NEW YORK – Lynn Redgrave, an introspective and independent player in her family’s acting dynasty who became a 1960s sensation as the freethinking 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. She was 67.
Her publicist Rick Miramontez, speaking on behalf of her children, said Redgrave died peacefully Sunday night at her home in Connecticut. Children Ben, Pema and Annabel were with her, as were close friends.
“Our beloved mother Lynn Rachel passed away peacefully after a seven year journey with breast cancer,” Redgrave’s children said in a statement Monday. “She lived, loved and worked harder than ever before. The endless memories she created as a mother, grandmother, writer, actor and friend will sustain us for the rest of our lives. Our entire family asks for privacy through this difficult time.”
Her death comes a year after her niece Natasha Richardson died from head injuries sustained in a skiing accident and just a month after the death of her older brother, Corin Redgrave.
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.” In recent years, she also made appearances in the television shows “Ugly Betty,” “Law & Order” and “Desperate Housewives.”
“Vanessa was the one expected to be the great actress,” Lynn Redgrave told The Associated Press in 1999. “It was always, ‘Corin’s the brain, Vanessa the shining star, oh, and then there’s Lynn.'”
In the theater, Redgrave, with her striking dark red hair, often displayed a sunny, sweet and open personality, much like her ebullient 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.
Tall and blue-eyed like her sister, she was as open about her personal life as Vanessa has been about politics. 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 studied at London’s Central School of Speech and Drama and was not yet 20 when she debuted professionally on stage in a London production of “A Midsummer’s Night Dream.” Like her siblings, 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.”
“Before I was born, my father was a movie star and a stage star,” the actress told the AP in 1993. “I was raised in a household where we didn’t see our parents in the morning. We lived in the nursery. Our nanny made our breakfast, and I was dressed up to go downstairs to have tea with my parents, if they were there.”
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.
Dismissed by critic Pauline Kael as a false testament to free thinking (“Underneath all the nonconformity gear are the crooked little skeletons of old Shirley Temple pictures”), the film was branded cool by moviegoers on both side of the Atlantic and received several Academy Award nominations, including one for Redgrave and one for the popular title song performed by the Australian group The Seekers.
“All the films I’ve been in — and I haven’t been in that many attention-getting films — no one expected anything of, least of all me,” Redgrave said in an AP interview in 1999.
But “Georgy Girl” didn’t lead to lasting success and by age 50, Redgrave was as known for her weight problems as for her acting. 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.
In the 1993 interview, 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. “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.”
She looked at her mother’s side of the family in “The Mandrake Root” and “Rachel and Juliet.” In 2009, her play “Nightingale” touched upon her health, the life of her grandmother (Beatrice Kempson) and the end of her 32-year marriage to actor-director John Clark, who had disclosed that he had fathered a child with the future wife of their son Benjamin.
“Redgrave, a cancer survivor, sits at a desk … and works from a script because of what has been described as an unspecified medical ailment — but not a recurrence of cancer — requiring immediate treatment. It doesn’t affect her touching, beautifully realized performance,” the AP wrote last year.
“And reading gives the evening an almost storybook quality in which it seems as if the actress, buoyed by a radiant smile, has gathered a few good friends to hear her reminisce about this formidable woman — mother of Rachel, mother-in-law of Michael and grandmother to Lynn, Vanessa and Corin.”
Lynn Redgrave is survived by six grandchildren, her sister Vanessa, and four nieces and nephews.
A private funeral with be held later this week.