January 2, 2017


Sir Michael Redgrave (1908-1985) b. Bristol, England.

Michael Redgrave

He was born in Bristol, the son of an actor, and is co-founder (with Rachel Kempson) of the Redgrave dynasty (which includes daughters Vanessa and Lynn and son Corin). He was educated at Clifton College and progressed to Cambridge where he wrote film reviews, and after a couple of years as a public school teacher became a member of John Gielgud’s famous Old Vic theatre company from 1937. He became a successful stage actor and his good looks made him a natural for the big screen. Redgrave claimed an ambivalence about his success in the cinema, insisting that he only ever took his debut lead role in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes (1938) because he had a family to support.

Ambivalence may be the key to his complex and troubled persona. Never an aggressively romantic hero, nor quite one of the league of post-war chaps, the character which Redgrave projected simply seemed unsure of himself and looking for something else – either out of idealism or discomfort. This might express itself through a frustrated passion, as in the socially idealistic but domestically inept mine-worker’s son of The Stars Look Down (1939), an intelligent misanthrope in the Boulting brothers’ Thunder Rock (1942), the excruciating distraction of Barnes Wallis in The Dam Busters (1955), or the eccentric dithering of his lighter roles, The Lady Vanishes for example.

After a sensitive of a bomber pilot in Anthony Asquith‘s The Way to the Stars (1945), he was subsequently typecast in endless military roles, but there weere memorable excursions including an unforgettable performance as the schizophrenic ventriloquist in the Ealing chiller Dead of Night (1945). He continued to make a considerable impression throughout the 60s with telling roles, including that of a borstal governor in The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962). Though he may have been doubtful about cinema, apparently finding it suspiciously easy, Redgrave’s later filmography does not reveal quite so many embarrassments as those of some of the other theatrical knights.

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