Page last updated at 14:27 GMT, Tuesday, 6 April 2010 15:27 UK

Obituary: Corin Redgrave

Corin Redgrave
Corin Redgrave: Late-flowering leading man and left-wing activist

With his imposing physique and sonorous voice, the actor Corin Redgrave often played figures of authority, with views which were a far cry from his own radical socialist beliefs.

Born in 1939, Corin Redgrave was the scion of perhaps Britain's greatest acting dynasty, which included his parents Sir Michael Redgrave and Rachel Kempson, sisters Vanessa and Lynn, as well as daughter Jemma Redgrave and nieces Joely and Natasha Richardson, who died last year.

Educated at Westminster public school and Cambridge, where he took a First in English, he bloomed later than Vanessa, who soon became an international star, yet went on to be regarded as one of the country's greatest character actors.

Redgrave's first marriage to former model Deirdre Hamilton-Hill - who died of cancer in 1997 - led to the births of Jemma, and a son Luke.

He later married actress Kika Markham and had two more sons, Harvey and Arden.

Redgrave's first stage appearance was at the Royal Court in 1961 as Lysander in A Midsummer Night's Dream, produced by Tony Richardson, who would later marry Vanessa.

Immediately afterwards he played the Pilot Officer in John Dexter's production of Wesker's Chips with Everything in the West End and on Broadway.

In 1972, Corin Redgrave joined the Royal Shakespeare Company, taking the role of Octavius in Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra, and Antipholus of Ephesus in The Comedy of Errors.

Jemma Redgrave
Corin's daughter, Jemma, followed him into the acting profession

Among a vast number of stage credits was Alan Ayckbourn's comic trilogy The Norman Conquests, in which he starred as the bed-hopping Norman.

But it was later in his career when Redgrave reached his prime, playing expansive, often domineering, older characters.

In 1998 he won a Laurence Olivier award for his performance as Boss Whalen in the Tennessee Williams play Not About Nightingales, a previously lost work rediscovered and produced by him and his sister Vanessa.

Political party

And he excelled as the emotionally-blinkered and slightly eccentric Gaev in Trevor Nunn's 2000 production of Chekov's The Cherry Orchard at the National.

After rave reviews for his childlike Lear with the RSC, seen by many critics as the pinnacle of his career, Corin Redgrave collected the prestigious Pragnell Shakespeare Birthday Award for services to the Bard.

At the time he said: "When I saw the list of previous award winners, I was at a loss to think how I could have found myself in their company.

"Nevertheless, it's a great privilege to be recognised for something so dear to my heart."

In 1995, he published a biography of his troubled father, called Michael Redgrave: My Father.

It was praised for its honesty about his family life and his father's bisexuality.

Redgrave was also a celebrated playwright, penning Roy and Daisy and Fool for the Rest of his Life, both for BBC Radio.

In 1993, Redgrave and sister Vanessa founded the Moving Theatre company, an outlet for both their acting and directing.

But the siblings were as famous for their political activism.

For many years they were members of the Trotskyite Workers' Revolutionary Party, whose fellow travellers included Dame Helen Mirren, the Big Issue's John Bird and the actor and game-show host, Matthew Kelly.

Vanessa and Corin Redgrave
Socialist siblings: Vanessa and Corin Redgrave

More recently, the pair formed the Peace and Progress Party, which calls for the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq, the cancellation of the developing world's debt and the repeal of the UK's current asylum legislation.

They also supported Akhmed Zakayev, the Chechen separatist politician charged in Russia on 13 counts including murder and false imprisonment, in his successful bid for political asylum in Britain.

And Redgrave strongly suspected that his activism impeded his early progress as an actor, much as the BBC once blacklisted his father, Michael Redgrave, for his rumoured links with communism.

Although primarily a theatre actor, Corin Redgrave also enjoyed success on television and in films, featuring in Richard Attenborough's big-screen musical satire, Oh! What a Lovely War, Four Weddings and a Funeral and, more recently the film adaptation of Robert Harris's best-selling novel, Enigma.

In 2005, he suffered a heart attack while addressing a meeting in Essex about travellers' rights. He had also been ill with cancer.

Actor Corin Redgrave dies aged 70
06 Apr 10 |  Entertainment

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