Tony Richardson

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Tony Richardson
Tony richardson.jpg
Cecil Antonio Richardson

(1928-06-05)5 June 1928
Died14 November 1991(1991-11-14) (aged 63)
  • Director
  • producer
  • writer
Years active1952–1991
(m. 1962;div. 1967)
Children3, including Natasha and Joely Richardson
Relatives Daisy Bevan (granddaughter)

Cecil Antonio "Tony" Richardson (5 June 1928 – 14 November 1991) was an English theatre and film director and producer whose career spanned five decades. In 1964 he won the Academy Award for Best Director for the film Tom Jones .


Early life

Richardson was born in Shipley, West Riding of Yorkshire in 1928, the son of Elsie Evans (Campion) and Clarence Albert Richardson, a chemist. [1] He was Head Boy at Ashville College, Harrogate and attended Wadham College, Oxford. His Oxford contemporaries included Rupert Murdoch, Margaret Thatcher, Kenneth Tynan, Lindsay Anderson and Gavin Lambert. He had the unprecedented distinction of being the President of both the Oxford University Dramatic Society and the Experimental Theatre Club (the ETC), in addition to being the theatre critic for the university magazine Isis . [2] Those he cast in his student productions included Shirley Williams (as Cordelia), John Schlesinger, Nigel Davenport and Robert Robinson. [3]


Richardson's house from 1928 to 1948, 28 Bingley Road, Saltaire, Shipley Tony Richardson's house.jpg
Richardson's house from 1928 to 1948, 28 Bingley Road, Saltaire, Shipley

In 1955, in his directing debut, [4] Richardson produced Jean Giraudoux's The Apollo of Bellac for television with Denholm Elliott and Natasha Parry in the main roles. [5] Around the same time he began to be active in Britain's Free Cinema movement, co-directing the non-fiction short Momma Don't Allow (also 1955) with Karel Reisz.

Part of the British "New Wave" of directors, he was involved in the formation of the English Stage Company, along with his close friend George Goetschius and George Devine. He directed John Osborne's play Look Back in Anger at the Royal Court Theatre, and in the same period he directed Shakespeare in Stratford-upon-Avon. Then in 1957 he directed Laurence Olivier as Archie Rice in Osborne's next play The Entertainer , again for the Royal Court.

In 1959, Richardson co-founded Woodfall Film Productions with John Osborne and producer Harry Saltzman, and, as Woodfall's debut, directed the film version of Look Back in Anger (1959), his first feature film.

BFI plaque commemorating Richardson's contribution to cinema Richardson plaque.jpg
BFI plaque commemorating Richardson's contribution to cinema

Many of Richardson's films, such as A Taste of Honey and The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner , were part of the acclaimed kitchen sink realism movement popular in Britain at the time, and several of his films continue to be held as cornerstones of the movement. In 1964 Richardson received two Academy Awards (Best Director and Best Picture) for Tom Jones (1963) based on the novel by Henry Fielding. His next film was The Loved One (1965), during which he worked with established stars including John Gielgud, Rod Steiger and Robert Morse working in Hollywood both on location and on the sound stage. In his autobiography, [6] he confesses that he did not share the general admiration of Haskell Wexler, who worked on The Loved One as both director of photography and a producer.

Among stars that Richardson directed were: Jeanne Moreau, Orson Welles, Rob Lowe, Milton Berle, Trevor Howard, David Hemmings, Nicol Williamson, Tom Courtenay, Lynn Redgrave, Marianne Faithfull, Richard Burton, [7] Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Mick Jagger, Katharine Hepburn, Seth Green, Tommy Lee Jones and Judi Dench. His musical composers included Antoine Duhamel, John Addison and Shel Silverstein. His screenwriters were Jean Genet, Christopher Isherwood, Terry Southern, Marguerite Duras, Edward Bond (adapting Vladimir Nabokov) and Edward Albee. Richardson and Osborne eventually fell out [8] during production of the film Charge of the Light Brigade (1968). The basic issue was Osborne's unwillingness to go through the rewrite process, more arduous in film than it is in the theatre. Richardson himself had a different version. In his autobiography (p. 195) he writes that Osborne was angry at being replaced, in a small rôle, by Laurence Harvey to whom the producers had obligations. Osborne took literary revenge by creating a fictionalised and pseudonymous Richardson – a domineering and arrogant character whom everyone hated – in his play The Hotel in Amsterdam.

Richardson's work was stylistically varied. Mademoiselle (1966) was shot noir-style on location in rural France with a static camera, monochrome film stock and no music. The Charge of the Light Brigade (1968) was part epic and part animated feature. Ned Kelly (1970) was what might be called an Aussie-western. Laughter in the Dark (1969) and A Delicate Balance (1973) were psycho-dramas. Joseph Andrews (1977), based on another novel by Henry Fielding, was a return to the mood of Tom Jones.

In 1970, Richardson was set to direct a film about Vaslav Nijinsky with a script by Edward Albee. It was to have starred Rudolf Nureyev as Nijinsky, Claude Jade as Romola and Paul Scofield as Diaghilev, but producer Harry Saltzman cancelled the project during pre-production.

In 1974, he travelled to Los Angeles to work on a script (never produced) with Sam Shepard, and took up residence there. [9] Later that year he began work on Mahogany (1975), starring Diana Ross, but was fired by Motown head Berry Gordy shortly after production began, owing to creative differences.

He wrote and directed the comedy-drama The Hotel New Hampshire (1984) based on John Irving's novel of the same name and starring Jodie Foster, Beau Bridges and Rob Lowe. Although it was a box-office failure, the film received a positive critical reception.

Richardson made four more major films before his death. His last, Blue Sky (1994), was not released for nearly three years after he died. Jessica Lange won a Best Actress Oscar for her performance.

In 1966, Richardson financed the escape from Wormwood Scrubs prison of the spy and double agent George Blake. [10] [11]

Personal life

Richardson was married to English actress Vanessa Redgrave from 1962 to 1967. The couple had two daughters, Natasha (1963–2009) and Joely Richardson (born 1965), before he left Redgrave for French actress and singer Jeanne Moreau. In 1972, he also had a relationship with Grizelda Grimond, who was a secretary for Richardson's former business partner Oscar Lewenstein, and daughter of British politician Jo Grimond. Grizelda Grimond gave birth to his daughter, Katharine Grimond, on 8 January 1973. [12]


Richardson was bisexual, but never acknowledged it publicly until after he contracted HIV. He died of complications from AIDS in 1991.

Filmography (as director)


sources: Adler; Little & McLaughlin; Richardson

1954 The Changeling Wyndham's London1 perf.
1955 The Country Wife Theatre Royal Stratford East London3 weeks
1955 Mr Kettle & Mrs Moon [13] Duchess London
1956The Mulberry Bush [14] Royal Court London
1956 The Crucible [14] Royal CourtLondon
1956 Look Back in Anger Royal CourtLondon151 perf.
1956Cards of IdentityRoyal CourtLondon
1957 Look Back in Anger John Golden, Lyceum New York~1 year
1957 Look Back in Anger Moscow
1957 The Member of the Wedding Royal CourtLondon
1957 The Entertainer Royal CourtLondon4 weeks
1957 The Apollo of Bellac Royal CourtLondon
1957 The Chairs Royal CourtLondon
1957 The Entertainer Palace London6 months
1957The Making of MooRoyal CourtLondon
1957 Requiem for a Nun Royal CourtLondon
1958 The Entertainer Royale New York
1958 The Chairs & The Lesson PhoenixNew York17 perf.
1958Flesh to a TigerRoyal CourtLondon
1958 Pericles Shakespeare Memorial Theatre Stratford-on-Avon
1959 Othello [15] Shakespeare Memorial TheatreStratford-on-Avon
1959 Orpheus Descending Royal CourtLondon
1959 Look After Lulu! Royal CourtLondon45 perf.
1959 Look After Lulu! New London5 months
1960 A Taste of Honey Los Angeles
1960 A Taste of Honey Booth, Lyceum New York376 perf.
1961 The Changeling Royal CourtLondon
1961 Luther Royal Court [16] London28 perf.
1961 Luther Phoenix London239 perf.
1962 A Midsummer Night's Dream Royal CourtLondon29 perf.
1962 Semi-Detached Saville London
1963Natural AffectionBoothNew York31 perf.
1963 Luther Lunt-Fontanne, St. James New York6 months
1963 Semi-Detached Music Box New York12 perf.
1963 Arturo Ui Lunt-FontanneNew York8 perf.
1964 The Milk Train... [17] Brooks Atkinson New York5 perf.
1964 The Seagull Queen's Theatre London
1964 St Joan of the Stockyards Queen's Theatre London3 weeks
1969 Hamlet Roundhouse London10 weeks
1969 Hamlet Lunt-FontanneNew York [18] 52 perf.
1972 The Threepenny Opera Prince of Wales London
1972 I, Claudius Queen's Theatre London
1973 Anthony and Cleopatra Bankside Globe PlayhouseLondon
1976 The Lady from the Sea Circle in the Square Theatre New York
1979 As You Like It Center TheatreLong Beach
1983Toyer Kennedy Center Washington
1984DreamhouseL.A. Stage Co.Hollywood


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  1. Richardson, pp 1–5
  2. Richardson, p.45
  3. Adler, p.26
  4. David Parkinson, 'Richardson, Cecil Antonio [Tony] (1928–1991)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography , Oxford University Press, 2004
  5. "Giraudoux Play on Television 'The Apollo of Bellac'", The Times , 13 August 1955
  6. Richardson, p. 163
  7. Until dismissed by Richardson for repeatedly failing to show up on set as contracted (Richardson, pp. 212–3)
  8. Heilpern, pp.346–51
  9. Richardson, p. 242.
  10. "John Quine". The Daily Telegraph . London. 12 June 2013. Retrieved 8 February 2019.
  11. "Cold War 'superspy' George Blake, who escaped from a UK jail and became a Russian hero, dies at 98". 26 December 2020. Retrieved 28 December 2020. On the night of October 25, 1966, the trio (financed by Oscar-winning movie director Tony Richardson)
  12. Richardson, p.233
  13. Richardson was fired by the author, J. B. Priestley, who took over directing himself
  14. 1 2 As Asst. to George Devine
  15. Starring Paul Robeson
  16. Also Nottingham, Paris, Amsterdam, Edinburgh Festival
  17. Starring Tallulah Bankhead
  18. Also toured