15 June 2023

Glenda Jackson’s most memorable performances during stellar Hollywood career

15 June 2023

Glenda Jackson, a star of the screen and UK politics, started acting in the 1950s and went on to win two Academy Awards.

After serving as a Labour MP in the House of Commons for 23 years, she returned to the stage.

Following her death age 87, the PA news agency looks at her most memorable roles:

1) Women In Love

Jackson won her first Academy Award for best actress in Ken Russell’s 1969 adaptation of DH Lawrence novel, where she starred alongside Oliver Reed.

The film became notorious for its nude scenes and Jackson later said she felt “a prevailing sense of coldness” playing the role of Gudrun Brangwen.

Although not a commercial success, critics regarded the film worth watching for Jackson’s “powerhouse performance”.

Jackson did not attend the Oscars ceremony to collect her award.

Following the role, Russell cast Jackson in The Music Lovers, his biopic of Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s unhappy private life.

2) Morecambe and Wise

In 1971, Jackson made her first appearance on the Christmas special of the Morecambe and Wise Show playing a comedy version of Cleopatra – foreshadowing her West End role as the Egyptian queen at the end of the decade.

She made regular appearances over the years, including being thrown into the air on a swivel chair and being pushed off stage by Morecambe.

A fan-favourite quote from Jackson was: “All men are fools, and what makes them so is having beauty like what I have got.”

Referring to her Oscar win on the show, Morecambe said: “Stick with us, and we will get you another one,” which she later did.

She previously said: “You don’t do a play to compete for an award, I didn’t win them. They were given to me.”

3) A Touch Of Class

Jackson was next cast opposite George Segal in romantic comedy A Touch Of Class, playing a British divorcee who has an affair with a married American and falls in love.

Her performance brought a second Academy Award win for the Hollywood star in 1973, which she once more refused to collect in person.

4) The Muppet Show

In 1980, Jackson made a guest appearance in an episode of The Muppet Show, becoming a pirate and hijacking the Muppet Theatre as her ship.

During the episode, Captain Black Jackson unveils her secret identity and a giant Sweetums emerges as her first mate, Short John Silver.

Head Muppet Show writer Jerry Juhl had asked Jackson to star but was said to be happily surprised when she said: “I’ll do anything you write for me”.

5) Sunday Bloody Sunday

Jackson played recently divorced career woman Alex Greville as she begins a romantic relationship with glamorous artist Bob Elkin, played by Murray Head, while fully aware that he’s also intimately involved with doctor Daniel Hirsh played by the late Peter Finch.

The John Schlesinger-directed 1971 drama was lauded as a ground-breaking and powerful exploration of heterosexual and homosexual relationships.

6) Mary, Queen Of Scots and Elizabeth R

In 1971 the actress starred in a film version of Mary Queen Of Scots, playing Elizabeth I.

Later that year, she reprised the role in the BBC’s six-part series Elizabeth R which saw her age from princess to an old woman.

She played the part with her well-established intensity, shaving her hair to accommodate the make-up required as her character aged.

7) King Lear

Deciding not to defend her seat as a Labour MP at the 2015 general election, the star returned to the stage after more than 25 years as Shakespeare’s King Lear, traditionally a male role.

She won glowing reviews and a Critics’ Circle Theatre Award for the role, having previously bemoaned the lack of interesting roles for older women.

The actress previously told the Radio Times magazine: “It would be nice if someone sent me a contemporary play with an old person in it that wasn’t just about old age.

“I cannot understand why creative writers do not find women interesting. Men are still almost invariably the dramatic engine, women on the sidelines.”

8) Elizabeth Is Missing

Jackson won accolades as recently as 2020, marking her return to the screen starring in a one-off BBC One drama, adapted from Emma Healey’s best-selling novel, Elizabeth Is Missing.

She won a Bafta award for best actress for her role as Maud, the principal character in the drama.

The show combined a “gripping mystery” with a “tender yet unflinching exploration of one woman’s struggle with dementia”.

She had last appeared on screen in The Secret Life Of Arnold Bax in 1992.

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