Oscar: Redgraves–Award-Winning Family–Michael, Vanessa, Lynn

In some cases, occupational inheritance has prevailed for three or more generations. Consider the acting dynasties of the Barrymores, the Powers, the Fondas, the Robards, and the Bridges in the United States, and the Redgraves in England.

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 selffulfilling, when Vanessa made her first screen appearance in Behind the Mask, in which she played the daughter of her reallife father.

Talent has been in abundance in the Redgrave 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, a young woman who just missed being beautiful, the producers tried to get every girl in London, including Vanessa, who turned it down because of other commitments.

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.

The Redgrave acting torch is passing down from generation to generation: All three of Vanessa’s children have appeared on stage or in film. Daughter Joely Richardson played Vanessa’s character as an adolescent in David Hare’s Wetherby. Vanessa’s other daughter, Natasha Richardson, played Nina to her mother’s Irina in a British production of Chekhov’s The Sea Gull, which had been one of her mother’s earlier roles, in Sidney Lumet’s 1968 screen version.

Over the past two years, TV viewers were privileged to be seeing Vanessa and daughter Joely Richardson playing bickering mother and daughter in the trashy series, “Nip/Tuck.”