Lynn Redgrave dies at 67; member of famed acting family

Lynn Redgrave at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards.
(Evan Agostini/Associated Press)

Lynn Redgrave, a member of the distinguished British acting family who became an overnight sensation playing the title character in the 1966 film “Georgy Girl” and later achieved acclaim on stage as both an actress and a writer, has died. She was 67.

Redgrave died Sunday with her children at her side at her home in Kent, Conn., said her publicist, Rick Miramontez.

“Our beloved mother Lynn Rachel passed away peacefully after a seven-year journey with breast cancer,” her children, Ben, Pema and Annabel, said in a statement Monday. “She lived, loved and worked harder than ever before.”

Redgrave’s death closely follows that of her actor brother, Corin, who died after a short illness last month. Her niece Natasha Richardson died of head injuries caused by a fall on a ski slope last year.


Redgrave’s last stage appearance was in January, at the Invisible Theatre in Tucson, where she performed her solo show “Rachel and Juliet.”

“She talked about theater as the best doctor in the world,” Susan Claassen, the Invisible Theatre’s managing artistic director, told The Times on Monday. “You would never guess there was anything wrong when she was on stage.”

Redgrave was no stranger to the Los Angeles stage, including performances of her one-woman show “Nightingale” at the Mark Taper Forum in 2006.

Center Theatre Group Artistic Director Michael Ritchie told The Times on Monday that “everybody adored” Redgrave.

Redgrave, he said, “was theater royalty. But she had the most common touch.”

The youngest of renowned actor Sir Michael Redgrave and actress Rachel Kempson’s three children —and the sister of Oscar-winning actress Vanessa Redgrave — Redgrave often said she was “the child of whom nothing was really expected.”

She made her film debut playing a barmaid named Susan in the 1963 film “Tom Jones.”

Her career-making role as the overweight and unglamorous young Londoner in the British comedy “Georgy Girl” earned her an Oscar nomination for best actress in a leading role.


In 1999, she won a Golden Globe and received an Oscar nomination for best actress in a supporting role playing the Hungarian housekeeper in “Gods and Monsters,” the biopic about homosexual film director James Whale starring Ian McKellen.

Redgrave also received three Tony Award nominations over the past three decades — for her performances in “Mrs. Warren’s Profession,” her one-woman show “Shakespeare for My Father” and “The Constant Wife.”

Her work in television included “House Calls,” a 1980-82 CBS sitcom in which she played a hospital administrator opposite Wayne Rogers as a surgeon. She earned an Emmy nomination for outstanding lead actress in a comedy series but left the show in 1981.

In a $10.5-million lawsuit against MCA Inc. and Universal Television, Redgrave alleged that Universal fired her from the series because she planned to breast-feed her then-infant daughter Annabel during production hours. In 1987, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge ruled that the dispute had been settled in an oral agreement reached by both parties.


Redgrave said the incident had a negative impact on her career.

“It wasn’t exactly that I was blacklisted, but Hollywood is the smallest town in the world, and Universal is the most powerful studio in the world, and it just became more convenient not to hire me,” she said in a 1994 Washington Post interview.

“It all stopped cold,” she said. “What I did have was the theater, thank God, because the theater goes by its own rules.”

She also served as spokeswoman for Weight Watchers from 1983 to 1991 and took what jobs she could get.


“I was employable as a guest artist on ‘Love Boat’ and ‘Fantasy Island’ and ‘Hotel,’ ” she told the Post. “And people sniffed: ‘Well, God, Weight Watchers commercials, and ‘Love Boat,’ and she’s a Redgrave.’

“Well, I have children, and I’m an actor, and I go very much by my dad’s theory that work breeds work, and that you are not an actor unless you are acting. And sometimes you have to take whatever there is....”

A few years later, Redgrave underwent what she called her “movie renaissance,” beginning with playing the sympathetic wife to Oscar winner Geoffrey Rush’s brilliant but mentally ill classical pianist in the 1996 film “Shine.”

Redgrave also wrote four plays. The first was “Shakespeare for My Father,” her one-woman show that examined her often difficult relationship with her late father and re-created some of his Shakespearean roles. The others were “The Mandrake Root,” “Nightingale” and “Rachel and Juliet.”


Redgrave was born in London on March 8, 1943, an event that her father failed to even mention in his daily diary.

Her father, Redgrave told the Seattle Times in 1996, “already had two children when I was born, and Dad really put all his artistic hopes into them.

“As a little child I was completely immobilized in his presence. I was terrified by him, and yet in awe, in love, wanting to know who he was, and wanting to find some resolution to our relationship and make some good of it.”

At 15, she made the decision to follow the family’s acting tradition. She made her stage debut in 1962 as Helena in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” After an audition with Sir Laurence Olivier, she was invited to become a founding member of Britain’s National Theatre.


In 1999, Redgrave filed for divorced from John Clark, her husband of 32 years, after learning that Clark had fathered a child in 1991 with his then-assistant, Nicolette Hannah. According to a 1999 account in People magazine, Hannah married the son of Redgrave and Clark, Benjamin Clark, in 1995. Hannah and Benjamin Clark divorced in 1996.

In addition to her three children and her sister Vanessa, Redgrave is survived by six grandchildren.

Times staff writers Susan King and David Ng contributed to this report.