Born to British theater royalty Michael Redgrave and Rachel Kempson, Vanessa Redgrave has had a long and successful career, both on stage and on screen. Her birth—80 years ago, on January 30, 1937—was even announced by Laurence Olivier during the curtain call of Hamlet; the actor added, "tonight a great actress is born."
Redgrave has more than acquitted herself with numerous awards and a devoted fan base. Interestingly enough, Redgrave, with her tall, slender frame, originally wanted to be a dancer. But she attended the Central School of Speech and Drama and made her West End debut in 1958.
For this Throwback Thursday, here's a partial list of her extensive filmography.
In Blowup, Redgrave plays a young woman trying to seduce a dissipated photographer's film and the possibly damaging material on it from David Hemmings. Michelangelo Antonioni directed this breakout 1966 film.
Camelot proved the young Redgrave could not only hold her own against the likes of Richard Harris, but sing and dance as well.
Redgrave won an Oscar for Julia, rumored to be based on the life of Lillian Hellman, who was born to great wealth and traveled the world advocating for left-wing causes. This was one of the few film roles Redgrave took during the 1970s, when she focused more on her political work.
Never one to shy away from controversy, Redgrave took the part of real-life Holocaust survivor Fania Fenelon over Fenelon's objections in CBS' miniseries Playing for Time.
In Orpheus Descending, Redgrave plays the lovelorn wife of a vicious, dying man. When a sexy stranger comes to town, the stage is set for tragedy in this adaptation of a play by Tennessee Williams.
Redgrave takes the title role in Mrs. Dalloway, based on a novel by Virginia Woolf. In this film, Clarissa Dalloway prepares for a party and ends up on a detour into her past.
One of Redgrave's most current roles (she may never retire) is as Mature Jenny Lee, the author of Call the Midwife, a trilogy of books turned into an excellent series by the BBC.
If you're wondering what she herself thinks about all this, Redgrave has also written an autobiography: Vanessa Redgrave. While it came out in 1994, it still offers insight into this fascinating, complex woman.