The full story of Glenda Jackson’s astonishing journey from Boots shop assistant to double-Oscar-winning actress with a triumphant stage career, and her re-invention of herself as a politician.
In 1964 she took her place in the forefront of British stage actresses playing the insane, sexually tormented Charlotte Corday in Peter Brook’s The Marat/Sade. She went on to portray disturbed and sexually aggressive women for Ken Russell, and gained a reputation for taking her clothes off at the slightest provocation – an image deeply at odds with her puritanical private life.
With Oscars for Women in Love and A Touch of Class, her biggest box-office hit, Glenda Jackson established herself as the darling of the film industry – she is reputedly one of Britain’s top 200 richest women. Subsequently she worked in films of intermittent quality, and became increasingly difficult to work with.
By the 1980s she worked almost exclusively on stage, reinforcing her reputation as a supremely intelligent and serious actress. But she became increasingly unhappy with the ephemeral nature of the theatre and became more and more involved in left-wing politics, appearing for Neil Kinnock in the 1987 campaign.
The marriage of Glenda Jackson and Hampstead and Highgate Labour Party may seem to be made in heaven, but it took precision engineering to convince many that she was more than a celebrity actress. She scraped through, and has now risen to become Junior Minister for Transport under Tony Blair.
As actress or MP, Glenda Jackson continues to intrigue the public, and in her appearances there shines through a contradictory, sultry and evasive woman.
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Glenda Jackson had a distinguished career in the avant-garde theatre of the 60s--she played Charlotte Corday in Peter Brook's Marat/Sade--won two Oscars, not necessarily for her best films, and was much admired both as television's Queen Elizabeth and as one of the most perfect guest stars Morecambe and Wise ever had.
Chris Bryant's account of her acting life in Glenda Jackson is comprehensive and useful, giving some real sense of why she was so much admired, but also of how the demands she put on herself in her finest roles were ones which might strain anyone's commitment to their art.
This is also, after all, a campaign biography; Bryant was part of her team in the 1992 general election, and it seems likely that Jackson will be standing as the approved Labour candidate in the election for London's Mayor. He stresses the discontent with Labour infighting that Jackson felt during the Thatcher era and uses this to chart her move from feminist firebrand to the woman Ken Livingstone described as "The most right-wing minister the Labour Party has ever had." She has been a hard-working spokesperson on transport policy and a good constituency MP: "When I became an MP some people expected me to fall flat on my face because I was a woman arriving from a profession thought to be occupied by idiots. Either that, or they thought I would be a prima donna. Why anyone should have thought that, I'm in no position to know, as one of the things that was knocked out of me early on in acting was my ego." --Roz KaveneyReview:
‘I got happy every morning when I saw her. She always looked ready for trouble’
‘If she’d gone into politics, she’d have become Prime Minister, if she’d gone into crime she’d have been Jack the Ripper’
Roy Hodges (ex-husband)
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