Georgy Girl (1966): Silvio Narizzano Oscar Nominated Comedy Starring Lynn Redgrave, James Mason and Charlotte Rampling

The Redgraves represent one of England’s most renowned acting dynasties, so far consisting of five generations of players.  Sir Michael Redgrave’s grandfather and both of his parents were actors, and he was married to Rachel Kempson, known for her stage and TV work.  All of Michael and Rachel’s children, Vanessa, Lynn, and Corin pursued acting careers.

On the evening of Vanessa’s birth, Michael was playing opposite Olivier in “Hamlet” at the Old Vic.  Olivier was so excited by the event that in his curtain speech he announced: “Tonight a lovely new actress has been born.  Laertes (played by Redgrave) has a daughter.” Olivier’s prophecy turned out to be self‑fulfilling, when Vanessa made her first screen appearance in “Behind the Mask,” in which she played the daughter of her real‑life father.

Talent has been in abundance in the Redgraves clan, and some of which was certified by the Academy.  Three family members have been nominated, beginning with Sir Michael, as Best Actor for the 1947 film version of Eugene O’Neill’s “Mourning Becomes Electra.”

Vanessa and Lynn received their first Best Actress nomination in the same year, 1966, the former for “Morgan!,” the latter for “Georgy Girl.“

For the part of “Georgy Girl,” a young woman who just missed being beautiful, the producers tried to get every girl in London, including Vanessa Redgrave, who turned it down because of other commitments.

In Silvio Narizzano’s charming serio comedy, Lynn plays the title role, a plain and plump girl who decides to raise the illegitimate child of her roommate (played by Charlotte Rampling).

In the process, she gains the attention of her employer (James Mason), an older, married man harried by a nagging and sickly wife, and the boyfriend of her roommate (Alan Bates).

At the time, the film, scripted by Margaret Forster and Peter Nichols (based on Forster’s novel), was considered outré and risqué due to its subject matter (the Production Code was still ruling Hollywood), but the picture has not dated particularly well.

Even so, the acting is uniformly good, and the comedy serves as a time capsule, reflecting swinging London and the changing mores, music, and fashion.  This is the screen role that catapulted Lynn Redgrave to international stardom.

The melodic title song, which was nominated for an Oscar, became very popular, almost independently of the film.

“Georgy Girl” belongs to a cycle of new British films that also included “Morgan! (starring Vanessa Redgrave), “Darling” (starring Julie Christie),  and “The Knack, and How to get It” (with Rita Tashingham).

Oscar Nominations: 4

Best Actress: Lynn Redgrave

Supporting Actor: James Mason

Cinematography (black/white): Ken Higgins

Song: Georgy Girl, music by Tom Springfield, lyrics by Jim Dale

Oscar awards: None

 

Oscar Context

The winner of the 1966 best Actress Oscar was Liz Taylor for “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”  The Supporting Actor winner was Walter Matthau for “The Fortune Cookie.”

The Best Song award went to john Barry and Don Black’s title tune from “Born Free.”

The nomination of Vanessa and Lynn in the same year was taken in stride by the sisters, who both made sure to dispel any feelings of rivalry or animosity.  Lynn told reporters: “We like each other’s work and each other as people.  Vanessa takes the spotlight one week, I get it the next.”  In the next decade, however, it was Vanessa who distinguished herself as a performer.  Regarded as one of the best actress in the English‑speaking world, Vanessa has been nominated five times, winning a supporting Oscar for “Julia.”

As for Lynn, after a long dry period, she bounced back with a comeback performance in “Gods and Monsters” (1998), as director James Whale’s (played by Ian McKellen) Hungarian housekeeper, for which she received a second, supporting nomination.

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