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The Redgraves: A Family Epic Hardcover – October 2, 2012

3.7 out of 5 stars 53 customer reviews

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A Look Inside The Redgraves

Sire Michael Redgrave
Sir Michael Redgrave: (British Film Institute, Film Stills Archive)
Venessa Redgrave
Vanessa Redgrave in Blow-Up, 1966 (The Danish Film Institute)
Lynn redgrave and Geoffrey Rush
Lynn Redgrave and Geoffrey Rush in Shine, 1996 (British Film Institute, Film Stills Archive)


"Chronicling the Redgrave family from 1894 to the present, this book is as much a tribute to the crafting of family history as it is to the dynastic acting family. From the questionable beginnings of Sir Michael Redgrave to the recent, tragic death of his granddaughter, Natasha Richardson, Spoto (Possessed: The Life of Joan Crawford) takes readers up close and personal with the Redgraves in this detailed history. Readers interested in the Redgraves and their work on screen and stage will also learn about the paths they took to become great actors. Spoto's more than 30 years of research successfully come to fruition in this title, which is much like his 1983 book, The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock. Spoto allows readers to become completely immersed in the lives, across generations, of this remarkable family. Highly recommended for readers interested in acting, the Redgraves, or multigenerational family histories." — Library Journal

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Archetype; First Edition edition (October 2, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307720144
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307720146
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,064,340 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Kevin Killian HALL OF FAME on March 10, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book basically because of pressure from Amazon, or maybe pressure isn't the mot juste, but you know when it tells you that "People who Bought this Book also Bought," and it shows you four photos of other book jackets? Well, this one had pictures of the recent biographies of Henry Fonda, Dana Andrews, and Elizabeth Montgomery from Bewitched and since I owned all of them, I figure, why not join the other "people" in question and get this book too. The funny thing is that, despite all expectations, this book was actually the best, by far, of the four biographies.

I have to agree with the other reviewer who praised Spoto for his restraint here. Yes, Rachel Kempson married Michael Redgrave even after he told her upfront he would always be gay and would always be looking for outside affairs with men. And yes, Vanessa went and did the same thing with her first husband Tony Richardson, who wound up tragically dying of AIDS long after Vanessa had gone off him. Previous reviewer praised Spoto's refusal to speculate on the connection between these two marriages but of course it is exactly the heart of the family narrative that we are given, like a hinge. It all seems to be about, well, did Vanessa know about her dad, or know about Tony? Spoto can't say. That's all right. It is a puzzling coincidence perhaps, and makes me look closer into the private lives of Liam Neeson and whoever it is that Joely married because three times is the charm. Be that as it may, one wishes that Rachel and Michael, who are so big in this story, were better represented in the movies than they appear to be.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Donald Spoto has a reputation for controversial biographies, usually revealing some sort of fact or alleged fact that captures both readers and critics. With this one, however, he comes up short. It lacks the revelation or revelations that would distinguish it from other biographies written about the family, really telling us little that we did not already know about this talented and controversial family. Perhaps its because his bio covers the entire family and Vanessa is still alive and kicking. Perhaps she's litigious. Bt all this aside, where's the depth the subject demands. This reads like a Redgraves for Dummies book and parrots information found easily elsewhere. A biographer should to more than simply recap their plays and movies. Michael Redgrave's bisexuality was well known to movie and theater fans long before Spoto attempts to make something out of it. At least provide us with some new information. The same with Vanessa's leftism. There's also precious little about Lynn; I would have liked to know more - much more - about her early career and breaking into the family business. But we get nothing, nil, nada. The book itself check in at only a scant 384 pages. His book on Olivier weighed in at over 500 pages, as did his book on Hitchcock. The bio of Marilyn Monroe went over 700 pages. True, they were bigger stars than any of the Redgraves, but we're talking about an entire family here. 384 pages is all you can offer us? also, where are the photos? The entire books reads if it was written simply to fulfill a contract or to be a compleatist. Most disappointing.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Vanessa Redgrave in a response to interviewers about the Redgrave dynasty answered "But we are not a dynasty, we are a family." Redgrave is absolutely correct in her description of the Redgraves. If one message comes through clearly in this book it is that despite the very unconventional circumstances of Michael Redgrave and Rachel Kempson's marriage -- they were always a family prepared to help one another, enjoy one another's success and stand by one another when things went terribly wrong.
I enjoyed this book for many reasons -- first, I knew little about the senior Redgraves other than that they were the famous parents of three famous children. This book fills in their story by focusing on Michael Redgrave's life and career and as his life progresses and he marries Rachel Kempson, her career is brought into the story and the portrait of their unusual marriage emerges. Michael Redgrave ultimately told his adult son Corin that he was bisexual and before he married Rachel Kempson, he told her that he had sexual relationships with men. Yet -- she loved him and went into the marriage with eyes open and with the thought she could change him. She readily admits that this was due to her own naivete. Nonetheless she stayed in the marriage and Spoto is honest enough to state some reasons why she would have done so beyond the fact of loving Redgrave and having borne his children. Spoto certainly does not shy away from making it quite clear that Redgrave all his life had long- and short-term lovers and many times those lovers lived with the family as Michael's assistant or lived nearby with all expenses paid by Michael. He also details the fact that the Redgraves were often in dire financial straits due to an extravagant lifestyle plus the expenses Michael incurred supporting his lovers.
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