Obituary: Lynn Redgrave

Lynn Redgrave: Her famous family's most unconfident talent

Lynn Redgrave’s career was often overshadowed by her famous relations, despite her roles in films including Shine and Gods and Monsters.

The British actress, who has died aged 67, became an overnight success in 1966 with the film Georgy Girl, a low-budget British film that became an emblem of swinging sixties London.

But, as the third child of actors Sir Michael Redgrave and Rachel Kempson, she always felt inadequate alongside her glamorous siblings, Vanessa and Corin.

Family differences

Her father recalled in his diary that “this strange, shy pudding of a child thought she was going to be an actress”, and Lynn struggled throughout her childhood with Sir Michael’s apparent indifference to her.

Political allegiances also divided Redgrave from her left-leaning siblings, and chronic low self-esteem pushed her into bulimia for 15 years.

The Redgrave sisters fell out politically, but shared a love of theatre

She married her manager, John Clark, and moved to the US. It seemed that, of the British acting profession’s royal family, Lynn Redgrave was the outsider.

She brought her personal traumas to the stage in her self-penned work, Shakespeare Through my Father.

In a play that went successfully around the world, she used the bard’s words to reflect on Sir Michael’s influence on her and found “it helped me get to know him and make peace”.

She appeared to suffer less political angst than Vanessa and, in fact, criticised her during the 1991 Gulf War for making pro-Palestinian comments.

Messy divorce

Lynn Redgrave was not entirely uncontroversial, though, once suing Universal Studios over the issue of breastfeeding on the production set.

She only stopped arguing when the lawsuit almost broke her financially.

The Redgrave family was beset by personal trauma and marital intrigue. Both her father and brother-in-law were bisexual, and her daughter proclaimed herself a lesbian, before having children and marrying.

Redgrave won a Golden Globe for her role in Gods and Monsters

It seemed only Lynn Redgrave herself emerged unscathed. She went on to enjoy success in the film Shine and was Oscar-nominated for her role in Gods and Monsters.

But, in 2001, after three decades of marriage, she found herself involved in “one of Hollywood’s messiest divorces”.

Reunited with family

She discovered that the boy she considered her grandson was actually her husband’s son by her daughter-in-law. John Clark had had an affair with the woman who later became his son’s wife.

Lynn Redgrave was distraught, and her divorce soon followed.

But she bounced back from these upsets to appear in London’s West End production of Michael Frayn’s Noises Off.

Just like her once estranged relatives, she found salvation in the theatre and, more surprisingly, comfort in the family fold.

After decades of estrangement, Lynn Redgrave finally celebrated her hallowed family connections, saying: “I have found them again, which is wonderful.”

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