Rachel Kempson, the matriarch of the Redgrave acting dynasty, dies in America aged 92

Andrew Johnson
Monday 26 May 2003 00:00 BST

Rachel Kempson, the actress and matriarch of the Redgrave dynasty, has died aged 92. She was in Millbrook, New York State, at the home of her granddaughter, the actress Natasha Richardson and Ms Richardson's husband, the actor Liam Neeson.

Although her children, the actors Lynn, Vanessa and Corin Redgrave, and her late husband, Sir Michael Redgrave, are better known, Ms Kempson was much in demand. After training at Rada, she was in Much Ado About Nothing at Stratford-upon-Avon in 1933. The same year, she famously played Juliet. Three years later she starred in the Liverpool Repertory production of Flowers in the Forest. The leading man was Michael Redgrave and they married within months.

She performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre Company and the English Stage Company. In 1937 she gave birth to Vanessa. Ms Kempson took a career break to have Corin in 1939 and Lynn in 1943.

She worked regularly with her husband, who died in 1985, and made her big screen debut with him in a small role in the romantic comedy Jeannie in 1941. She appeared with her husband and children in many films, including the Second World War story The Captive Heart, with her husband in 1946; Tom Jones, starring with Lynn in 1963; The Charge of the Light Brigade, with Vanessa and Corin in 1968 and Déjà Vu, again with Vanessa, in 1998. She was also Lady Belfield in the film Out of Africa in 1985.

Ms Kempson's TV debut was in Jane Eyre in 1970 and she went on to play Lady Manners in The Jewel in the Crown in 1984. Her son, Corin, said she would be remembered as a "shiningly beautiful woman in face and in spirit".

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