Sir Michael Redgrave
(1908 - 1985)

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Despite 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 romantic leads.


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 crowded career.
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.

More 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.

 

















 

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