairs, early in Alfred Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes, 1938.
Innocents, The (1961) - More Than Anything Hard to turn away from the opening and first scene, with Deborah Kerr and Michael Redgrave, from director Jack Clayton's now-celebrated adaptation of Henry James' The Turn Of The Screw, The Innocents, 1961, screenplay by Truman Capote and William Archibald.
Quiet American, The (1958) - All The Giggling And Chatter Saigon, 1952, in Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s on-location opening, a body found during New Year festivities, cop Vigot (Claude Dauphin), journalist Fowler (Michael Redgrave) and local Phuong (Giorgia Moll) introduced, in The Quiet American, 1958, from Graham Greene’s novel, starring Audie Murphy.
Quiet American, The (1958) - Ava Gardner Should Be Waiting Director Joseph L. Mankiewicz on location in Vietnam, Michael Redgrave as journalist Fowler, Audie Murphy the title character, whose mission isn’t defined, waylaid en route to Saigon, quips and insights from Graham Greene’s original novel, in Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s The Quiet American, 1958.
Dead of Night (1945) - Maxwell Frere Twisted ventriloquist Maxwell Frere (Michael Redgrave) has a climactic conversation with his dummy Hugo, observed by psychologist Sylvester Kee (Hartley Power) in "The Ventriloquist's Dummy" from the spooky English anthology Dead of Night, 1945.
Oh! What A Lovely War (1969) - These French Generals Director Richard Attenborough's comic fantasy proceeds, from the music hall at Brighton to France for cameos by Michael Redgrave and Laurence Olivier as bully Brit generals, back to the beach where men of the Smith family, John Rae as grandpa, shoot their way to the front, in Oh! What A Lovely War, 1969.

Trailer

Wreck of the Mary Deare, The -- (Original Trailer) The skipper of a sunken ship (Gary Cooper) stands trial for The Wreck of the Mary Deare (1959). Co-starring Charlton Heston.
Nicholas and Alexandra - (Original Trailer) Nicholas and Alexandra (1971), the story of Russia's last czar, Nicolas II, and his ill-fated family.
Happy Road, The - (Original Trailer) Gene Kelly returns to Paris to star in and direct The Happy Road (1957) about two single parents whose children have run away.
25th Hour, The - (Original Trailer) A Romanian peasant (Anthony Quinn) fights to get back to his family after he's imprisoned by the Nazis in The 25th Hour (1967).
Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969) - (Original Trailer) A conservative boys' schoolteacher (Peter O'Toole) falls in love with an actress (Petulia Clark) in a musical remake of Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969).
Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, The - (Original Trailer) A boy from the Irish slums reviews his troubled past while training for a school race in The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962).
Importance of Being Earnest, The (1952) - (Original Trailer) A British gentleman is one man in the city, another in the country in Oscar Wilde's The Importance Of Being Earnest (1952).
Sons of the Sea - (Original Trailer) A brave captain pilots the first steamboat line between England and the U.S. in Sons of the Sea (1942).
Young Cassidy - (Original Trailer) Rod Taylor stars in the true story of Irish playwright Sean O'Casey, Young Cassidy (1965), directed by John Ford and Jack Cardiff, also starring Julie Christie, and Maggie Smith.
Battle Of Britain - (Original Trailer) Michael Caine and Sir Laurence Olivier head an all-star cast in the story of the Battle Of Britain (1969).
Hill, The - (Original Trailer) Sean Connery is a military prisoner in a Libyan World War II camp who must endure the torture of The Hill (1965).
Innocents, The (1961) - (Original Trailer) A governess (Deborah Kerr) believes her charges possessed in the best adaptation of Henry James' The Turn of the Screw, The Innocents, 1961, directed by Jack Clayton.

Family

Cornelius Redgrave
Grandfather
Roy Redgrave
Father
Actor. Born in 1873; had been previously wed and had four children before his marriage to Daisy Scudamore; abandoned Daisy and their son and moved to Australia where he died on May 25, 1922.
Daisy Scudamore
Mother
Actor. Died in 1958.
J P Anderson
Step-Father
Made fortune working for Ceylon and Eastern Agency; died c. 1947.
Peggy Anderson
Half-Sister
Vanessa Redgrave
Daughter
Actor. Born on January 30, 1937.
Corin Redgrave
Son
Actor. Born on July 16, 1939.
Lynn Redgrave
Daughter
Actor. Born on March 8, 1943.
Natasha Richardson
Granddaughter
Actor. Born on May 13, 1963; daughter of Vanessa and Tony Richardson.
Joely Richardson
Granddaughter
Actor. Born on January 9, 1965; daughter of Vanessa and Tony Richardson.
Jemma Redgrave
Granddaughter
Actor. Born in 1965 daughter of Corin Redgrave and Diedre Hamilton-Hill.
Luke Redgrave
Grandson
Cameraman. Born in 1967; son of Corin Redgrave and Diedre Hamilton-Hill.
Carlo Nero
Grandson
Director. Born in 1969; son of Vanessa and Carlo Nero.
Kelly Clark
Granddaughter
Actor. Born c. 1970; daughter of Lynn Redgrave and John Clark.

Companions

Rachel Kempson
Wife
Actor. Married from July 18, 1935 until his death.
Noel Coward
Companion
Playwright, actor. Had relationship in the late 1930s.
Edith Evans
Companion
Actor. Had relationship in the late 1930s.

Bibliography

"Michael Redgrave: My Father"
Corin Redgrave, Richard Cohen Books (1995)
"In My Mind's Eye: An Autobiography"
Michael Redgrave, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (1983)
"The Mountebank's Tale"
Michael Redgrave (1959)
"Face or Mask"
Michael Redgrave (1958)
"An Actor's Ways and Means"
Michael Redgrave (1953)

Notes

In March 2000, the Redgrave family turned over Sir Michael's archive to the Theatre Museum in Covent Garden.

Lynn Redgrave's autobiographical book, "This Is Living" (Dutton, 1991) traced her eating problems to her father's bisexuality which she learned of as an adult.

After his death, Michael Redgrave was cremated. As his son Corin recounted in "Michael Redgrave: My Father", his ashes were left at the crematorium for some eight years. Corin then retrieved them and angered his sister Lynn by keeping them in his car.