THE REDGRAVES: A Family Epic. By Donald Spoto. Crown/Random House. 361 pages. $26.
Although titled “The Redgraves,” it is Sir Michael Redgrave who dominates the book. Lesser-known in the U.S., he is theater royalty in England, head of a family of “remarkable theatrical lineage” and a dynasty that “lived their individual and collective lives in epic dimensions.”
Donald Spoto has captured an intimate portrait of an often elusive man. Redgrave was a complex human being: bisexual, living life according to his rules, yet able to sustain an enduring marriage to actress Rachel Kempson. An actor of enormous stature even among his contemporaries — Olivier, Gielgud and others — his first love was the stage and Shakespeare. He made films, he confessed, “because of the money.”
His three children, Vanessa, Lynn and Corin, all went into the theater, with Vanessa becoming the most famous.
Spoto admits his book is not an authorized biography. However, throughout the years he has been given “endorsements” and “encouragement” from Redgrave family members.
Writing many best-selling biographies of showbiz luminaries gave him personal access to many of those who knew the Redgraves, and he gives us a very human story of a man and his family, the fame, the heartbreak and tragedy.
Reviewer Frances Monaco is a writer based in Charleston.