Britain's first family of acting mourns loss of its father figure

Sherna Noah
Wednesday 07 April 2010 00:00

Corin Redgrave, the eminent stage and screen actor who was a member of Britain's most illustrious acting dynasty, has died aged 70, his family announced yesterday. As the uncle of the late actress, Natasha Richardson, who died last March after a skiing accident, this is the second tragedy to hit the Redgrave family in the just over 12 months.

His wife, the actress, Kika Markham, yesterday released a statement saying: "Corin Redgrave has died today. He was taken ill at home in the early hours of Sunday morning. He died very peacefully surrounded by his family. We will miss him so very much."

The family thanked St George's Hospital in London for their care in his last few days. A Shakespearean actor of note, he was the son of stage and film actors Michael Redgrave and Rachel Kempson, the brother of Vanessa and Lynn Redgrave, both of whom are eminent actresses, and the father of actress Jemma Redgrave.

Redgrave was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2000 and had suffered a heart attack at a political meeting in Essex in 2005. Last year he returned to the London stage taking the title role in Trumbo, about the blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo.

Born in London in 1939, Redgrave entered the "family business" while at Cambridge University. Redgrave's first marriage, to former model Deirdre Hamilton-Hill, who died of cancer, led to the birth of Jemma, and a son, Luke. He later married Ms Markham and had two more sons, Harvey and Arden.

His first stage appearance was at the Royal Court in 1961, in A Midsummer Night's Dream, and his initial major screen role came in 1966 when he appeared in the Oscar-winning historical drama A Man for All Seasons.

He formed The Moving Theatre Company in 1993 with his wife, and sister Vanessa. A few years later, in 1998, he won a Laurence Olivier award for his work in Tennessee Williams's play Not About Nightingales, and more recently played Shakespeare's King Lear in the West End.

In April 2005, Redgrave received the Pragnell Shakespeare Birthday Award for his efforts promoting the life and works of William Shakespeare.

As a film actor, he was perhaps best known for his role in Four Weddings and a Funeral, in which he played Andie McDowell's husband, Hamish.

He was known as much for his political activism as his acting; he campaigned against the Guantanamo Bay detentions, embraced Marxism and was part of a 2004 bid to impeach Tony Blair over the invasion of Iraq. He was a member of the Workers Revolutionary Party from the 1970s, and claimed his connections got him blacklisted at the BBC for 20 years. In the 1990s, he founded Artists Against Racism and the International Movement For Peace And Justice in Chechnya.

Kate Allen, Amnesty International's UK director, paid tribute to the actor. "Corin was a staunch defender of human rights and in particular his work campaigning for the rights of Guantanamo prisoners will be remembered for years to come," she said.

In 1995, he published a biography of his troubled father, Michael Redgrave: My Father, which was praised for its honesty about the elder Redgrave's bisexuality.

After being diagnosed with prostate cancer, he said of the experience: "I was positive, though not for any reasons I can completely understand or take credit for. In the odd, nightmarish evening or early morning I may have thought that I was going to snuff it in a year's time, but those were not my normal waking thoughts."

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