Glenda Jackson

Glenda Jackson's voice
from the BBC programme The Film Programme, 6 July 2007.

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Glenda May Jackson, CBE (born 9 May 1936) is a British actress and Labour Party politician. She first became a Member of Parliament (MP) in 1992, and represented Hampstead and Kilburn until 2015.

As a professional actress from the late 1950s, she spent four years as a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company from 1964, being particularly associated with the work of director Peter Brook. During her film career, she won two Academy Awards for Best Actress: for Women in Love (1970) and A Touch of Class (1973). Other award-winning performances include Alex in the film Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971) and the BBC television serial Elizabeth R (also 1971); for the latter she received an Emmy.

From 1992 to 2010, Jackson was the MP for Hampstead and Highgate, and early in the government of Tony Blair served as a Junior Transport minister from 1997 to 1999, later becoming critical of Blair. After constituency boundary changes for the 2010 general election, her majority of 42 votes was one of the closest results of the entire election. She announced in 2011 that she would stand down as an MP at the 2015 general election.

    Early life and career

    Jackson was born in Birkenhead on the Wirral, Cheshire, where her father was a builder, and her mother worked in shops and as a cleaner. Jackson was educated at the West Kirby County Grammar School for Girls, and performed at the Towns Women's Guild drama group during her teens. She worked for two years in a branch of the Boots the Chemist chain before taking up a scholarship in 1954 to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

    Jackson made her professional stage debut in Terence Rattigan's Separate Tables in 1957 while at RADA. and appeared in repertory for the next six years. Her film debut was a bit part in This Sporting Life (1963). A member of the Royal Shakespeare Company for four years from 1964, she originally joined for director Peter Brook's 'Theatre of Cruelty' season which included Peter Weiss' Marat/Sade (1965) in which she played an inmate of an asylum portraying Charlotte Corday, the assassin of Marat. The production ran on Broadway in 1965 and in Paris (Jackson appeared in the 1967 film version) and Jackson also appeared as Ophelia in Peter Hall's production of Hamlet in the same year. Critic Penelope Gilliatt thought Jackson was the only Ophelia she had seen who was ready to play the Prince himself. The RSC's staging at the Aldwych Theatre of US (1966), a protest play against the Vietnam War, also featured Jackson, and she appeared in its film version, Tell Me Lies. Later that year, she starred in the psychological drama Negatives (1968), which was not a huge financial success, but won her more good reviews.

    Critical and commercial success

    Jackson's starring role in Ken Russell's film of Women in Love (1969) led to her winning her first Academy Award for Best Actress. Brian McFarlane, the main author of The Encyclopedia of British Film, has written: "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." In the process of gaining funding for The Music Lovers (1970) from United Artists, Russell explained it as "the story of a homosexual who marries a nymphomaniac", the couple being the composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (Richard Chamberlain) and Antonina Miliukova played by Jackson. This film received mixed reviews in the U.S.: the anonymous reviewer in Variety wrote of the two principals "Their performances are more dramatically bombastic than sympathetic, or sometimes even believable". Jackson was initially interested in the role of Sister Jeanne in The Devils (1971), Russell's next film, but turned it down after script rewrites and deciding that she did not wish to play a third neurotic character in a row.

    In order to play Queen Elizabeth I in the BBC's serial Elizabeth R (1971), Jackson had her head shaved. After the series was shown on PBS in the US, Jackson received two Emmy Awards for her performance. She also portrayed Queen Elizabeth in the film Mary, Queen of Scots, and gained a BAFTA for her role in John Schlesinger's Sunday Bloody Sunday (both 1971). In that year British exhibitors voted her the 6th most popular star at the British box office, and she appeared in a comedy sketch as Cleopatra for The Morecambe and Wise Show.

    Filmmaker Melvin Frank saw her comedic potential, on the Morecambe and Wise Show (where she appeared on several occasions,most notably in the celebrated 'Cleopatra' sketch), and offered her the lead female role in his next project. She gained a second Academy Award for Best Actress for A Touch of Class (1973). She continued to work in the theatre, and returned to the RSC to play the lead role in Ibsen's Hedda Gabler. A later film version directed by Nunn was released as Hedda (1975) for which Jackson was nominated for an Oscar. In 1978, she scored box office success in the United States in the romantic comedy House Calls, which co-starred Walter Matthau. Jackson and Matthau teamed again in the comedy Hopscotch (1980), which was a mild success, but not as popular than had been expected.

    For her 1980 appearance on The Muppet Show, she told the producers that she would perform any material they liked; this turned out to be a role where she has a delusion that she is a pirate captain who hijacks the Muppet Theatre as her ship.

    Later acting career

    In 1985, she appeared on Broadway as Nina Leeds in a revival of Eugene O'Neill's Strange Interlude at the Nederlander Theatre in a production which had originated in London the previous year and ran for eight weeks. John Beaufort for The Christian Science Monitor wrote: "Bravura is the inevitable word for Miss Jackson's display of feminine wiles and brilliant technique."Frank Rich, in The New York Times thought Jackson, "with her helmet of hair and gashed features", when Leeds is a young woman, "looks like a cubist portrait of Louise Brooks", and later when the character has aged several decades, is "mesmerizing as a Zelda Fitzgeraldesque neurotic, a rotting and spiteful middle-aged matron and, finally, a spent, sphinx-like widow happily embracing extinction."Herbert Wise directed a British television version of O'Neill's drama which was first broadcast in the US as part of PBS's American Playhouse in January 1988.

    In 1989, Jackson appeared in Ken Russell's The Rainbow, playing Anna Brangwen, mother of Gudrun, the part which had won her her first Academy Award twenty years earlier. Also in that year she played Martha in a Los Angeles production of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Doolittle Theatre (now the Ricardo Montalbán Theatre). Directed by the playwright himself, this staging featured John Lithgow as George. Dan Sullivan in the Los Angeles Times wrote that Jackson and Lithgow performed "with the assurance of dedicated character assassins, not your hire-and-salary types" with the actors being able to display their character's capacity for antipathy. Albee was disappointed with this production, pointing to Jackson whom he thought "had retreated back to the thing she can do very well, that ice cold performance. I don't know whether she got scared, but in rehearsal she was being Martha, and the closer we got to opening the less Martha she was!".

    She performed the lead role in Howard Barker's Scenes from an Execution as Galactia, a sixteenth century female Venetian artist, at the Almeida Theatre in 1990. It was an adaptation of Barker's 1984 radio play in which Jackson had played the same role.

    Political career

    Jackson retired from acting in order to stand for election to the House of Commons in the 1992 general election, subsequently becoming the Labour MP for Hampstead and Highgate. Following a period as shadow minister for transport, following the 1997 general election, she was appointed as parliamentary under secretary of state (a junior minister) in the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair, with responsibility for London Transport, a post from which she resigned in 1999 before an unsuccessful attempt to be nominated as the Labour Party candidate for the election of the first Mayor of London in 2000. In the 2005 general election, she received 14,615 votes, representing 38.29% of the votes cast in the constituency.

    As a high profile backbencher, she became a regular critic of Blair over his plans to introduce higher education tuition fees in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. She also called for him to resign following the Judicial Enquiry by Lord Hutton in 2003 surrounding the reasons for going to war in Iraq and the death of government adviser Dr. David Kelly. Jackson was generally considered to be a traditional left-winger, often disagreeing with the dominant Blairite governing Third Way faction in the Labour Party. Jackson is also a republican

    By October 2005, her problems with Blair's leadership swelled to a point where she threatened to challenge the Prime Minister as a stalking horse candidate in a leadership contest if he did not stand down within a reasonable amount of time. On 31 October 2006, Jackson was one of 12 Labour MPs to back Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National Party's call for an inquiry into the Iraq War.

    Her constituency boundaries changed for the 2010 general election. The Gospel Oak and Highgate wards became part of Holborn & St Pancras, and the new Hampstead & Kilburn constituency switched into Brent to include Brondesbury, Kilburn and Queens Park wards (from the old Brent East and Brent South seats). On 6 May 2010, Jackson was elected as the MP for the new Hampstead and Kilburn constituency with a margin of 42 votes over Conservative Chris Philp, with the Liberal Democrat candidate Edward Fordham less than a thousand votes behind them. She had the second closest result and second smallest majority of any MP in the 2010 election.

    In June 2011, Jackson announced that, presuming the Parliament elected in 2010 lasted until 2015, she would not seek re-election. She explained "I will be almost 80 and by then it will be time for someone else to have a turn". The eventual election was held two days before her 79th birthday.

    In April 2013, Jackson gave a speech in parliament over discussion about the death of Margaret Thatcher. In a scathing speech criticising Thatcher's policies, she accused Thatcher of treating "vices as virtues" and stated that because of Thatcherism England was susceptible to unprecedented unemployment rates and homelessness.

    Another speech of Jackson's went viral in June 2014 when she gave a scathing assessment of Iain Duncan Smith's tenure as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, telling him that he was responsible for the "destruction of the welfare state and the total and utter incompetence of his department."

    Personal life and honours

    Jackson has a son, Dan Hodges, born in 1969 from her marriage to Roy Hodges; he is a Labour Party advisor and commentator, and a well-known political blogger who describes himself as a "Blairite cuckoo". She was five months pregnant when filming on Women in Love was completed. Her marriage to Hodges lasted from 1958 until their divorce in 1976.

    In 1978, she was awarded a CBE.


    Year Title Role Notes
    1956 The Extra Day Extra uncredited
    1957–1961 ITV Play of the Week Jurywoman / Iris Jones episode: Doctor Everyman's Hour
    episode: A Voice in Vision
    1963 This Sporting Life Singer at Party uncredited
    Z-Cars WPC Fenley / Hospital Nurse episode: By the Book
    episode: Act of Vengeance
    1967 Half Hour Story Claire Foley episode: Which of These Two Ladies Is He Married To?
    Marat/Sade Charlotte Corday
    1968 Tell Me Lies Guest
    Negatives Vivien
    1965–1968 The Wednesday Play Julie / Cathy episode: Let's Murder Vivaldi
    episode: Horror of Darkness
    1969 Women in Love Gudrun Brangwen (released on 25 March 1970 in U.S. theaters)
    • Academy Award for Best Actress
    • National Board of Review Award for Best Actress
    • National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actress
    • New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress
    • Nominated — BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role
    • Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama
    • Nominated — Laurel Award for Best Female Dramatic Performance
    ITV Saturday Night Theatre Marina Palek episode: Salve Regina
    1970 Play of the Month episode: Howards End
    • Nominated — British Academy Television Award for Best Actress
    The Music Lovers Antonina 'Nina' Milyukova
    1971 Sunday Bloody Sunday Alex Greville
    • BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role
    • Nominated — Academy Award for Best Actress
    Boy Friend, TheThe Boy Friend Rita uncredited
    Elizabeth R Queen Elizabeth I
    • 6 episodes
    • Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
      Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie (for episode: The Shadow in the Sun)
      Nominated — Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie (for episode: The Lion's Cub)
    • Nominated — British Academy Television Award for Best Actress
    Mary, Queen of Scots Queen Elizabeth I
    • David di Donatello for Best Actress (shared with Vanessa Redgrave)
    • Evening Standard British Film Award for Best Actress
    • Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama
    1972 Triple Echo, TheThe Triple Echo Alice
    1973 Touch of Class, AA Touch of Class Vicki Allessio
    • Academy Award for Best Actress
    • Evening Standard British Film Award for Best Actress
    • Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
    • New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress (2nd place)
    • Prize San Sebastián for Best Actress
    • Nominated — BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role
    Bequest to the Nation Lady Hamilton
    1974 The Devil Is a Woman Sister Geraldine
    1975 Romantic Englishwoman, TheThe Romantic Englishwoman Elizabeth Fielding
    The Maids Solange
    Hedda Hedda Gabler
    • David di Donatello Award for Best Foreign Actress (tied with Isabelle Adjani for The Story of Adele H.)
    • Nominated — Academy Award for Best Actress
    • Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama
    1976 Incredible Sarah, TheThe Incredible Sarah Sarah Bernhardt Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama
    1977 Nasty Habits Sister Alexandra
    1978 House Calls Ann Atkinson
    Stevie Stevie Smith
    • Montreal World Film Festival Award for Best Actress
    • National Board of Review Award for Best Actress
    • New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress
    • Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama
    1979 Class of Miss MacMichael, TheThe Class of Miss MacMichael Conor MacMichael
    Lost and Found Tricia
    1980 Hopscotch Isobel
    Health Isabella Garnell
    The Morecambe and Wise Show Woman Kissed by Eric episode: 1980 Christmas Show
    1981 Patricia Neal Story, TheThe Patricia Neal Story Patricia Neal
    • Nominated — Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie
    • Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film
    1982 Return of the Soldier, TheThe Return of the Soldier Margaret Grey
    Giro City Sophie
    1984 Yelena Bonner (Sakharova)
    1985 Turtle Diary Neaera Duncan
    1987 Beyond Therapy Charlotte
    1988 Business as Usual Babs Flynn
    American Playhouse Nina Leeds episode: Strange Interlude
    Salome's Last Dance Herodias / Lady Alice
    1989 Rainbow, TheThe Rainbow Anna Brangwen
    Doombeach Miss
    1990 Kings of the Wind (film) Queen Caroline
    T-Bag's Christmas Ding Dong Vanity Bag
    Real Story of Humpty Dumpty, TheThe Real Story of Humpty Dumpty Glitch the Witch (voice)
    1991 House of Bernarda Alba, TheThe House of Bernarda Alba Bernarda Alba TV movie
    A Murder of Quality Ailsa Brimley TV movie
    1992 Secret Life of Arnold Bax, TheThe Secret Life of Arnold Bax Harriet Cohen TV movie


    1971: Won Best Actress in a Leading Role – Women in Love

    1972: Nominated Best Actress in a Leading Role – Sunday Bloody Sunday

    1974: Won Best Actress in a Leading Role – A Touch of Class

    1976: Nominated Best Actress in a Leading Role – Hedda

    2006: Ibsen Centennial Commemoration Award