a certain chilliness in his film persona, Redgrave had arguably the
most sustained screen career of any of the theatrical knights of his
day. He became immensely popular after his leading role as the eccentric
musicologist in Hitchcocks ‘The Lady Vanishes’ (1938), and
gave impressive proof of his range as the idealistic son of the mining
family in ‘The Stars Look Down’ (1939), but there was always
perhaps something too cerebral about his film work for easy stardom.
Instead, he gave one excellent performance after another, easily sliding
into character roles at an age when many stars were still bent on essaying
The son of actors, Roy Redgrave and Margaret Scudamore; Michael was
born on the 20th March 1908 and attended Clifton College and then studied
at Cambridge University. His acting career began at the Liverpool Playhouse
in 1934. He married the actress Rachel Kempson in 1935 and they had
three children - Vanessa, Corin and Lynn. All three children followed
their parents into the acting profession and all three are actors in
their own right today.
While teaching high school, Redgrave became involved with amateur theatricals.
His illustrious stage career involved seasons with the Old Vic (John
Gielguds legendary company of 1937-38). His theatrical achievements
occupies four columns in ‘Who's Who in the Theatre’ (1972),
and this, along with about 50 films and plentiful TV, testifies to a
Throughout his career, he acted on the stage in Britain, often with
his wife Rachel Kempson. One of his most notable roles was as the title
character in Chekhov's Uncle Vanya in 1962. Harold Pinter has said of
this: "I now know that it was one of the great performances of
all time that anyone has ever given on the stage". He also excelled
in Shakespearean roles like Hamlet, Macbeth, Mark Antony and Prospero.
He played Claudius opposite the Hamlet of Peter O'Toole in 1962 in the
inaugural production of the Royal National Theatre.
articulate than many about the craft of acting - he was also the author
of two books about it - and of the relative rewards of the various media,
he notched up a strikingly versatile run of screen performances. There
were three fine - and notably varied roles for director Anthony Asquith:
as the poetic Flight-Lt who is killed in ‘The Way to the Stars’
(1945), the failed, embittered schoolmaster in ‘The Browning Version’
(1951), and a definitive Jack Worthing in ‘The Importance of Being
Earnest’ (1952). As well he gave brilliant studies in mounting
terror as the deranged ventriloquist in ‘Dead of Night’
(1945) and the Air Marshall caught in a nightmare in The ‘Night
My Number Came Up’ (1955). From the mid 50s, gave any number of
well-wrought character studies. In 1959, Redgrave was knighted for his
achievements in his chosen field.