Redgrave starred in ‘Georgy Girl’

  • Mon May 3rd, 2010 10:30pm
  • News

Associated Press

NEW YORK — Lynn Redgrave, an introspective and independent player in her family’s acting dynasty who became a 1960s sensation as the unconventional title character of “Georgy Girl” and later dramatized her troubled past in such one-woman stage performances as “Shakespeare for My Father” and “Nightingale,” has died at 67.

Her publicist said Redgrave died peacefully Sunday night at her home in Kent, Conn. Children Ben, Pema and Annabel were with her, as were close friends.

Redgrave was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2002, had a mastectomy in January 2003 and underwent chemotherapy.

The youngest child of Michael Redgrave and Rachel Kempson, Lynn Redgrave never quite managed the acclaim — or notoriety — of elder sibling Vanessa Redgrave, but received Oscar nominations for “Georgy Girl” and “Gods and Monsters,” and Tony nominations for “Mrs. Warren’s Profession,” “Shakespeare for My Father” and “The Constant Wife.”

She also appeared in movies “Shine,” “Peter Pan,” “Kinsey” and “Confessions of a Shopaholic.”

In recent years, she also made appearances on TV in “Ugly Betty,” “Law &Order” and “Desperate Housewives.”

“Vanessa was the one expected to be the great actress,” Lynn Redgrave said in 1999. “It was always, ‘Corin’s the brain, Vanessa the shining star, oh, and then there’s Lynn.’ ”

In theater, the ruby-haired Redgrave often displayed a sunny, sweet and open personality, much like her offstage personality. It worked well in such shows as “Black Comedy” — her Broadway debut in 1972 — and again two years later in “My Fat Friend,” a comedy about an overweight young woman who sheds pounds to find romance.

Redgrave’s play “Nightingale” at Manhattan Theatre Club in 2009 was the last time she appeared on stage in New York.

“We admired her strength, her talent, her courage and her enormous good heart,” said Lynne Meadow, artistic director of MTC. “There wasn’t a stage hand, a press rep, a box office person who didn’t worship Lynn. She was true theater royalty.”

In plays and in interviews, Lynn Redgrave confided about her family, her marriage and her health.

She acknowledged that she suffered from bulimia, and served as a spokeswoman for Weight Watchers. With daughter Annabel Clark, she released a 2004 book about her fight with cancer, “Journal: A Mother and Daughter’s Recovery From Breast Cancer.”

Redgrave was born in London in 1943 and despite self-doubts pursued the family trade. She was not yet 20 when she debuted professionally on stage in a London production of “A Midsummer’s Night Dream.” She appeared in plays and in films, working under Noel Coward and Laurence Olivier as a member of the National Theater and under director/brother-in-law Tony Richardson in the 1963 screen hit “Tom Jones.”

True fame caught her with “Georgy Girl,” billed as “the wildest thing to hit the world since the miniskirt.” The 1966 film starred Redgrave as the plain, childlike Londoner pursued by her father’s middle-aged boss, played by James Mason.

“Georgy Girl” didn’t lead to lasting commercial success, but did anticipate a long-running theme: Redgrave’s weight. She weighed 180 pounds while making the film, leading New York Times critic Michael Stern to complain that Redgrave “cannot be quite as homely as she makes herself in this film.

Films such as “The Happy Hooker” and “Every Little Crook and Nanny” were remembered less than Redgrave’s decision to advocate for Weight Watchers. She even referenced “Georgy Girl” in one commercial, showing a clip and saying, “This was me when I made the movie, because this is the way I used to eat.”

At age 50, Redgrave was ready to tell her story in full.

As she wrote in the foreword to “Shakespeare for My Father,” she was out of work and set off on a “journey that began almost as an act of desperation,” writing a play out of her “passionately emotional desire” to better understand her father, who had died in 1985.

Redgrave remembered her father as a fearless stage performer yet a shy, tormented man who had great difficulty talking to his youngest daughter.

“I didn’t really know him,” Redgrave said in 1993. “I lived in his house. I was in awe of him and I adored him, and I was terrified of him and I hated him and I loved him, all in one go.”

Redgrave credited the play, which interspersed readings from Shakespeare with family memories, with bringing her closer to her relatives and reviving her film career.