The Passing of a Redgrave

Natasha RichardsonOne of the big shocks of a sudden untimely death is that it focuses attention on how fragile life is and perhaps taken for granted, especially  when it happens to public figures who are well liked. Such was the case for actress Natasha Richardson (1963-2009), a life cut short from a skiing accident on march 18th at the age of 45. A respected thespian, eldest daughter of Vanessa Redgrave, one of the fabled Redgrave’s, the foremost British theatrical family that spans five generations of solid remarkable performances on stage and screen.

Although steeped in the theater by training and choice, one of Ms Richardson’s memorable performances was in The Parent Trap, a charming 1998 Disney remake of the popular 1961 film that starred Haley Mills and was based on the German novel, Das Doppelte Lottchen (Lottie And Lisa) written by Erich Kastner.

the parent trapIt’s difficult to duplicate a popular film successfully, let alone a Disney Classic, but in this rare case the studio succeeded in adding new elements to the story directed by Nancy Meyers starring Lindsay Lohan, Dennis Quaid and Ms Richardson who created a genuine emotional appeal as the mother of twin “gerls,” in a feel good romantic comedy.

Although it was not the best showcase for her talent as was Cabaret, the Broadway musical revival that won her a well earned best actress Tony for a musical performance also in 1998, the chemistry between Quaid and Richardson, a divorced couple with separated twins who meet at summer camp and switch places in an attempt to get their parents together again left its impression.

RedgravesPart of the remarkable life she led was a sixteen year marriage to Liam Neeson, two children and a career that included numerous roles that  challenged expectations of what she was capable of doing, while remaining below the radar of the paparazzi. No small feat since her mother  Vanessa was well known for her outspoken political activism, passionately displayed in her Oscar winning role in 1977’s Julia co-starring Jane Fonda. Her father, Tony Richardson also went on to win an Oscar for direction for Tom Jones in 1963.

Despite her pedigree, Ms Richardson found a way to become an accomplished actress without the expectations children of famous people are burdened with, or of a family so prominent on stage, screen and in the public eye. Often compared to her mother in looks and intensity, she had a nuanced depth all her own. A tragic loss to Broadway, Hollywood, her family and the public.

For more on the career of Natasha Richardson see IMbd data base.