Thursday, March 19, 2009

Natasha Richardson In Memoriam

Actress Natasha Richardson died yesterday in Lenox Hill Hospial in New York City. On Monday she had experienced a fall during a skiing lesson at the Mont Tremblant Resort in Quebec, Canada. Initially the injury to her head was not considered serious, although an hour later she complained of a headache and was taken to Centre Hospitalier Laurentien in Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, Quebec. She was tranferred to Hopital du-Sacre-Coeur de Montreal in critical condition then to Lenox Hill in New York City.

Natasha Jane Richardson was born 11 May, 1963 in London. She was the daughter of director Tony Richardson and actress Vanessa Redgrave. Here grandfather was the legendary actor Sir Michael Redgrave, himself a son of stage and silent actor Roy Redgrave. As a member of acting royalty, she made her film debut while very young, in an uncredited role in the movie The Charge of the Light Brigade, directed by her father. She attended the Lyeée Francais Charles de Gaulle in South Kensington and St Paul's Girls' School in Hammersmith. She trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama, which both her mother Vanessa Redgrave and her aunt Lynn Redgrave had attended.

Natasha Richardson appeared in an uncredited role in La Polizia incrimina la legge assolve in 1973. Her first significant role on screen was in Every Picture Tells a Story in 1983. She started his career on stage at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds. She made her first appearance on the West End in a revival of Anton Chekov's The Seagull in 1985, for which she won the London drama critics’ award for most promising newcomer. In London she would appear in the stage adaptation of High Society (1987), Anna Christie (1992), and The Lady from the Sea. She made her debut on Broadway when Anna Christie made the trip across the Pond in 1993. On Broadway she went on to appear in Cabaret (1998), Closer (1999), and A Streetcar Named Desire. Richardson won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for Anna Christie and the Tony Award for Best Actress in Musical for Cabaret.

Richardson appeared only a few times on television. Her debut on the small screen was in a minor role in the 1984 miniseries Ellis Island. She went onto appear in episodes of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Worlds Beyond, and Tales from the Crypt. She also appeared in the telefilms Ghosts, Suddenly Last Summer, Hostages, Zelda, Haven, and The Mastersons of Manhattan.

Natasha Richardson also had a notable film career. Her first major film role was the lead, writer Mary Shelley, in Ken Russell's film Gothic in 1986. Richardson went onto appear in the films Patty Hearst (playing the title character), Fat Man and Little Boy, The Handmaid's Tale, Nell, and Evening. She starred with her aunt Lynn Redgrave in The White Countess. She won the British Independent Film Award for her role in Asylum.

I must confess that I am deeply saddened by the passing of Natasha Richardson. Much of this is because I have always had a bit of a crush on her. At the same time, I must admit that her death reminds me of her own mortality--Natasha Richardson was only a month and half younger than me. But most of all I am saddened because she has left behind a loving husband, actor Liam Neeson, and two young sons. I know that they must be in sorrow that the death of only one so young can bring about.

Natasha Richardson was not only a loving wife and mother, however, but one of the brightest stars of her generation. In her first starring role she was very convincing as Mary Shelley. And she did a great job playing Patty Hearst--it was hard to believe that she was a British actress playing an American heiress. She played alongside such actors as Robert Duvall, Faye Dunaway, Ralph Fiennes, Gabriel Byrne, and Kenneth Branagh, and matched all of them in terms of sheer talent. In dying so young, her death effectively ended a career that was much brighter than many of her contemporaries.

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