Isadora (1968): Reisz Biopic, Starring Vanessa Redgrave as Pioneering Dancer Isadora Duncan

Vanessa Redgrave renders an astonishing performance in Reisz’ biopic of the pioneering modern dancer and free-spirited woman, Isadora Duncan.

Trained in classical dance, Duncan shattered traditional conceptions by both her art and her personal life.

The film begins at the end of her life as she recalls the past while dictating her memoirs to her secretary. Her uninhibited sexuality and insistence on personal freedom and expression shocked more narrow-minded patrons and audiences.

She combined elements of classic Greek dance during the height of the jazz age and had children in and out of wedlock. She was married to the heir Paris Singer (Jason Robards) and the Russian poet Sergei Essenin (Ivan Tchenko).

Her life was a defined by tragedies. Two of her children drowned when her chauffeur left the car unattended and the vehicle plunged into the river.

Karel Reisz’s film celebrates a woman who lived by her own rules and passionately defined her liberal life on and offstage long before the women’s liberation movement.

Dominating every frame, Redgrave was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar for her performance.

There are at least two versions of the film, which originally was two and a half hours. Reisz cut his own version in 1987 and retitled the film, Loves of Isadora.

The film’s commercial failure is attributed to Universal studio’s poor marketing release.

Oscar Nominations: 1

Best Actress: Vanessa Redgrave

Oscar Context:

The Best Actress in 1968 was a tie between Katharine Hepburn (The Lion in Winter) and Barbra Streisand (Funny Girl)