Thursday, March 20, 2014
THE HOUSE OF REDGRAVE: THE LIVES OF A THEATRICAL DYNASTY
Despite the title, this book is essentially a biography of the late Tony Richardson, the British film director who was married to Vanessa Redgrave and was the father of the late Natasha Richardson, who died when she was married to actor Liam Neeson (The Other Man). Apparently the book's publisher thought that Richardson's name wouldn't sell a book, so this was re-imagined as a book on all of the Redgraves, which it isn't, even though there are sections on Vanesssa, her brother Colin, and her daughters late in the book; most of the text covers the life and career of Tony Richardson (The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner; Tom Jones), who brought a stark reality to British theater and cinema that had been missing before. Adler looks at the nutty brother and sister duo of Vanessa and Colin (the latter of whom is largely unknown in the U.S.), both of whom devoted more attention to radical politics than to their own children. Lynn Redgrave, despite a highly successful career, gets short shrift except for passages on her discovering that her husband was the actual father of her grandchild and the resulting scandal, and her death from cancer. Richardson is portrayed as a gifted narcissist who could be both generous and loved, nasty and hated, and was decidedly confused and uptight about his sexuality. Adler doesn't seem that comfortable or up-to-date when writing about Redgrave's and Tony Richardson's homosexuality, and some passages might be considered borderline homophobic and decidedly dated. However, the book is a good read and generally well-done if you're looking for a tome on Richardson and his circle. For a book that's actually about Michael Redgrave and his family, see Donald Spoto's The Redgraves: A Family Epic.
Verdict: Quick and entertaining read, albeit flawed. ***.