Tony Richardson; Leading Film Director for 30 Years

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Oscar-winning British director Tony Richardson, one of England’s Angry Young Men of the 1950s, died Thursday in Los Angeles of complications of AIDS, his publicist said.

Richardson, 63, died at St. Vincent Medical Center with members of his family at his side, said publicist Melanie Hodal.

A leading filmmaker for more than 30 years, Richardson won an Academy Award in 1963 for “Tom Jones.” He launched the careers of Albert Finney, Tom Courtenay and Alan Bates, and directed Laurence Olivier in “The Entertainers,” arguably Olivier’s best screen performance.


As artistic director of the English Stage Company in the 1950s, Richardson chose John Osborne’s “Look Back in Anger,” a stinging attack on contemporary British society, as his first production.

The production--the enormously talented Osborne’s introduction--is now seen as a watershed event in the renaissance of the British theater.

Richardson and Osborne became partners in Woodfall Film Productions and went on to develop screen versions of several plays Richardson had directed on Broadway. Among them were “Look Back in Anger,” Osborne’s “The Entertainers” and Shelagh Delaney’s poignant exploration of an interracial love affair, “A Taste of Honey.”

“I just love making movies,” Richardson told The Times in a 1982 interview. “I love the life of a film set. Once on a plane I sat next to Alfred Hitchcock, and he told me that because he’d planned everything in his head before he even walked on the set, shooting a film was something of an anticlimax.”

But Richardson’s method was just the opposite.

“Perhaps I’m not bright enough to plan everything beforehand,” he said. “I need to be there, on the set, talking with actors. To me that’s what filming is all about. Come to think of it, I’d probably be at my happiest shooting one of those endless soaps.”

Richardson’s 23 films also included “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner” (1962), “The Charge of the Light Brigade” (1968), “Hamlet” (1969) and “The Hotel New Hampshire” (1984). Orion Pictures is scheduled to release his “Blue Skies,” starring Jessica Lange and Tommy Lee Jones, next year.


His television credits include “Penalty Phase,” “A Death in Canaan,” “A Shadow on the Sun” and the “Phantom of the Opera” miniseries.

Tall and thin, Richardson projected the mild, reflective air of an Anglican cleric.

Born Cecil Antonio Richardson in Shipley, Yorkshire, on June 5, 1928, he grew up in Wuthering Heights, part of the town Bradford. He was sent away to what he once called “one of those hell-on-Earth” boarding schools, Ashville College, Harrogate, which was evacuated during World War II.

That left Richardson spending most of his high school years wandering the countryside.

The solitary running of the reform school boy whose story is told in “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner” reminded Richardson of his own lonely hikes at boarding school.

“I went to Oxford to study English literature, but there was no doubt I’d direct,” he told The Times in 1979. “I’ve wanted to direct since before I knew what directing was. I always wanted to create magic worlds.”

After Oxford, he began his career as a producer for the BBC in 1953. He started the English Stage Company with director George Devine in 1955.

“I wanted to create another kind of theater than the empty and sterile plays that were going on--bad Broadway comedies and pretentious verse plays,” he said. “I got some money and people together, and we explored French plays and announced, as an act of faith, production of (Arthur Miller’s) ‘The Crucible’ and Brecht’s ‘The Good Woman of Setzuan.’


“But we weren’t hitting the target for England. We didn’t really get going for three years. Then ‘Look Back in Anger’ was submitted. That of course was a great breakthrough.”

In 1962, Richardson and actress Vanessa Redgrave were secretly married, but Redgrave was granted a divorce five years later on grounds of her husband’s adultery with French film star Jeanne Moreau.

“Tony is so wonderful,” Redgrave said when she filed for divorce. “He has the ability to make me feel a life full of joy.”

Richardson is survived by three daughters, Katherine Grimond, Natasha Richardson and Joely Richardson from his marriage to Redgrave. Funeral arrangements are pending.