Lynn Redgrave, Earning Her Place Among Legends The Oscar nominee, who died Sunday after what her family described as "a seven-year journey with breast cancer," was the one member of the Redgrave dynasty whom no one thought of as an actor -- until she'd become a star.
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Lynn Redgrave, Earning Her Place Among Legends

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Lynn Redgrave, Earning Her Place Among Legends

Lynn Redgrave, Earning Her Place Among Legends

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British actress Lynn Redgrave has died of breast cancer. She was 67. Redgrave grew up in an acting family and rose to movie stardom in the 1966 film, "Georgy Girl."

She was familiar to millions, not just for her stage and screen performances but also as a long-time spokesperson for Weight Watchers. Bob Mondello offers this remembrance.

BOB MONDELLO: Lynn Redgrave was the member of an acting dynasty who no one thought of an actress until she'd become a star, where her parents, Sir Michael Redgrave and Rachel Kempson, were stage legends, her sister, Vanessa Redgrave, a show-off early age. Lynn was shy and down to earth.

Still, her family connections got her some breaks: acting classes, a professional stage debut when her sister turned down a part, and a movie role she got the same way. Vanessa had a conflict, so Lynn got to play chubby, bubbly Georgina, fending off James Mason's advances in the swinging London of "Georgy Girl."

(Soundbite of movie, "Georgy Girl")

Mr. JAMES MASON (Actor): (as James) How's life in the kitchen sink, Georgy Porgy?

Ms. LYNN REDGRAVE (Actress): (as Georgy) Oh fine, Jimsy Mimsy.

Mr. MASON: (as James) Good God, girl, what have you got on? A suit of armor, is it?

Ms. REDGRAVE: (as Georgy) That's right. Protect my honor.

Mr. MASON: (as James) Take it off, for God's sake.

Ms. REDGRAVE: (as Georgy) I would rather keep it on, thank you.

MONDELLO: Redgrave had to gain weight to play Georgy and then struggled for decades to take and keep it off. But surfaces were never what she was about.

Her performances felt real, playing a lustful queen hilariously thwarted by a chastity belt in Woody Allen's "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex," bringing warmth and smarts to the world's oldest profession in "The Happy Hooker." In 1998, she nearly disappeared inside her Oscar-nominated role as a gay moviemaker's German housekeeper in "Gods and Monsters."

(Soundbite of movie, "Gods and Monsters")

Ms. REDGRAVE: (as Hanna) There is much good in him but he will suffer the fires of hell. It's very sad.

Mr. BRENDAN FRASER (Actor): (As Clayton Boone) You sure of that?

Ms. REDGRAVE: (As Hanna) That's what the priests tell me. His sins of the flesh will keep him from heaven.

Mr. FRASER: (As Clayton) Well, hell, everybody's got those.

Ms. REDGRAVE: (As Hanna) No, his is the worse, the undespicable. That is why I must go to hell. I do not think it's fair but God's laws is not for us to judge.

MONDELLO: Lynn Redgrave's private life - never all that private, given her celebrated family - was reflected in her one-woman stage show, "Shakespeare for My Father." Sir Michael Redgrave's distance had stung her, but as she told NPR in 1993, she used the sting to deepen her understanding of Shakespeare.

Ms. REDGRAVE: I had these dreadfully dark thoughts about my dad while I was learning the part of Portia, because he hadn't yet given me his approval about my being an actor. And I thought he thought it was a really bad idea, but he hadn't said so, nor had he said it was a good one. So, while I was having these dark thoughts, I learned that the quality of mercy is not strained, it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath. It is...

MONDELLO: That easy flow from chatting to Elizabethan verse is typical of Lynn Redgrave, who could seemingly make anything natural. She had recently seen more than her share of tragedy - the deaths of her brother, Corin, and her niece, actress Natasha Richardson, and, of course, her own cancer.

She told Michele Norris in 2005 her craft kept her going.

Ms. REDGRAVE: I was back onstage four weeks after my mastectomy, and that was absolute Dr. Theater for me.

NORRIS: Dr. Theater.

Ms. REDGRAVE: We - all actors look on theater, and work particularly, as Dr. Theater, because it is mind over matter once you're onstage. You know, you could limp to the edge of the stage with an injury to your leg, the minute you're out there, you're not limping. It was psychologically, emotionally and also financially, and health insurance-wise was the best thing I could possibly have done.

MONDELLO: Lynn Redgrave: ever practical, natural, down to earth.

I'm Bob Mondello.

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