Glenda Jackson
in Conversation

From the Oscar®-winning successes of Women in Love (1969) and A Touch of Class (1973) to the Emmy-winning TV role Elizabeth R (1971), Glenda Jackson’s talent and intensity have burned through big and small screen alike. She served in parliament as a Labour MP from 1992 to 2015 and, perhaps uniquely in the annals of thespian history, made a triumphant return to stage acting at the age of 82, winning a Tony Award and an Evening Standard award. In 2019 Jackson earned a BAFTA upon her return to TV after 25 years, for her role in Elizabeth Is Missing.

She talks to BBC Radio 4’s John Wilson.

The screen’s loss was politics’ gain when dominant actress Glenda Jackson successfully stood as Labour MP for Hampstead in 1992, giving herself whole-heartedly to her political responsibilities.

A bricklayer’s daughter, early determined on an acting career, she trained at RADA and first appeared on stage in 1957, her big chance coming in 1964 when Peter Brook cast her as assassin Charlotte Corday in his Theatre of Cruelty production Marat/Sade, transferred to the screen in 1966. She would continue to appear on the stage, notably, for the RSC, as Ophelia in Peter Hall’s Hamlet (1965), as Hedda Gabler (1975), filmed as Hedda (d. Trevor Nunn) and with Alan Howard in Antony and Cleopatra (1978).

She can be spotted sitting on a piano in a party scene in This Sporting Life (d. Lindsay Anderson, 1963), but, apart from the RSC transfers, her film career really began with her magisterial Oscar-winning Gudrun in Ken Russell’s daring adaptation of Women in Love (1969). Her blazing intelligence, sexual challenge and abrasiveness were at the service of a superbly written role in a film with a passion rare in the annals of British cinema.

She came to films just as the bottom was falling out of the domestic industry which makes more remarkable the roles she did get: she vies, with painful conviction (and for a British Academy Award), for a share of Murray Head’s affections in Sunday Bloody Sunday (d. John Schlesinger, 1971); is perhaps the screen’s greatest Elizabeth I, charismatic and commanding, both in Mary, Queen of Scots (d. Charles Jarrott, 1971) and TV’s Elizabeth R (BBC, 1971); a sensual, whorish Emma Hamilton (making Vivien Leigh’s seem like a debutante) in Bequest to the Nation (d. James Cellan Jones, 1973); a sardonic Sister Alexandra in Nasty Habits (d. Michael Lindsay-Hogg, 1976); a tautly moving figure as Stevie [Smith] (d. Robert Enders, 1978); very affecting as the dowdy housewife whose life is disrupted by The Return of the Soldier (d. Alan Bridges, 1982).

Virtually everything is worth noting, including her second Oscar role in A Touch of Class (d. Melvin Frank, 1972), the title role in The Patricia Neal Story (d. Anthony Harvey, 1981) and other TV including A Murder of Quality (d. Gavin Millar, 1991). She made a triumphant return to stage acting at the age of 82 and went on to win a BAFTA for Elizabeth Is Missing.

Perhaps not since the heyday of Googie Withers was there so potent a British screen actress. Jackson’s brave career choices have left us a marvellous record of her immense talent.
BFI Screenonline,

Born in Birkenhead
Selected filmography, all UK unless stated

Mothering Sunday
(d. Eva Husson) as older Jane
King of the Wind (USA, d. Peter Duffell) as Queen Caroline
The Rainbow (d. Ken Russell) as Anna Brangwen
Doombeach (d. Colin Finbow) as Miss
Business as Usual (d. Lezli-An Barrett) as Babs Flynn
Salome’s Last Dance (UK/USA, d. Ken Russell) as Herodias / Lady Alice
Beyond Therapy (USA, d. Robert Altman) as Charlotte
Turtle Diary (d. John Irvin) as Neaera Duncan
The Return of the Soldier (d. Alan Bridges) as Margaret Grey
Giro City (d. Karl Francis) as Sophie
Hopscotch (USA, d. Ronald Neame) as Isobel von Schönenberg
HealtH (USA, d. Robert Altman) as Isabella Garnell
Lost and Found (d. Melvin Frank) as Tricia
The Class of Miss MacMichael (USA/UK, d. Silvio Narizzano) as Conor MacMichael
Stevie (USA/UK, d. Robert Enders) as Stevie
House Calls (USA, d. Howard Zieff) as Ann Atkinson
Nasty Habits (UK/USA, d. Michael Lindsay-Hogg) as Alexandra
The Incredible Sarah (d. Richard Fleischer) as Sarah Bernhardt
Hedda (USA, d. Trevor Nunn) as Hedda
The Romantic Englishwoman (UK/France, d. Joseph Losey) as Elizabeth
The Maids (UK/Canada, d. Christopher Miles) as Solange
The Devil Is a Woman (Il sorriso del grande tentatore) (Italy/UK, d. Damiano Damiani) as Sister Geraldine
Bequest to the Nation (d. James Cellan Jones) as Lady Hamilton
A Touch of Class (USA/UK, d. Melvin Frank) as Vickie Allessio
The Triple Echo (d. Michael Apted) as Alice
Mary, Queen of Scots (d. Charles Jarrott) as Queen Elizabeth
Sunday Bloody Sunday (d. John Schlesinger) as Alex Greville
The Music Lovers (d. Ken Russell) as Nina (Antonina Milyukova)
Women in Love (d. Ken Russell) as Gudrun Brangwen
Negatives (d. Peter Medak) as Vivien 1967
Marat/Sade (d. Peter Brook) as Charlotte Corday
Tell Me Lies: A Film about London (d. Peter Brook)

Elizabeth Is Missing (TV Movie, d. Aisling Walsh) as Maud
Elizabeth R (TV Series, various directors) as Elizabeth
The Secret Life of Arnold Bax (UK/Germany, TV Movie, d. Ken Russell) as Harriet Cohen
The House of Bernarda Alba (UK/USA, TV Movie, d. Núria Espert, Stuart Burge) as Bernarda
A Murder of Quality (TV Movie, d. Gavin Millar) as Ailsa Brimley
T.Bag’s Christmas Ding-dong (TV Movie, d. Glyn Edwards) as Vanity Bag
Carol & Company (TV Series) as Dr Doris Kruber
American Playhouse: Strange Interlude (USA/UK, TV Drama, d. Herbert Wise) as Nina Leeds
Sakharov (USA/UK, TV Movie, d. Jack Gold) as Yelena Bonner (Sakharova)
The Patricia Neal Story (USA, TV Movie, d. Anthony Harvey) as Patricia Neal
The Muppet Show (TV Series) as Special Guest Star
Elizabeth R (TV Mini-series, various directors) as Queen Elizabeth I
BBC Play of the Month: Howards End (d. Donald McWhinnie) as Margaret Schlegel
ITV Sunday Night Theatre: Salve Regina (d. David Saire) as Marina Palek
Armchair Theatre: Home Movies (d. Robert Tronson)
The Wednesday Play: Let’s Murder Vivaldi (d. Alan Bridges) as Julie
Half Hour Story: Which of These Two Ladies Is He Married To? (d. Alan Clarke) as Claire Foley
The Wednesday Play: Horror of Darkness (d. Anthony Page) as Cathy
Z Cars (TV Series) as WPC Fernley and Hospital Nurse
ITV Play of the Week: Doctor Everyman’s Hour (d. Peter Graham Scott) as Jurywoman
ITV Play of the Week: A Voice in Vision (d. Peter Graham Scott) as Iris Jones

Women in Love
Sat 2 Jul 17:40; Wed 13 Jul 20:3; Fri 15 Jul 20:30
Horror of Darkness + Let’s Murder Vivaldi
Sun 3 Jul 15:20
Mary, Queen of Scots
Sun 3 Jul 18:15; Wed 20 Jul 20:30
Glenda Jackson in Conversation
Tue 5 Jul 18:15
Sunday Bloody Sunday
Tue 5 Jul 20:40; Sun 24 Jul 18:30
Fri 8 Jul 18:00; Sat 16 Jul 16:30
A Touch of Class
Sat 9 Jul 15:15; Sat 23 Jul 20:45
The Romantic Englishwoman
Sun 10 Jul 18:10; Mon 18 Jul 20:40
Thu 14 Jul 20:30; Sat 23 Jul 12:00
Fri 15 Jul 18:00; Tue 26 Jul 20:40
House Calls
Sat 16 Jul 18:45; Fri 22 Jul 20:30
The Maids
Sat 16 Jul 20:50; Sun 24 Jul 15:50
The Rainbow
Tue 19 Jul 20:40; Sun 31 Jul 13:00
Giro City + Glenda Jackson & Politics (clip compilation)
Thu 21 Jul 17:50
Turtle Diary
Thu 21 Jul 20:50; Fri 29 Jul 20:30
Strange Interlude
Sat 23 Jul 15:30
The House of Bernarda Alba
Mon 25 Jul 17:50
Elizabeth Is Missing
Fri 29 Jul 18:15
Elizabeth R (the complete series)
Eps 1-3 Sat 30 Jul 14:20; Eps 4-6 Sun 31 Jul 14:30

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Programme notes and credits compiled by the BFI Documentation Unit
Notes may be edited or abridged
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