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Vanessa: The Life of Vanessa Redgrave [Kindle Edition]

Dan Callahan

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Book Description

In this first-ever biography of the woman many have called our greatest living actress, the formidable Vanessa Redgrave is at last revealed to us in all of her different personas.


Who isn’t in awe of Vanessa Redgrave? Her career on stage and screen remains vital and her extreme-left political stands are still quite controversial. This is the moment, and this is the biography, to take stock of Vanessa Redgrave both as actress and as political activist with a critical, objective study of her life and career. It is also time to account for her unparalleled achievements as an empathetic actress of considerable genius. In his Biographical Dictionary of Film, David Thomson writes about Redgrave, “She has made mistakes, but there is a case for her as the best actress alive, ready for further challenge.” Anyone who has seen Redgrave in her numerous stage and film roles will know why Thomson rates her as the very best we have. The radiant, fearless, daring, perverse and always unpredictable Redgrave is the brightest light in the forest of her famous family.


Product Description

About the Author

Dan Callahan, author of Barbara Stanwyck: The Miracle Woman, is the associate editor at Siman Media Works. He has published theater and film reviews in Time Out New York, Sight and Sound, The L Magazine, Slant Magazine and many other publications. He lives in New York.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 3360 KB
  • Print Length: 369 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1605985570
  • Publisher: Pegasus; 1 edition (15 May 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00IDEQP2M
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #250,654 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More a long critical appreciation of a brilliant acting career 19 Aug. 2014
By Rather Be Reading - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Apparently some lurid tell-all biography of Redgrave was published in the UK a couple years ago. This is definitely not that book. In fact the title is a bit of a misnomer because really it should be "The Art of VM" or something like that, as it's basically a long critical essay about her career, with Callahan obviously a major (but not blind) fan who's tried to see everything he possibly can. (He's missed a fair amount of her stage work, and a few obscure film/TV projects are basically inaccessible or even lost, but apart from that he's seen it all.) He's a bit snobbish about anything he deems unworthy of her (meaning pretty much any blatantly commercial enterprise), but his opinions are well articulated even if you might disagree with some. (I can't believe he found her performance in Ralph Fiennes' "Coriolanus" underwhelming, for one thing.)

The "life" part gets a lot less attention, but then Redgrave didn't grant an interview for this book, the people close to her are dead or similarly close-lipped, and colleagues who do comment mostly offer statements of professional awe--as well they might. (Even Meryl Streep admits being intimidated the couple times she's briefly worked with Redgrave, not because the latter is imperious but because she's just...so...amazing.) Redgrave's own memoir published 20 years ago wasn't very revealing about the way her mind works, either. Both books confirm she's fairly humorless (even though she's occasionally done quite well in comedy), that she is downright obsessively sincere about her many political causes over the years, and that as a result she's one of those people who can't see the trees for the forest. In other words, she's so sincerely bent on "saving the world" that she sometimes has little time or patience for the people actually in her life. (Although it's suggested here that she's mellowed a bit in recent years on that score.) She may be narrowly focused to a fault at times, but she's hardly self-centered--if anything she's the definition of "bleeding heart liberal," always concerned with other people's suffering and injustices. It's noted here that the reason she's made a lot of dubious "career choices" lately (i.e. voice acting for cartoons, et al.) is because she's always given her money at the drop of a hat to whatever cause she perceives as needy, and despite living very modestly for someone of her stature, basically needs to keep making the rent.

So, she comes off as an admirable if not necessarily all that likable person. Callahan does his best trying to define the alchemy that can make her performances so extraordinary, though it's hard to explain magic. (It is interesting to read about how spontaneous and non-"technical" she is as an actor, sometimes maddening her directors and fellow cast with her impulsive new ideas, especially in stage productions.)

The book does delve into her oft-controversial politics and her complex family/romantic relationships--it HAS to, because they often directly impacted her career. But if you're looking for a lot of dirt, look elsewhere. Redgrave has lived a very, sometimes uncomfortably public life, but she's intensely private in some ways, and appears to be one of those people who just doesn't like talking about herself--she finds it not only invasive but frivolous. Perhaps the main thing preventing this from being a great book is that its subject, as "well-known" as she is (some would say notorious), remains in many ways unknowable. She's no open book, probably even to herself.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Vanessa deserves better. 28 Oct. 2014
By James Cooper - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This superficial book does not reveal, as its title proclaims, "The life of Vanessa Redgrave". Far from it!
No biography per se, it's a weird potpourri, indeed...a rambling dissertation on acting, films, theatrical dynasties and politics, interspersed with the author's highly questionable opinions on works in which Redgrave has participated. Oddly, Callahan criticizes Redgrave's own memoirs with the comment, "The book lacks a sense of proportion. (It needs) a director-like editorial figure to guide her". Well said, Callahan. That's precisely what you yourself require.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth Reading for Redgrave fans 20 July 2014
By Gabriel Oak - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I learned a lot about projects that the great actress Redgrave worked on which I didn't know about before. The author gives an intelligent appraisal of her life's work without avoiding her controversial political stances. I appreciated the author's opinion of her acting in various plays and films even when I didn't always agree with him. The book made me want to reevaluate her work in several of her films, particularly The Bostonians, The Trojan Women and The Ballad of the Sad Cafe.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Critical Empathy for Vanessa Redgrave 2 Jan. 2015
By Rakesh Gupta - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This mine of information, analysis and insight into the life and work of a dedicated spontaneous actor is a book to be read and owned. The factual contra factual positions apart, the book has warm hearted approach to Vanessa's foibles, farces,unpredictable spontaneity, and the capacity to rise above the bench mark of the role in all major and minor films and projects. Callahan is brilliant in analysing scenes where she superbly performs. He compares here various film personas as well as of different phases of the same persona. He is critical whether he examines he films or particularly her political profile till she became the spokesperson of the UNICEF. This is a book on atleast three generations of the Redgraves. And easily Vanessa has been sheer magic and a sheer pinnacle of greatness in theatre and films, in England and beyond the Atlantic, the Arab world, Yugoslavia, Soviet Union and the third world. The author is lyrical about her roles of Rosalind, Isadora, Andromache, and innumerable big and smaller ones. It is a treat to read the way he leads you into her charmed circle of need for being centre stage in all her magnanimity, equanimity, merit, sexuality, modesty, politics and spontaneity. A work to be possessed.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A lively treasury of Redgrave magic 18 July 2014
By Lee Kingsmill - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I hardly know where to begin to express my enthusiasm for Dan Callahan's "Vanessa." No one at work today in the field of film biography delivers the goods as he does. If you are as tired as I am of ill researched fan boy puff pieces, this entertaining,objective,in-depth study of the entire Redgrave/Richardson constellation will prove a treat.

Vanessa Redgrave is perhaps the foremost actress of several generations. She is also a tireless political activist, equally capable of acts of great courage and muddleheaded imbecility, often at great personal cost. Callahan does justice to both aspects of this beautiful and maddeningly complex artist
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As he did so well in his book on Barbara Stanwyck, he analyzes what has gone into every performance, whether film,stage, or television. Nothing is left unexplored, and he continues to write like an angel. This is a serious, though far from humorless examination of the public and private life of a theatrical sorceress whose gifts border on the magical. If you value such things, I urge you not to miss "Vanessa."
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