June 5, 1928– Academy Award winning film director, screenwriter & producer Tony Richardson was brimming with talent & led a life both complex & tumultuous. Richardson had romantic relationships with many famous women including Vanessa Redgrave & Jeanne Moreau, & with plenty of men like Alan Bates, Laurence Harvey & Rudolf Nureyev. His films were nearly as complicated as his personal life. But, his films are inspiring, plus his direction often brought Oscars & other awards to his actors.
In 1962, Richardson married Vanessa Redgrave, whose famous family makes up one of the greatest acting dynasties of all time. The Redgraves were plenty famous when Richardson became a family member: Vanessa, of course; Lynn who in the early 1960s was just starting out in the biz but would go on to earn Oscar & Tony nominations, Corin, an actor & activist; the matriarch Rachel Kempson, a stage & screen actor whose credits include Out Of Africa (1985); & Sir Michael, the Oscar nominated patriarch, one of the most important British stars of stage & screen in the 20th century, & who like his son-in-law, enjoyed having sex with men. That’s right, in the great show biz tradition of Judy Garland & her famous daughter Liza, Vanessa Redgrave & her mother both married guys who dug other guys.
Richardson’s was only married to Redgrave for 5 years, but they had 2 famous children: Natasha Richardson, who won a 1998 Tony Award for the Broadway revival of Cabaret & starred in films like The Handmaid’s Tale (1995) & Nell (1994), & Joely Richardson, whose TV credits include Nip/Tuck & The Tudors. Richardson seems to always be associated with the famous Redgrave acting clan.
Richardson directed Michael Redgrave in The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner (1962). His masterpiece is Tom Jones (1963), starring Albert Finney, & featuring sister-in-law Lynn & mother-in-law Rachel. The film still stands up today & Richardson won Academy Awards for Best Picture & Best Direction. For its time it is a really randy romp.
Richardson & Redgrave were divorced by the time he made The Charge Of The Light Brigade (1968), but he still used his ex in the film & he featured Natasha, just 4 years old, along with little Joely, a year younger. Joely also had a role in my favorite Richardson flick The Hotel New Hampshire (1984), alongside Jodie Foster & Rob Lowe written & directed by her father, & just as sexy a film as his earlier hit Tom Jones.
Richardson’s astounding filmography includes several movies with gay themes & associations: Look Back In Anger (1959), The Entertainer (1960), A Taste Of Honey (1961), The Loved One (1965), A Delicate Balance (1973), Joseph Andrews (1977).
He directed Vanessa Redgrave one more time, as a Jewish prisoner at Auschwitz who survives by playing in the camp orchestra in the harrowing & heartbreaking Playing For Time (1982).
Richardson’s final film was Blue Sky (1990). No Redgraves were in that one, but Jessica Lange won the Academy Award for Best Actress.
Richardson came out of the closet as bisexual when he was diagnosed with HIV in 1990. He was taken by the plague within a year.
After her father’s death Natasha Richardson worked tirelessly for AIDS research, serving on the board of amfAR & God’s Love We Deliver, & organizing the amfAR‘s hugely successful auction of Oscar dresses each year after the award ceremony. She died tragically & shockingly from a head injury sustained in a ski accident in spring 2009. She was survived by her husband Liam Neeson, who she met while appearing together on Broadway in Eugene O’Neill’s Anna Christie in 1994. The evening of her funeral the lights on Broadway were dimmed in her honor.