Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

People we like: Michael Redgrave

Sir Michael Redgrave always seemed the least prominent or flamboyant of England's acting knights [though his film career was as good as any of theirs]. In the haphazard way one watches movies, I have been watching quite a few of his films recently, the very enjoyable KIPPS being on television yesterday afternoon. Redgrave senior was certainly a cinema natural. He is also a very attractive presence in Hitch's THE LADY VANISHES, THUNDER ROCK in '42, and in THE WAY TO THE STARS in '45, DEAD OF NIGHT in '49 and of course his Jack Worthing in the immortal THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST.

He also excelled throughout the '50s with those standout roles in THE BROWNING VERSION, and in Mankiewicz's THE QUIET AMERICAN ('57), Losey's TIME WITHOUT PITY and as the prison governor in Richardson's THE LONELINESS OF THE LONG DISTANCE RUNNER in '62. One of his best later roles was the older narrator in THE GO-BETWEEN.
I am currently reading the biography by his son Corin [who died last week] which elaborates a lot on Michael's acting and private life. It seems to be well known that he was bisexual and had various other relationships as well as founding that acting dynasty.

Those other knights: My one regret is that I never saw Olivier on stage, but did see Gielgud and Richardson several times, as well as Michael Redgrave in A MONTH IN THE COUNTRY with Ingrid Bergman, a big hit in 1965, as well as seeing Alec Guinness (mainly in drag!) in the 1968 oddity WISE CHILD, and Paul Scofield in THE TEMPEST in the 80s. Back in 1970 I was totally entraced by the double act of Gielgud and Richardson in David Storey's play HOME (where they are two decripit inmates chattering aimlessly in an old folks home, paired with Mona Washboune and Dandy Nichols) so I saw it twice, onced at the Royal Court and then when it transferred to the West End in London. Being 24 at the time I decided to get the programme signed by them - Sir Ralph exited from the stage door and imperially scrawled "Richardson" across the programme page and then, in his leather outfit, sped off on his motorcycle, while Sir John with a twinkle in his eye and wearing his cravat and sporting a glittering diamond ring (quite a contrast to his drab appearance on stage) held my hand and chatted as he signed the programme, while his limousine waited. Back in '65 the cast of the Bergman-Redgrave play also signed that programme [below].

Corin's book is an engrossing read about a complicated life, Michael not only was involved with the likes of Noel Coward and Edith Evans while married to Rachel Kempson, but also discovered Stephen Boyd who was a cinema doorman at the time. It's a fascinating life in the theatre and cinema during those great decades from the '30s onwards. As the blurb says "Michael Redgrave was a great actor in an age of great acting. Working alongside Edith Evans, Laurence Olivier, Peggy Ashcroft, John Gielgud, Alec Guinness and Ralph Richardson, he succeeded both in the classical theatre and as a popular film actor." Its a shame his theatre career was curtailed by ill-health. I would have liked to have seen his production of Henry James' THE ASPERN PAPERS, and his role in Michael Powell's film OH ROSALINDA!. Good to recently get that '60s BBC production of HEDDA GABLER with Ingrid Bergman, Michael, Ralph Richardson and Trevor Howard - a powerhouse cast! (click images to enlarge).

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