Tony Richardson - Director

Nationality: British. Born: Cecil Antonio Richardson in Shipley, West Yorkshire, 5 June 1928. Education: Wadham College, Oxford University, degree in English, 1952. Family: Married actress Vanessa Redgrave, 1962 (divorced 1967); three daughters, actresses Natasha and Joely, and Katherine Grimond. Career: President of Oxford University Drama Society, 1949–51; producer and director for BBC TV, 1953; formed English Stage Company with George Devine, 1955; began collaboration with writer John Osborne on first production of Look Back in Anger at the Royal Court Theatre, London, 1956; with Osborne, formed Woodfall Productions, 1958; directed first feature, Look Back in Anger , 1959; continued to work as stage director; director for TV, including Penalty Phase (1986), Shadow on the Sun (1988), and Phantom of the Opera (1990). Awards: Oscar for Best Direction, and New York Film Critics Award for Best Direction, for Tom Jones , 1963. Died: November 1991.

Films as Director:


Momma Don't Allow (co-d)


Look Back in Anger


The Entertainer


Sanctuary ; A Taste of Honey (+ pr, co-sc)


The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner (+ pr)


Tom Jones (+ pr)


The Loved One ; Mademoiselle


The Sailor from Gibraltar (+ co-sc)


Red and Blue ; The Charge of the Light Brigade


Laughter in the Dark ( La Chambre obscure ); Hamlet


Ned Kelly (+ co-sc)


A Delicate Balance ; Dead Cert


Joseph Andrews (+ co-sc)


Death in Canaan


The Border


Hotel New Hampshire (+ sc)


Turning a Blind Eye (doc)


Blue Sky

Other Films:


Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (Reisz) (pr)


Girl with Green Eyes (Davis) (exec pr)



The Long-Distance Runner: An Autobiography , 1993.

By RICHARDSON: articles—

"The Films of Luis Buñuel," in Sight and Sound (London), January/March 1954.

"The Metteur-en-Scène," in Sight and Sound (London), October/December 1954.

"The Method and Why: An Account of the Actor's Studio," in Sight and Sound (London), Winter 1956/57.

"The Man behind an Angry-Young-Man," in Films and Filming (London), February 1959.

"Tony Richardson: An Interview in Los Angeles," with Colin Young, in Film Quarterly (Berkeley), Summer 1960.

"The Two Worlds of Cinema: Interview," in Films and Filming (London), June 1961.

Article, in Film Makers on Film-making edited by Harry M. Geduld, Bloomington, Indiana, 1967.

"Within the Cocoon," an interview with Gordon Gow, in Films and Filming (London), June 1977.


Villelaur, Anne, Tony Richardson, Dossiers du Cinéma , Cineastes I, Paris, 1971.

Lovell, Alan, and Jim Hillier, Studies in Documentary , New York, 1972.

Walker, Alexander, Hollywood, England: The British Film Industry in the '60s , London, 1975.

Hill, John, Sex, Class, and Realism: British Cinema 1956–63 , London, 1986.

Radovich, Don, Tony Richardson: A Bio-Bibliography , Westport, Connecticut, 1995.

Welsh, James M., and John C. Tibbetts, editors, The Cinema of Tony Richardson: Essays and Interviews , Albany, New York, 1999.

On RICHARDSON: articles—

Houston, Penelope, "Two New Directors," in Sight and Sound (London), Winter 1958/59.

"Director," in New Yorker , 12 October 1963.

Moller, David, "Britain's Busiest Angry Young Man," in Film Comment (New York), Winter 1964.

Lellis, George, "Recent Richardson," in Sight and Sound (London), Summer 1969.

Villelaur, Anne, "Tony Richardson," in Dossiers du Cinéma 1 , Paris, 1971.

Gomez, Joseph, " The Entertainer : From Play to Film," in Film Heritage (Dayton, Ohio), Spring 1973.

Broeske, P., "The Company of Birds," in Stills (London), October 1984.

Barron, J., "Tony Richardson, Director of Tom Jones , Dead at 63," in New York Times , 16 November 1991.

Obituary, in Variety , 18 November 1991.

"The End," in Skoop , December 1991/January 1992.

Brandlmeier, T., "Tony Richardson," in EPD Film , January 1992.

Sight and Sound (London), vol. 2, May 1992.

Obituary, in EPD Film (Frankfurt), vol. 9, January 1992.

Obituary, in Revue du Cinéma (Paris), January 1992.

Obituary, in Film en Televisie (Brussels), January 1992.

Lambert, G., "Tony Richardson: An Adventurer," in Sight and Sound (London), vol. 3, November 1993.

Sragow, Michael, "Fan Letter," in Modern Review , April-May 1995.

* * *

Tony Richardson belongs to that generation of British film directors which includes Lindsay Anderson and Karel Reisz, all of them university-trained middle-class artists who were sympathetic to the

Tony Richardson (seated at right) on the set of The Hotel New Hampshire
Tony Richardson (seated at right) on the set of The Hotel New Hampshire
conditions of the working classes and determined to use cinema as a means of personal expression, in line with the goals of the "Free Cinema" movement. After Oxford, he enrolled in a directors' training program at the British Broadcasting Corporation before turning to theatre and founding, with George Devine, the English Stage Company in 1955 at London's Royal Court Theatre—a company that was to include writers Harold Pinter and John Osborne. Among Richardson's Royal Court productions were Look Back in Anger, A Taste of Honey , and The Entertainer , dramatic vehicles that he would later transform into cinema.

Also in 1955, working with Karel Reisz, Richardson co-directed his first short film, Momma Don't Allow , funded by a grant from the British Film Institute and one of the original productions of the "Free Cinema" movement. Richardson's realistic treatment of the works of John Osborne ( Look Back in Anger ), Shelagh Delaney ( A Taste of Honey ), and Alan Sillitoe ( Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner ) would infuse British cinema with the "kitchen sink" realism Richardson had helped to encourage in the British theatre. Indeed, Richardson's link with the "Angry Young Men" of the theatre was firmly established before he and John Osborne founded their film production unit, Woodfall, in 1958 for the making of Look Back in Anger. Richardson's strongest talent has been to adapt literary and dramatic works to the screen. In 1961 he turned to Hollywood, where he directed an adaptation of Faulkner's Sanctuary , which he later described as arguably his worst film. His most popular success, however, was Tom Jones , his brilliant adaptation and abridgement of Henry Fielding's often rambling eighteenth-century novel, which in other hands would not have been a very promising film project but which, under Richardson's direction, won four Academy Awards in 1963. In 1977 Richardson tried to repeat his earlier success by adapting Fielding's other great comic novel, Joseph Andrews , to the screen, but though the story was effectively shaped by Richardson and the casting was splendid, the film was not the overwhelming commercial success that Tom Jones had been. Nonetheless, Vincent Canby singled out Joseph Andrews as "the year's most cheerful movie . . . and probably the most neglected movie of the decade."

Other adaptations and literary collaborations included The Loved One (Evelyn Waugh), Mademoiselle (Jean Genet), The Sailor from Gibraltar (Marguerite Duras), Laughter in the Dark (Nabokov), and A Delicate Balance (Albee). Perhaps Richardson's most enduring dramatic adaptation, however, is his rendering of Hamlet , filmed in 1969, remarkable for the eccentric but effective performance by Nicol Williamson as Hamlet which it captures for posterity, and also for Anthony Hopkins's sinister Claudius. Filmed at the Roundhouse Theatre in London where it was originally produced, it is a brilliant exercise in filmed theatre in the way it keeps the actors at the forefront of the action, allowing them to dominate the play as they would do on stage. Richardson has defined cinema as a director's medium, but his Hamlet effectively treats it as an actor's medium, as perhaps no other filmed production has done.

Other Richardson films seem to place a premium upon individualism, as witnessed by his treatment of the legendary Australian outlaw Ned Kelly (starring Mick Jagger, a project Karel Reisz had first undertaken with Albert Finney). This concern for the individual can also be discerned ten years later in The Border , a film Richardson completed for Universal Pictures in 1982, starring Jack Nicholson as a guard on the Mexican-American border, a loner who fights for human values against a corrupt constabulary establishment. Unfortunately The Border , which turned out to be a caricatured and flawed melodrama, did not reflect the director's intentions in its released form, since Universal Studios apparently wanted—and got—"a much more up-beat ending where Nicholson emerges as a hero." That a talented director of considerable vision, intelligence, and accomplishment should experience such an impasse is a sorry commentary. Nonetheless, Richardson migrated to the Hollywood Hills by choice and claimed to prefer California to his native England.

—James M. Welsh

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