“I can feel a sort of pride in all my family - Mum, Lynn, Corin, Tasha, my cousin Jemma - because, I think, how wonderful that this troop of gypsies can carry on telling stories.”
Vanessa Redgrave with her daughters Natasha and Joely Richardson
A troop of wandering storytellers was how Joely Richardson described her clan in conversation with HuffPostUK last year.
For such a bunch of wayfarers, they successfully set down roots at the heart of British theatre, and it is a claim they make no hint of relinquishing.
It all really started with theatrical duo Michael Redgrave and his wife Rachel Kempson, a union that lasted 50 years and withstood Redgrave’s affairs with both men and other women.
Redgrave, the son of a silent film actor, was a teacher before making his stage debut at the Liverpool Playhouse in 1934. With his move to London, he became a member of the country’s most glamorous club – the acting set that included Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson. He made it in Hollywood, too, appearing in The Importance of Being Earnest and The Dambusters, and earning an Academy Award for Mourning Becomes Electra.
The acting dynasty really took off with theatrical pair Michael (later Sir) Redgrave, and his wife Rachel Kempson
They had three children – Vanessa, Corin and Lynn. Vanessa became one of the acting forces of her generation, winning every plaudit going for roles on screen - including an Oscar for her role in Julia – and stage, where she has been awarded countless times for her interpretation of the classics.
Corin and Lynn Redgrave also found success, mostly on screen. Lynn made it big in Hollywood, with Oscar nominations for Georgy Girl and Shine, while Corin became an acclaimed character actor.
Vanessa continued the family tradition of marrying a wildly talented by unpredictable man – director Tony Richardson, with whom she had two daughters, Natasha and Joely.
When she wasn’t winning plaudits for her extraordinarily compelling talents on stage, Vanessa was causing ripples with her revolutionary zeal, fighting for refugees, Palestinians and other highly political causes. Meanwhile, she had a son with Italian director Franco Nero, and Carlo is a film director and writer, too.
Corin and Vanessa shared political leanings as well as theatrical plaudits
Their familiar names demonstrate that Vanessa’s daughters haven’t dropped the baton.
Natasha Richardson, the more fragile of the two, was briefly connected with another great British acting dynasty when she married theatrical agent Robert Fox, but she later moved to Hollywood, making her mark in films such as Nell and The Parent Trap, and settling down to family life with actor Liam Neeson in upstate New York.
Her sister Joely Richardson has also made her move across the Atlantic, gaining lasting recognition in US hit series Nip/Tuck, where her mother made a guest appearance. The pair most recently reunited on screen to play Queen Elizabeth I young and old in Roland Emmerich’s historical thriller Anonymous.
Natasha settled in the States with husband Liam Neeson, but died after a skiing accident in 2009
The family has seen more than its share of tragedy in recent years. Vanessa lost her daughter Natasha in a skiing accident in 2009 and, while her family were still trying to come to terms with their loss, both Corin and Lynn died within a month of each other in 2010.
But their memories will remain, like those of their family who went before, in their stage and screen triumphs, and serve to inspire those left behind. As Joely reflected last year, “It’s more special to me now because of all the people who came before, it's very tribal, and I want to carry on for their sakes."
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