A big charming funny girl, above all, and depressed enough about it to be one of the first celebrity bulemics–“Looking at my horrible ugly bulk on a huge screen was the turning point in my life”– Lynn Redgrave was the daughter of Michael Redgrave and the sister of Vanessa. She’d been on stage from age 22 but made the splash of her life at age 30 in ’63s Swinging London comedy Georgy Girl. People of my age couldn’t avoid the bubble-gummy song on the radio, but the film itself seems to be the biggest and most fondly remembered of Redgrave’s acting.
There was loads of tv, some zany roles (as a sweet Xavier Hollander in the expurgated film version of The Happy Hooker); a lot of Shakespeare, and enough Broadway that they’ll be dimming the lights in her honor.
Cast against Rita Tushingham in the musical Smashing Time, the two were the perfect big and little vaudeville team; in his memoirs, Michael Caine noted cattily that when Redgrave stood next to Tushingham “Rita looked like her lunch”. It was in supporting roles that filmmakers saw Redgrave during the last few years: attendees at the Sanf Francisco Film Festival just saw her in My Dog Tulip, the sort of prequel to an Alan Bates film of the late 1980s, We Think The World Of You.
She was an actress who excelled in bits:
The half-way house landlady in Spider (2002), one of the scariest films you’ve never heard of;
In Gods and Monsters (1998) Redgrave was the Transylvanian accented housekeeper who informs Brendan Fraser that her master James Whale (Ian McKellan) is a a homosexual: he has committed “the deed that no man can name without shame”.
Never having seen Varian’s War (2001)–the movie by right-wing activist Lionel Chetwynd–I was surprised to learn Redgrave had played Alma Wefel-Mahler, saluted in song by Tom Lehrer.
The “Do Aphrodisiacs Work?” sequence in 1972′s Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask” as the Queen fending off the advances of the bespectacled horny jester: Redgrave was one of the best partners Allen had.
“Harken to me: if my husband the king and my son the doctor walketh near on these paved paths and hearest what thy sayest about copping a feel, thy life would not be worth a plugged nickle.”