Rachel Kempson

Rachel, Lady Redgrave (28 May 1910 24 May 2003), known primarily by her birth name Rachel Kempson, was an English actress.[1] She married Sir Michael Redgrave, and was the matriarch of the famous acting dynasty.[2]

Rachel Kempson
Rachel Kempson in 1974
Born(1910-05-28)28 May 1910
Died24 May 2003(2003-05-24) (aged 92)
Alma materRoyal Academy of Dramatic Art
Years active1938–1997
Michael Redgrave
(m. 1935; died 1985)
ChildrenVanessa Redgrave
Corin Redgrave
Lynn Redgrave
FamilyKempson, Redgrave


Kempson trained at RADA before joining the Royal Shakespeare Company. She married Michael Redgrave in 1935 and the couple appeared together many times on stage. She also appeared many times on film and television, most notably in the films The Captive Heart, The Sea Shall Not Have Them (both opposite her husband Michael), The Jokers, Two Gentlemen Sharing, Out of Africa, Uncle Vanya, and the television series Jennie: Lady Randolph Churchill (1974) and The Jewel in the Crown. She made three films with her daughter Lynn (Tom Jones, Georgy Girl and The Virgin Soldiers), and two films with her other daughter Vanessa (The Charge of the Light Brigade - which also starred her son Corin - and Déjà Vu). Her 1986 autobiography, Life Among the Redgraves was published by Dutton. According to Publishers Weekly, "Lady Redgrave writes with candour, wit, restraint and some sadness about her background, beginnings in the theatre in 1932, marriage and motherhood, the trials of moving and the problems of being married to a handsome matinee idol."[3]

Personal life

Kempson was born in Dartmouth, Devon, the daughter of Beatrice Hamilton (née Ashwell) and Eric William Edward Kempson, a headmaster.[4]

Kempson married fellow actor Michael Redgrave in 1935, and became the daughter-in-law of Roy Redgrave and Margaret Scudamore. Kempson was the mother of Vanessa (born 1937), Corin (1939–2010) and Lynn Redgrave (1943–2010) and the grandmother of Joely and Natasha Richardson (1963–2009), Jemma Redgrave, Luke Redgrave, Arden Redgrave, Harvey Redgrave, Carlo Gabriel Nero, Benjamin B. Clark, Kelly B. Clark and Annabel Lucy Clark.

In 1959, her husband was knighted and she formally became Lady Redgrave. However, she refused to use her title professionally. In 2003, four days before what would have been her 93rd birthday, she died of a stroke at the home of her granddaughter, Natasha Richardson, in Millbrook, New York. Richardson died on 18 March 2009 in a skiing accident and was buried near Kempson. Kempson's youngest daughter, Lynn Redgrave was also buried in the same cemetery on 8 May 2010, near Kempson and Richardson.


Year Title Role Notes
1941JeannieMaggie, Jeannie's sister
1946The Captive HeartCelia Mitchell
1948A Woman's VengeanceEmily Maurier
1954The Sea Shall Not Have ThemMrs. Waltby
1963Tom JonesBridget Allworthy
1964The Third SecretMildred Hoving
1965Curse of the FlyMadame Fournier
1966Georgy GirlEllen Leamington
1966Grand PrixMrs. Stoddard
1967The JokersMrs. Tremayne
1968The Charge of the Light BrigadeMrs. Codrington
1969A Touch of LoveSister Henry
1969Two Gentlemen SharingMrs. Ashby-Kydd
1969The Virgin SoldiersMrs. Raskin
1970Jane EyreMrs. Fairfax
1980Little Lord FauntleroyLady Lorradaile
1984CamilleHortenseTV movie
1985Out of AfricaLady Belfield
1988Stealing HeavenPrioress
1991Uncle VanyaPrioress
1997Déjà VuSkelly's Mother(final film role)


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