Award-winning movie, TV, and theater actress Vanessa Redgrave has been called “the greatest living actress of our times,” and much of her work has been done in historical costume. She’s played queens, authors, and artists, encompassing a range of women from history and literature. Given the length of her career, Redgrave has even played different parts in the same or similar titles, plus she’s performed with daughters Joely Richardson and Natasha Richardson. She’s also an outspoken political activist, and in 2017 made her directorial debut with a documentary titled Sea Sorrow about the international migrant crisis. Vanessa Redgrave is overdue as our woman crush!
Anne Boleyn in A Man for All Seasons (1966)
Guenevere in Camelot (1967)
Clarissa Morris in The Charge of the Light Brigade (1968)
Isadora Duncan in Isadora (1968)
Nina in The Sea Gull (1968)
Sylvia Pankhurst in Oh! What a Lovely War (1969)
Andromache in The Trojan Women (1971)
Sister Jeanne in The Devils (1971)
Mary, Queen of Scots in Mary, Queen of Scots (1971)
Katherine in A Picture of Katherine Mansfield (1973)
Mary Debenham in Murder on the Orient Express (1974)
Lola Deveraux in The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976)
Julia in Julia (1977)
Agatha Christie in Agatha (1979)
Fania Fénelon in Playing for Time (1980)
Olive Chancellor in The Bostonians (1984)
Sophia in Peter the Great (1986)
Lady Alice More in A Man for All Seasons (1988)
Empress Elizabeth in Young Catherine (1991)
Ruth Wilcox in Howards End (1992)
Lady ‘Speranza’ Wilde in Wilde (1997)
Mrs. Clarissa Dalloway in Mrs. Dalloway (1997)
Countess Constance La Grange in Cradle Will Rock (1999)
Clemmie Churchill in The Gathering Storm (2002)
Lady Melbourne in Byron (2003)
Princess Vera Belinskya in The White Countess (2005)
Older Briony in Atonement (2007)
Queen Elizabeth I in Anonymous (2011)
Juliana Bordereau in The Aspern Papers (post-production)
What’s your favorite of Vanessa Redgrave’s many roles in historical costume?
wow to every single one. I think the first of her roles to make an impression on me was probably in ‘Camelot’…the costumes both intrigued and irritated, even then! She’s wonderful in Howard’s end, such a sweet, batty woman.
Gosh, so many favourites that I don’t know which to choose. Ms Redgrave adds so much to an film/play she joins.
But I do enjoy her Sofia in Peter and her Elizabeth in Young Catherine as well as Mrs Wilcox in Howard’s End and Mrs Dalloway.
I wanted to go see Camelot when I was a kid and my father absolutely forbade it because of her politics. Now I have seen it and really feel I wasn’t missing a thing! I do love many of her performances, especially that little turn as Sophia in “Peter the Great.” She and Maximillian Schell played off of each other magnificently. Don’t forget her father, Sir Ralph Richardson, founder of the dynasty, who was awesome in so many things – especially Doctor Zhivago.
Vanessa’s father was Michael Redgrave, not Ralph Richardson.
OOPS. Asleep at the wheel here. Saw all the Richardsons and got loopy! Thanks!
Oh, I remember seeing some of Peter the Great as a kid, but I haven’t rewatched as an adult…. since I now possess a Russian studies degree and, you know, maturity, sounds like I should. :-) Also, Maximilian Schell is a good actor (much deserved his win in Judgement at Nuremberg).
Schell is a great Peter, so is Jan Niklas who plays the young Peter. It is largely based off of Robert Massie’s biography of the Tsar, though it does incorporate some completely fictional episodes. And I loved the Laurence Rosenthal score. Worth a look!
Also, the miniseries Three Sovereigns for Sarah (1985)—not sure how it does in terms of costume accuracy, and since it’s Salem in the late 17th/early 18th century, they’re not the most interesting costumes, either, but it’s quite accurate historically. She plays Sarah Cloyce, one of the Towne sisters (and the only one who survived being accused of witchcraft). I’m pretty sure they pulled a fair bit of dialogue directly from the trial records that we have (well, it had to be adapted some, but it was quite accurate). It used to be free on Amazon Prime, but I just looked it up again the other day and it was only I think $3 for the whole thing, so I just bought it.
Hands down, Isadora! I loved that movie, it made me want to take a modern dance. Of course, I saw it on TV, in the 70’s as an impressionable pre-teen, so don’t know if I would feel the same way if I watched it now.
Poor Vanessa! another victim of the Visor French Hood. :(
Can’t wait for “Aspern Papers.” I love and admire Vanessa in just about anything, including “Camelot,” which lumbered, to put it politely. Even the cameos/near cameos, like her Anne Boleyn and the Art Nouveau turn in “7% Solution” are small and perfect gems.
I loved everything I saw her in, but am especially fond of “Isadora.” I also liked her in “Mary, Queen of Scots,” mainly because she had red hair and was tall. She is another actor whom you can dress in anything and she will rock it.
She’s worked in a lot of period productions! Please could you include the version of Snow White she did for Shelly Duvall’s “Fairy Tale Theater”? She played the jealous Queen with Elizabeth McGovern as Snow White, and she was gorgeous in medieval-ish clothes, her performance as the evil, crazy, tortured srepmom is one of the best things in this SW version
Had the good fortune to see the wedding dress she wore in Camelot. It had darkened with age, but the bleached pumpkin seeds on the crocheted overdress and sleeves were spectacular.