"A twinkle and a sparkle have left the world," lamented Michael Winner. The director Sam Mendes spoke of a "gifted, brave, tenacious, wonderful woman" whose going "defies belief". These were the tributes – among many more – that flowed yesterday for the British actress Natasha Richardson who died in a New York hospital.
While actors, directors, producers and television stars shared their grief, Broadway followed its tradition and dimmed its marquee lights last night as a way to express sorrow for the loss of Richardson, who was just 45 and a mother of two.
Her family released a statement late on Wednesday confirming her death and evoking the "devastation" felt by her sons, her mother, Vanessa Redgrave, and her husband, Liam Neeson.
Richardson's uncle, Corin Redgrave paid tribute to his "adorable" and "generous" niece.
He told ITV's News at Ten: "I've been very, very sad all day and all night. She was adorable, Natasha, she really was, besides being, as we know, a marvellous actress. She was just adorable. We shall miss her terribly." He said the thing he would miss most about her was her "extraordinary generosity". He said he hoped she would be remembered as a "wonderful, very glamourous and very beautiful person".
There was no word yesterday on funeral arrangements for Richardson, who had lived in New York for years.
She died after what had seemed like an innocuous tumble on Monday on a beginners' slopes at the Mont Tremblant ski resort in Quebec, where she was holidaying with her sons, aged 12 and 13. The resort said she had fallen on the snow but not struck anything.
The New York Medical Examiner's Office said last night the cause of death was an "epidural haematoma due to blunt impact to the head", confirming reports she had suffered bleeding in the lining of her brain. The head of the emergency medical response team that serves Mont Tremblant fuelled speculation over whether the death could have been avoided when he said that he had sent an ambulance to Richardson when she fell but it had been turned away.
On Broadway, the actress will be remembered for acclaimed performances, from her Tony award-winning run as Sally Bowles in the Mendes-directed revival of Cabaret, to her roles in A Streetcar Named Desire (2005), Closer (1999) and Eugene O'Neill's Anna Christie, in which her co-star was Liam Neeson. It was after that production, when they virtually courted on stage before rapt audiences, that the couple got together and married.
Richardson, part of one of Britain's greatest theatrical dynasties, had a varied film portfolio that included Nell, The Comfort of Strangers and Patty Hearst.
"The Broadway community is shocked and deeply saddened by the tragic loss of one of our finest young actresses, said Charlotte St Martin, the executive director of The Broadway League. "Her theatrical lineage is legendary, but her own singular talent shined memorably on any stage she appeared."
Jane Fonda recalled meeting Richardson on the set of Julia in 1977, when she was co-starring with her mother. "She was a little girl but already beautiful and graceful. It didn't surprise me that she became such a talented actor. My heart is heavy."
Dame Judi Dench spoke of her "luminous quality" and said her career would have reached still greater heights. "I have no doubt about it," she said. "It's just so shocking, and I hope that everybody leaves the family quietly to somehow pick up the pieces."
Yves Coderre, the director of medics at Mont Tremblant, confirmed to the Globe and Mail of Toronto that his staff had been turned away at the slopes and had not even seen Richardson.
Assistance was sought an hour later after she had been escorted to her hotel room. At that time, he said, she was still conscious but "wasn't in good shape" as she was rushed to a local hospital. From there she was taken to a larger facility in Montreal before being flown to Lenox Hill hospital in New York on Tuesday.
The comedian Joan Rivers told Larry King on CNN that she had heard that, even at that point, Richardson was brain dead, beyond the point of recovery.
"I was told that they kept her alive purposely to bring her back to New York, so that the boys could say goodbye to her," said Rivers.
In memoriam: Tributes from the worlds of film and theatre
"Her passion, devotion and talent will forever be etched on those who saw her work on the stage." – Kevin Spacey
"Natasha was brilliant, beautiful, funny, talented beyond measure, as emotionally raw as she was razor sharp." – Jodie Foster, co-star in Nell
"She was one of the few modern actresses who was as smart as she was pretty, and as gentle as she was fierce. I loved her unashamedly." – Ken Russell, who gave Richardson her film debut in Gothic
"I cannot imagine a world without her wit, her love, her mischief, her great, great talent and her gift for living. I loved her very much. She was a supreme friend." – Ralph Fiennes, co-star and friend of Neeson since 1994
"She was a wonderful woman and actress and treated me like I was her own... my heart goes out to her family." – Lindsay Lohan, Richardson's co-star in The Parent Trap
"She [was] a shining example to so many students, her photo is ever present in our boardroom, and her name is etched on the steps to the main entrance. We hope to establish a scholarship fund in her memory." – Professor Gavin Henderson, principal of the Central School of Speech and Drama where Richardson trained