Synopses & Reviews
The dramatic, poignant and revealing saga of the Redgraves, one of history's greatest families of actors.
For more than a century, the Redgraves have defined theater and film while captivating the public eye. Their history is a rich tapestry of singularly talented individuals whose influence is felt to this day, yet their story has never before been told. In The Redgraves, bestselling biographer Donald Spoto draws on his close personal relationships with the family and includes both his interviews and unprecedented personal access to them. The result is a groundbreaking account of this extraordinary clan and their circle, including such luminaries as Elizabeth Taylor, Katharine Hepburn, and Sir Laurence Olivier.
The story began in 1907 with the marriage of actress Daisy Scudamore to matinee idol Roy Redgrave and the birth in 1908 of their son, Michael, who became a famous stage actor and movie star. Michael’s family and wild social circle knew that for decades he was insistently bisexual, notwithstanding his marriage to Rachel Kempson, one of England’s most glamorous and admired actresses.
Their daughter Vanessa, a great and revered performer, is the only British actress ever to win Oscar, Emmy, Tony, Cannes, Golden Globe, and Screen Actors Guild Awards—achievements that have been paralleled by a profound humanitarian commitment even as she tackled difficult and controversial roles.
Vanessa’s sister, Lynn Redgrave, led a triumphant and complex life in her own way, too. From her performance in the movie Georgy Girl to her prizewinning play about her father and her Oscar-nominated performance in Gods and Monsters, Lynn established herself as a very different Redgrave.
Corin Redgrave, their brother, was known for his acclaimed performances onstage and screen—and he was a tireless and outspoken political radical.
The family tradition of distinction continues with the careers of Joely Richardson and Jemma Redgrave and reached a high point in the life and career of Vanessa’s daughter, Natasha Richardson, who earned a Tony Award for her role as Sally Bowles in the revival of Cabaret. Natasha’s sudden death after a skiing lesson in 2009 shocked and saddened admirers of her work and graceful spirit.
The product of more than thirty years of research, The Redgraves recounts the epic saga of a family that has extended the possibilities for actors on stage, screen, and television in Britain, America, and around the world.
"Spoto (High Society: The Life of Grace Kelly) provides a competent biography of one of the most revered families in acting a clan whose combined careers have spanned seven decades. The author devotes the better part of his attention to Michael Redgrave, born in 1908 to two actors and becoming a stalwart of British stage, film, and BBC productions. Despite his homosexual inclinations, Michael married actress Rachel Kempson, with whom he had three children. A contemporary of Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud, he appeared in stage productions of nearly every Shakespeare play and in films such as The Lady Vanishes and The Browning Version. His two eldest children, Vanessa and Corin, were passionate actors as well as dedicated social activists. All three children, including youngest daughter Lynn, had successful trans-Atlantic stage and screen careers. Spoto points to intriguing parallels between Michael's marriage to Rachel and Vanessa's first marriage to director Tony Richardson, since both men were admittedly bisexual. The book contains a lengthy recitation of the 2,600-plus roles played by family members, but Redgrave gets his hour in the spotlight. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
DONALD SPOTO is the author of twenty-six books, including bestselling biographies of Alfred Hitchcock, Tennessee Williams, Laurence Olivier, Marlene Dietrich, Ingrid Bergman, and Audrey Hepburn. He earned his Ph.D. degree from Fordham University. Spoto is married to the Danish school administrator Ole Flemming Larsen. They live in Denmark.
Table of Contents
Introduction and Acknowledgments
One: Their Wedding Days (1824-1921)
Two: Ghosts and Guilt (1921-1935)
Three: Faithful, In A Fashion (1935-1937)
Four: Lost Ladies (1937-1939)
Five: The Stars Look Up and Down (1939-1941)
Six: The Garden of Earthly Delights (1941-1946)
Seven: A Term in Hollywood (1947)
Eight: Thunderbolt (1948-1953)
Nine: Tom (1953-1956)
Ten: Invisible Chains (1956-1960)
Eleven: Fat for Comedy, Thin for Tragedy (1961-1963)
Twelve: Georgy and Guenevere (1964-1966)
Thirteen: Hideaways (1967-1975)
Fourteen: Hoodlums (1976-1985)
Fifteen: Things Happen (1985-2011)