Why did it take so long for Vanessa Redgrave to become a lady? Maybe it’s his policy
Jhe biggest surprise in the recent New Year’s Honors list was that Vanessa Redgrave became a lady. She deserved it more than well, of course. She was one of Britain’s finest, most moving, intelligent and nuanced actresses for over 60 years. The surprise was that she should suddenly be recognized at the age of 84, when contemporaries such as Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Helen Mirren, Eileen Atkins and Joan Plowright received the award years ago, and all at much younger ages. Indeed, Kristin Scott Thomas became a lady at the age of 54.
So why did it take so long for Vanessa Redgrave? After all, more than 60 years have passed since her performance as Rosalind in As you like it fascinated audience. It is also more than four decades since David Thomson in A biographical dictionary of cinema described her as “the best actress alive”.
Part of the answer, I would say, is that she was deliberately ignored for decades because of her politics. In the 1960s and 1970s, Redgrave was a member of the Revolutionary Workers’ Party, the far-left organization, and a publicly vocal member at that, a constant presence in protests and other displays of activism. Politics was meat and drink for Redgrave, literally at times, as she confessed to drinking when Ted Heath imposed pay controls in the early seventies. His very first performance in an amateur show at the age of six was to raise funds to send ships to help in the fight against Nazi Germany.